Billionaire duo Soffer and LeFrak break ground on $4B SoLe Mia project
The billionaire Soffer and LeFrak families broke ground on Thursday on one of the largest development projects in South Florida, the $4 billion SoLē Mia in North Miami.
Two condo towers were built on the site overlooking Biscayne Bay during the last real estate boom before the city took back the property during the recession. Now North Miami has a lease with Oleta Partners, led by the Soffers, who developed much of Aventura, and the LeFraks, who have built major projects for 100 years.
The SoLē Mia name is the combination of Soffer, LeFrak and Miami. The project is expected to open in 2018 and it will require the remediation of the landfill to be completed.
“Miami is growing and we understand the demographics very well and this is like the hole in the doughnut,” Jeffrey Soffer said. “In 20 years people will call it one of the premier communities to live in in Miami.”
The retail portion of the project is called SoLē Mia Mainstreet. Jackie Soffer said it will have 400,000 to 500,000 square feet of retail, with tenants such as a gourmet grocer, a bowling alley, a sporting goods store and restaurants. There will also be a 40,000-square-foot dine-in cinema. She said they are talking to multiple tenants and are prepared to sign leases now.
The project will draw shoppers from Aventura just to the north and throughout the county, Jackie Soffer said.
The design features an open-air main street style with children’s play areas and a fountain.
“It is the center of the community and people want an area where they can see and be seen,” Jackie Soffer said. “Part of shopping is getting out and seeing other people. That is part of the entertainment. It’s a modern version of what main street is in the United States.”
SoLē Mia Mainstreet will have office space above the retail as well as freestanding office buildings, she said. The commercial space will total 1 million square feet. The office space is estimated at 220,000 square feet and nearly 4,200 parking spaces are planned.
Other components of the project include 4,390 high-rise residences in at least 10 towers, a man-made lagoon, a 150-room hotel, a 100,000-square-foot Warren Henry Auto Group dealership featuring Land Rover, Infiniti and Jaguar, and a 37-acre public park.
The development team includes ARQ and EDSA as the planners and designers for the residential portion and Design 3 International as the planner and designer for the retail.
Right now, the developers are building the roads and preparing to fill the lake, said Lenny O’Neil, senior VP of construction for Tunberry Associates, the Soffer’s company. That’s part of $150 million in infrastructure funded by the developers. The retail space and two rental towers will start construction in about a year.
Jeffrey Soffer compared the project to how his father developed the Aventura Mall and the Fontainebleau Miami Beach when they took on overlooked sites and transformed them into thriving centers for those cities.
"We believe we can put the right components in here and create the jobs and create the right amenities to make this a great place to live,” Jeffery Soffer said.
Harrison LeFrak said both families have demonstrated their long-term commitment to building and owning projects for many years. They are putting their own money into this project and they have the talent to make it work, he added.
“If you have a big piece of land in a great location that other people have forgotten about, it is an incredible business and community development opportunity,” LeFrak said. “We share a long term strategy of commitment to the community.”
North Miami Councilman Philippe Bien-Aime noted that the development agreement requires that city residents receive preference for jobs at SoLē Mia. The developer also promised to provide vocational training to city residents so they can work there, he said.
While the property value revenue from the project would aid the city, the biggest beneficiary from those funds might be the North Miami Community Redevelopment Agency as it gets the tax incremental increases in its district. North Miami Mayor Smith Joseph said the city is in the process of restructuring the CRA and asking the county this fall to approve its charter for another 20 years. He expects the CRA to use the windfall from SoLē Mia’s property taxes to spur redevelopment across the city, especially in the downtown area where it’s seeking to draw businesses.
“Today North Miami realizes the dream that has been in the works for decades and today that dream comes to fruition,” Joseph said.