MIAMI -- When Jesus Urdaneta paid $500,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bath unit in a modest condo building in Brickell, he thought he had found the perfect place for him and his wife to raise their three kids: A quiet cul-de-sac with little traffic, close proximity to Interstate 95 and Coconut Grove, and beautiful views of Biscayne Bay and the Rickenbacker Causeway.
But six months later, just as the family had settled into their new digs at 175 SE 25th Rd., Urdaneta got an offer he couldn't refuse: The Russian developer and businessman Vladislav Doronin, chairman and CEO of the real estate firm OKO Group, wanted to buy Urdaneta's 1,800-square-foot condo -- for a whopping $1.1 million.
"My first reaction was 'Oh my God, we won the lotto!'" Urdaneta said about the offer. "We called it the Russian lottery. It was impossible to say no. We couldn't believe it."
OKO Group spent a year negotiating individual sales of all of the 61 units on the property, paying a total of $48 million to buy the 11-story building outright in 2016.
Soon, they will tear it down.
With vacant waterfront property in short supply throughout Miami-Dade County, real estate developers are increasingly targeting older, existing condo buildings and buying out the owners at premium prices. Then the old building comes down, replaced by a bigger, state-of-the-art luxury tower.
The process, known as condo termination, is complicated and has many moving parts. But when it works, it can lead to the birth of a formidable new property -- and leave the owners of aging condos with an unexpected windfall.
OKO Group, in partnership with the investment company Cain International, will turn the 25th Road site into the home of Una, a swooping 47-story luxury tower, with exteriors and interiors designed by the international architectural firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture.
The tower will hold 135 residences, each with a private elevator entry, ranging in size from 1,100 to 4,786 square feet. Prices will go from $900,000 to more than $5 million. Potential buyers can see what the final units will look like -- lots of wood, stone and leather, warm tones and floor-to-ceiling windows -- by visiting a new sales center now open at the site. Construction is targeted to be completed by 2021.