Daily Archives: November 3, 2006

Developer Profile: Lev Leviev

Tel-Aviv-based Lev Leviev is a man of Jewish decent who was born in the former Soviet satellite of Uzbekistan. He also happens to be an international diamond magnate. In Miami, we don’t know much about him, but now we will. He competes directly with the De Beers diamond cartel—pretty serious. Now you know why he named two of his towers after a diamond shape (Marquis and Marquis West) and alludes to the diamond in his building’s marketing campaign. He is considered to be one of the 500 wealthiest people on Earth. Starting his career as an apprentice in a diamond polishing factory, he ended up owning one, and then started buying diamond mines. There is a growing presence of Russian-speaking Jewish immigrants in Miami. It is quite evident in the Jewelry District in the CBD where they not only own large jewelry wholesale facilities, but also several buildings. For example, the Aminovs, who own 22 NE 1st Street, otherwise known as the International Jewelry Center, which is right next to the Seybold Building. Other families, like the Haimovs and the Rubihovs also have a strong real estate and business presence in the area. What does this have to do with Lev Leviev? He is a legend among the Russian-speaking Jewish community. He has served as the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS (FJC), the central organization that represents the fifteen organized Jewish communities of the fifteen independent republics that once made up the Soviet Union. So, in turn, he knows what his fellow compatriots are doing. If you work in or around the Jewelry District in the CBD, you may have noticed the growing presence of Russian-speaking Jews. It is no longer the case that Sunny Isles is their primary market of interest. Surely, Mr. Leviev, along with Shaya Boymelgreen’s land acquisition brilliance, has realized that the City of Miami has a growing familiar buyer’s market worthy of his investment. On a side note, I personally know this one guy named Uriel who is here from Tel-Aviv with his older brother. They both run a jewelry shop. These guys are 22 and 28 respectively, yet they run Celebrity Jewelry, Inc. Makes you wonder how they can come to this country, with little knowledge of the language and culture, yet have the capital to sustain an impressive jewelry business. I don’t know how they do it, but they do. Could the arrival of Lev Leviev on the Miami real estate scene indicate a certain level of synchronization between Tel-Aviv based businessmen and the ones already established in Miami, or does it simply reflect a clear acknowledgement by Africa-Israel Investments that Miami as a real estate market could be a gold mine? Probably both. Certainly, Lev and Shaya were not the first filthy rich developers on the scene. These people tend to know what their counterparts are doing. With Donald Trump, Jim Clark, Mehmet Bayraktar, Tom Jermoluk, Glenn Straub, and so may others investing their millions, the ripple effect will continue to spread, and pending the market turnout, will likely bring more of the country and world’s richest to the fold. Still, the presence of a man of the capitalistic magnitude of Lev Leviev and developmental genius of Shaya Boymelgreen, indicates that something truly special is happening in Miami–something we all know. The fact that his firm has purchased 25 parcels of land throughout Miami and the beaches indicates that they will now play a direct long term role in shaping Miami’s future. It also indicates the long-term entrenchment of the Russian-speaking Jewish community in the city, which ultimately will help create jobs, add to the city’s cultural diversity, and further internationalize the real estate market. Most importantly, Mr. Leviev and his partners are planning on building high. The Marquis stands at 679 feet and is situated next to the I-395 which will be repositioned and depressed and the current overpass turned into park land. That means that the Marquis will be across form Museum Park and next to new park space. Not a bad deal, I guess. 1101 Brickell will rise even higher at 849ft. Soleil, although not as tall as the two aforementioned towers, will be impressive nonetheless and stands to spread development west in an area that needs more westward development to become conclusively viable. LevLeviev and his partners have contracted different architects for their projects; presumably to diversify their portfolio and test which one does the best job. In conclusion, there will be a lot to follow up on with respect to Mr. Leviev’s Miami activities. Surely, I will be right there reporting it.

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Engineer Profile: UCI Engineering

What is UCI Engineering? Well, if you know, that’s surprising. Few know what UCI Engineering is and why it’s worthy of their attention. UCI is one of a few vital engineering firms that plans and allows for the buildings that we love to go vertical. Developers deal and spend. Architects think and draw. Engineers plan and charge. The problem is nobody wants to talk about the engineers. It’s boring. After all, so long as the building gets topped off who cares that an engineer’s plans made it a reality? The reality is: no engineer, no building. Now I’m not trying to sell this notion. It is what it is. But, I want to focus on UCI’s role in the mix. Their role is not just vital in the new condo market but in the old too. I mean so old that these condminiums are in danger of being condemned, or have been already. I know that there are those of you who think that they should be but that is downright wrong, malicious, and contrary to the city’s interests. Some of these structures have historic value, such as the 40+ year old Casablanca (next to the Akoya on 63rd), which UCI represents. The engineering firm, along with the community’s Board of Directors and PMSC is working to preserve the building and keep it functioning. Their effort helps continue to provide a nice place for middle class folks to take a break during the weekend, elderly retirees a place to live on the ocean, and tourists a reasonably priced spot to vacation. Although the Casablanca is open and thriving, buildings such as the Castle Beach Club haven’t been that fortunate. It was shut down by the City of Miami Beach. Its residents were forced to leave without time to properly move out, and the entire community left responsible for a 20 million dollar bill to fix the problem. What was the problem? Well, by law, upon 40 years of a building’s life (on Miami Beach), the property is required to attain a 40-year recertification. If this structural, mechanical, and electrical inspection is not passed, then the building may be condemned. In the case of Castle Beach Club, guess who they hired to clean up the mess? Well UCI Engineering’s Reymundo Miranda of course. His firm along with careful collaboration with the Board of Directors managed to plan and help initiate the reopening of the community (or at least the first 8 floors of it for the time being). In preserving these buildings, UCI helps keep historical structures functioning and providing, in some cases, affordable housing in what would otherwise be unaffordable neighborhoods. Fittingly, UCI is helping plan the construction of some our city’s newest and most exciting residential projects. Pedro Martin’s Terra Group has contracted his firm’s efforts for 900 Biscayne. The firm is behind Axis at Brickell. Their plans extend to Star Lofts on the Bay and Blue Bay Tower in North Bay Village. Preserving the architectural past and planning for the future of our skyline are the two signature marks of this under recognized yet important engineering firm.


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