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Why Every New Condo Tower In South Florida Seems To Need A Brand

There's Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Bentley, Aston Martin, Baccarat, E11even, Cipriani and Diesel. At this point, Las Vegas might as well have odds on the next brand to launch a condo in South Florida.

Kobi Karp Architecture’s Kobi Karp, Touzet Studio’s Jacqueline Gonzalez Touzet, Berenblum Busch Architects’ Gustavo Berenblum, SB Architects’ Pinar Harris, Garcia Stromberg’s Jorge Garcia and Karins Engineering’s Elizabeth Taylor at Bisnow’s South Florida Architecture, Design and Interiors event on March 21 at Strata Wynwood in Miami.

Branded residences are taking over the region’s skyline as luxury condo developers look for a competitive edge to set their product apart. Their integration is not only helping to sell units but also changing how architects design projects as the brands look to ensure their ethos is etched into each floor. 

“You see buildings with a brand or with famous architects that are world-renowned and have a world presence really command a 15% to 20% premium with projects that don’t have that same name,” said Nick Pérez, president of the condo division at Related Group. “It’s becoming a crucial part of development to do this and always push prices, push the bar and really exceed the buyer’s expectations.”

Pérez spoke at Bisnow’s South Florida Architecture, Design and Interiors event on March 21, a few days after the Miami-based developer and its partner BH Group unveiled plans for the 28-story Ritz-Carlton Residences, West Palm Beach. The waterfront property’s 144 units start at $2.5M. 

Related is also building the St. Regis Residences Miami, with Pérez saying it “was always a dream of mine” to bring the brand to the city, along with condos with luxury branding from Waldorf Astoria, Baccarat, B&B Italia and Pininfarina. 

Related is far from alone. In just the last month, JDS Development Group added Mercedes-Benz branding to its 67-story mixed-use tower in Brickell, Swire Properties revealed renderings for the new towers that will replace the Mandarin Oriental hotel on Brickell Key with the same branding but also 220 new condos, and Miami-based developer Riviera Horizons tapped Italian carmaker Pagani for a 28-story tower in North Bay Village

“It’s no secret we’re a consumer-driven society, so bringing in brands just brings in the sales, the marketing, the optimization of getting the most out of the project,” Pinar Harris, principal at SB Architects, said onstage at Strata Wynwood. “For the architects, it keeps us on our toes. It brings us a fresh perspective to associate the project with a strong brand identity.”

Nick Pérez, the president of Related Group’s condo division, discusses the development firm’s South Florida strategy.

The proliferation of branded condos goes beyond a marketing gimmick, architects and designers said. The luxury businesses putting their names on towers want to ensure they positively represent their brands, and they are actively contributing to design decisions.

“What the brands have done in their integration into our processes is that we understand it’s not necessarily just about us or about the building but about the user and about the imagery that you're presenting with it,” said Jorge Garcia, CEO of architecture and design firm Garcia Stromberg.

He said brands coming to the table has helped create better buildings, but he cautioned against giving them too much control.

“It has to be managed correctly. If not, you end up having the brands dictating” design elements, he said.

“We have had that experience, that they narrow the lanes sometimes too much.”

Brands focus heavily on the amenities that the towers offer. While that can look like an elevator to take a resident’s car to their 50th-floor condo at the Bentley Tower that broke ground last month, it more often centers around wellness, restaurants and community-building. 

“We’re currently developing with the Mandarin Oriental, and one of the things that they bring on board is this idea of wellness,” said Jessica Chen, director of design and construction at Swire Properties. “Their spas are very well-renowned and just the level of quality and the mindfulness it takes to have a healthy building. We are seeing those flexible spaces and really being able to provide a lot more than just their homes. It's really the amenities that make it a full lifestyle.”

Two Roads Development’s Brad Meltzer, Newgard Development Group’s Kate Sanko, Indiewalls’ Gavi Wolf, Swire Properties’ Jessica Chen, RSP Architects’ Andrew Burnett and Fontainebleau Development’s Jodi Sandler discuss how common spaces are changing to fit modern demands.

That amenities shift involves thinking about the project holistically, where each amenity is an extension of the owner’s unit, panelists said. The rise of working from home has led developers to reassess the design of spaces like lobbies to create places where residents can be productive outside of their condos. 

“The amenities package becomes very important, and how do we carry that brand identity from not just the residential units but from the front door into the amenities, the lobby and the unit itself?” Harris said.  

The rise of branded residences is also a response to a shift in how people view the world as it emerges from the pandemic, said Jacqueline Gonzalez Touzet, founding principal of the architecture firm Touzet Studio. 

“The world is feeling a little more uncertain,” she said. “For certain buyers, if they buy into a brand, there’s an expectation that they’re buying into a certain level of quality.”  

The pandemic also caused a shift in social interaction, Touzet said, and associating a condo building with a luxury product helps to build a community around a shared love of something as people look to build connections. 

Brand integrations “may be something that fizzles out. My expectation is that it is a trend,” she said.

“But I do think that there's still a desire for community, whether it's a shared experience of having private dining or entertainment. People in our society are looking for ways to be together.”