Marketing Florida Condos to Moscow's Elite

Courtesy of Trump HollywoodPrices ranged from $400,000 for an 80-square-meter studio in IconBrickell to a $4 million, 450-square-meter, three-bedroom apartment in Trump Hollywood.
At Bon, a hedonistic-themed Moscow restaurant created by legendary designer Phillipe Starck, an audience of well-heeled Russians dined in semi-darkness amid fairy lights and ornamental hammer and sickles, crowns and hearts.

They were gathered to listen to a sales pitch for luxury condos in Miami, Florida, including three high-rise towers designed by Starck and a nearby beachfront tower called Trump Hollywood, named for billionaire co-investor Donald Trump.

The most prominent of the prospective buyers, Federation Council Senator Valentin Zavadnikov, told fellow diners of his love for yachting off the Florida coast, where he skippers a Russian yacht in international races.

"I bought an apartment in Miami in 1992 but sold it in 1997," Zavadnikov said in a quick testimonial-style speech at the dinner last week. "I thought I would never go to America anymore. But now I go there every January, March and May."

Zavadnikov, a former Unified Energy System deputy chief executive who represents the Saratov region, is just one of the growing number of rich Russians spending time in Miami, now the most popular area in the United States for Russian real estate investors after New York.

The organizer of the dinner evening, U.S. luxury construction firm The Related Group, brought together Zavadnikov, his well-heeled yachting team members, affluent golf players and international real estate brokers for a preview of properties in South Florida.

"People buy apartments there to send their families for the winter or to stay while they go yachting several times a year," Isabel Levin, an international sales broker for the company, said on the sidelines of the dinner. "A lot of them take out mortgages."

One of the projects touted by The Related Group is a downtown Miami compound of three 57-floor towers designed by Starck. Called IconBrickell, it will feature 90 replicas of Easter Island statues in the lobby and a 120-meter swimming pool once it is completed.

Courtesy of Trump Hollywood
A rendition of the 42-story Trump Hollywood tower on Hollywood Beach.

In the other -- more expensive -- project, the firm joined forces with Trump. Also under construction, the 42-story Trump Hollywood tower in the Hollywood Beach area of Miami enjoys a view of the Atlantic Ocean.

Prices range from $400,000 for an 80-square-meter studio at IconBrickell to $4 million for a 450-square-meter three-bedroom apartment at Trump Hollywood.

Traditionally, South Florida attractions include beaches, casinos, golfing, posh shopping and dining, but the developers made sure they pointed out Trump Hollywood's proximity to an area of Miami known as "Little Russia."

A 2006 U.S. census recorded 125,000 people with Russian ancestry living in three South Florida counties, a 19 percent jump since the previous survey in 2000.

As well as looking for buyers in Moscow, Levin said her company was also touting the projects to prospective buyers in Britain, Canada and Central and South America.

Seated at the tables, the guests at the Bon preview enjoyed wine, fruit and shrimp as they chatted to each other, disrupted only briefly by the event's sponsors and Zavadnikov. A large video screen continuously showed Florida beaches and yachts.

The invitation to Bon, described by one reviewer as Starck's new "dark shrine to the Moscow excesses of sex, violence and food" might not appear a safe bet to attract Moscow's buyers. Graffiti on the bare, cement walls and ceiling -- all designed by Starck -- cry out at the guests, "I'll break your neck" or "Vice" in convincing black letters, while a downstairs room is decorated by lamps shaped like Kalashnikovs.

Russians are interested in the turns they can receive by renting out such properties, said Anya Levitov, a partner at Evans Property Services. Prestige and brand name come second, she said.

Florida is right behind New York City in the list of most popular U.S. areas where Russians, including singing stars such as Alla Pugachyova, buy property, Levitov said. Next after Florida are Las Vegas and California.

In a recent New York deal, Russian-born U.S. billionaire Leonard Blavatnik last year bought two properties, a Manhattan townhouse and an apartment on Fifth Avenue worth a combined $77.5 million, local real estate magazine The Real Deal reported earlier this month.

The Russian government was also a player on the market last year when it paid $35 million for a mansion to accommodate its envoy to the United Nations, the magazine said.