Welcome back to Property Lines, a column by veteran real estate reporter Alexei Barrionuevo. Each week, Barrionuevo will report on housing trends, real estate deals, and major business moves right here on Curbed.
A 14-story Jean Nouvel tower proposed for the West Avenue neighborhood of Miami Beach will feature a manmade lagoon and a suspended vegetation screen on one side of the building that should make neighbors green with envy.
Curbed got an exclusive first peek at the 95-page condo filing for the project, which is being developed by JDS and designed by the French starchitect Nouvel and Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design in Miami. The photos show a glassy building surrounded by water with a sheet of leaves down one side.
In an interview with Curbed, Michael Stern, managing partner at JDS Development Group, said Nouvel's design, for what would be the Pritzker Prize winner's first residential building in south Florida, would draw on his experience designing the 34-story One Central Park in Sydney, Australia, which also features a jungle-like exterior. Nouvel worked on that condo development with Patrick Blanc, the French artist and botanist, and together they created a "beguiling assembly of motorised mirrors that capture sunlight, and direct rays down onto Central Park's gardens," according to One Central Park's website.
The Miami Beach building will have roughly 80 units ranging from two to five bedrooms, Stern said. It will feature at least two penthouses, both with private pools, and an undetermined number of other units with private pools. All the units will feature at least three exposures, with some having four. Elevators will stop outside each unit, for added privacy.
JDS proposed building to 149 feet, or just below the 150-foot height limitation in that area. Rather than the allowed maximum of 16 stories, the developer is planning to construct 14 floors with higher ceilings. Height restrictions in South Beach have forced developers to create boutique offerings, and Stern likened Monad to The Fitzroy, the 10-story luxury condo offering JDS is building in New York City's West Chelsea neighborhood.
Howard Lorber's New Valley is an investor in the project, and Douglas Elliman is slated to handle sales for the development.
While on the outside Monad Terrace will be shrouded in greenery, on the inside residents will look out over the lagoon and a center court yard through reflective glass panels that will give that side of the building an almost uneven look. The panels will, in reality, be an architectural screen that sits outside of the regular window, providing privacy to the units while being "absolutely transparent" for residents looking out, Stern said.
On the ground floor the long lagoon will be Monad's most distinctive feature. Residents will be able to walk to pod-like seating areas in the middle of the lagoon, and the edge of the lagoon will end at a long swimming pool along the bay with a waterfall feature that looks like a water slide into the bay. "You can actually see the pool from the bay," Stern said.
Of course, talk of endless water features is not always a happy topic these days. Concerns about sea-level rise in Miami Beach have swirled around the national and international media of late, with The New Yorker quoting a local scientist who has predicted the vacation paradise will be all but underwater in less than half a century.
The Biscayne Bay-facing West Avenue neighborhood, which is flood-prone and lower-lying than oceanside areas, is especially challenged by regular "full moon tide" events, which the city is trying to counter by spending up to $400 million on pumps to push the water off the streets and back into the bay. Stern said a selling point for Monad Terrace will be that the building is the first in the West Avenue corridor designed with the new higher street level requirements in place. "Our design is very conscious of what is going on to changes to the streets and concerns about sea level rise," he said.
Monad Terrace also will have features designed to keep water out, including a basement car garage as leak-resistant as "a bathtub" and Nouvel-designed landscape features around the property that will be able to absorb sea water, at least briefly. "The landscape is designed that if any salt water intruded it is tough enough to live through that event," Stern said.
Despite a slowdown in the Miami Beach market, Stern said he is counting on discerning luxury buyers responding to a distinctive offering in a South Beach neighborhood known for its sunset bay views and walkability. "The housing stock hasn't yet caught up to how great the neighborhood is," he said.
With west-facing lots in short supply, assembling the Monad site took two years and JDS has spent more than $42 million for 13 properties spread over 1.4 acres.
That price tag is likely to rise higher. Until very recently, one resident, at 1335 Monad Terrace, listed in property records at Stefania Scaffidi, refused to sell to JDS. Her house is still there, and three cars were parked outside of it on Saturday evening. Stern said Sunday that he struck a deal with her, saying only that she will receive less than the $10 million she was holding out for. She bought the one-bedroom, one-bath home for $500,000 in 2010. "It has been worked out," Stern said. "The house will be there no more shortly. We have the entire block under control."
Demolition will continue for a few more weeks. Stern said he expects to start pouring foundations over the summer, but no timeline for the building's ultimate delivery has been set.