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Argentine developer Alan Faena redeveloped a run down area of Buenos Ares to critical acclaim in conjunction with Russian America financier/industrialist Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries.
Now they are in partnership to do it again, this time in Miami Florida. Last September they picked up a property for US$100 million to complete a five block land assembly in and around the old Saxony Hotel at Collins and 34th Street.
The Saxony Hotel, which opened in 1948 as one of the world’s most luxurious hotels at the time, was built by George Sax who was a banker and who invented the world’s first drive through bank, back in the day.
To help pay for the whole development Faena Group has just obtained a US$300 million mortgage from Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. The first phase of the US$550 million development includes an 18 storey luxury condominium building containing just 47 apartments. These will range in price from US$3 million to over US$40 million, most of which are being targeted, as in New York these days too, at the super rich. Architects are Norman Foster’s Foster + Partners.
Lloyd Blankfein, head of Goldman Sachs and Leon Black, who runs Apollo global Management, are both names being touted, not-so-discreetly as being buyers by the marketing group for the condos – though of course on the record they could not possibly comment….
The condos are going up beside the Saxony, which itself is being totally renovated, and partially demolished at ground level, under the guidance of the Pritzker Prize winning architect Rem Koolhaas. The renovation is being led by architects Roman & Williams. The interior designs for the hotel, however, are being developed by film director Baz Luhrmann, and his delightful set designer wife Catherine Martin.
Close by and as part of the development architect Koolhaas is also designing an arts centre, an art bazaar for very expensive art by, mostly, dead artists and, finally, also an artists in residence centre for some artists who are still very much alive. A marina and some beautiful designer gardens by Raymond Jungles to play in will round out the neighbourhood.
New lobby of Saxony Hotel as visualized by Baz Luhrmann – courtesy Faena Group
Baz Luhrmann seems to be quite stoked by the chance to design a real life, as opposed to an imaginary, environment for a change. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair he said,
“We dealt with it just like we would deal with a film. We went back to the very roots of the Saxony.”
“So many of the really iconic things about the Saxony we’ve taken and just relooked at, ” he added. “Much in the same way that we do when I’m addressing a kind of text that was written either in the twenties or in the Elizabethan period.”
The condominiums should be ready to move in in another year and the hotel following shortly thereafter, after many delays in the renovation. Meanwhile Blavatnik and Faena have also been turning their sights to another area in Miami, buying up the nearby Versailles hotel as well which will eventually form an extension to their new neighbourhood.
About Alan Faena
Alan Faena, age 50, is an Argentinean fashion manufacturer, hotelier, real estate developer and founder of the Faena Group.
He is the eldest son of prosperous Syrian-Jewish textile manufacturers. After growing up in Buenos Aires, he established a successful fashion label of his own, Via Vai, in the 1980s and managed it for more than a decade before finally selling the company in 1996.
In the early 2000s Faena began buying properties in the long-neglected Puerto Madera neighbourhood of Buenos Aires, with the idea of redeveloping it into something luxurious, romantic and expensive.
He approached French designer Phillippe Starck and they formed a partnership to create a hospitality, residential and cultural complex in the abandoned docklands area. Len Blavatnik loved the idea and came in as the moneyed partner to develop the first “Faena District.”
The Buenos Aires Faena Hotel, opened in 2004 and residential buildings followed afterwards. Finally in 2011 the Faena Arts Centre opened there as well. Now Faena plans to follow exactly the same path with his Miami project. This time his timing is likely much better as the world is now recovering from deep recession, particularly in the US, and the rich have plenty of money to spend again.