Firm Get Rezoning; Client Sells Property

May 20, 2016

‘Unbuildable’ Lot Gets Makeover, Sells for $13 Million

 A Miami developer in need of extra parking space is walking away with $13 million three years later.

In 2013, Lyle Chariff owned the property that housed Cypress Room, now known as Cypress Tavern, an eatery on the edge of Miami’s Design District and across the street from a vacant lot.

The president of Chariff Realty Group Inc. saw the empty slice of land as a solution for a parking crunch shared by the restaurant and others nearby.

He and colleague Mauricio Zapata investigated the 3,672-square-foot parcel at 3625 NE Second Ave. and found it to be a piece of forgotten real estate deemed “unbuildable.”

About $275,000 could buy him a parking solution. Chariff purchased the land in 2013, taking the first step toward the most remarkable — and complicated — real estate move in his career.

“When we bought that land, we bought it with the understanding that we would never, ever be able to build on it because of all these issues,” Chariff told the Daily Business Review on Thursday, the planned closing date for his sale.

In a feat that took three years, he was able to redevelop the land and sell it to real estate investor Sam Herzberg for $13 million.

Herzberg, who has actively swept up property in the Design District and Wynwood, agreed to pay an eye-catching $3,540 per square foot for the site, now the home of the Brown Jordan furniture store.

“This deal from start to finish — from acquiring the property to developing and selling it — reads like a law school exam question,” said Chariff’s transaction attorney Erica English, a Miami shareholder with Katz, Barron, Squitero, Faust, Friedberg, English & Allen. “Everything that could happen in a real estate deal did happen.”

The lot was an eyesore in one of the city’s most promising neighborhoods housing one of the region’s most elite shopping developments.

After Chariff and his team purchased the lot, they learned of its innumerable constraints. Issues included city zoning limiting commercial development to lots of at least 5,000 square feet, an AT&T easement dividing the property in half, the property’s irregular shape and entitlement issues with 6 inches of the lot missing from its legal description, making that portion nonexistent.

On top of that, the lot was unplatted.

“The property was an underutilized parcel for decades,” said Chariff’s land use attorney Melissa Tapanes Llahues, a shareholder with Bercow Radell & Fernandez in Miami. “It had been the subject of an eminent domain issue when they were developing the Julia Tuttle expressway … basically a remnant parcel.”

Chariff received city approval to plat the land, now named the Chariff Subdivison.

He secured the nod for redevelopment and put up a build-to-suit sign on the newly platted lot.

Soon came a call from Kentucky-based Brown Jordan, a luxury leisure furniture retailer that wanted to enter the Design District but couldn’t afford its $200- to $300-per-square-foot rental price tags.

Chariff pitched a 6,000-square-foot building for a single user at half the price of lots down the street plus exposure to thousands of drivers on Interstate 195. The company agreed.

Chariff partnered with Miami-based architectal firm Touzet Studio and Amicon Construction to design and build a sleek structure for the furniture showroom with an open-air roof deck.

Brown Jordan moved in about six months ago. – Carla Vianna

Published in the Daily Business Review, May 19, 2016

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