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The Celeb-Heavy Miami Street That Wants to be Rodeo Drive

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Welcome back to Property Lines, a column by veteran real estate reporter Alexei Barrionuevo. Each week on Tuesday, Barrionuevo will report on housing trends, real estate deals, and major business moves right here on Curbed.

A view of Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami from 6440 North Bay Road, a spec home listed for $30.5 million. Photo by Alexei Barrionuevo.

Environmentalists might worry that rising sea levels will someday subsume Miami Beach, but that isn't stopping spec developers from building a string of new mammoth homes on North Bay Road, a.k.a. Millionaire's Row, and attaching price tags of more than $30 million to many of them. The real estate dip of last decade, which sent most of the spec contingent scurrying away like rats in a hurricane, has been replaced by a construction spree on Miami Beach's boldface-names street.

Developers of a half-dozen homes along North Bay Road which are under construction or have been built within the last two years are seeking at least $30 million for the residences, and more such homes are coming soon, say brokers and residents of the street.

"The secret is out, North Bay Road is probably the best street in all of Miami Beach," said Christian de Berdouare, a chicken restaurant magnate who lives on the upper part of the street and is building a spec home several blocks away asking $36 million. "I wouldn't want to live anywhere else."

The catalyst for the new price floor, brokers say, was the sale two years ago of Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez's 21,000-square-foot home at 4358 North Bay Road for $30 million.

That mansion had a lot in common with the three spec homes I toured on North Bay Road this week. They are all modern contemporary homes with tons of glass, they all have substantial frontage on the Biscayne Bay, and they all have, to varying degrees, open views of downtown Miami, albeit far in the distance.

"To get the big, big numbers, you have to have the view," said Jill Eber, who along with partner Jill Hertzberg at Coldwell Banker, is listing 5446 North Bay Road, a spec home on the market for $37 million. The Jills, as they are known, also sold Rodriguez's home and are representing a 38,000-square-foot lot at 5840 North Bay Road listing for $19.95 million.

North Bay Road's reputation extends well beyond Miami. Located a few miles north of South Beach, it lies, somewhat discretely, along a swath of Biscayne Bay. The real estate community likes to compare its branding power to Park Avenue or Rodeo Drive, and to tout its exclusivity. Frankly, the street is unremarkable from the entrance side. It isn't gated, the landscaping is unimpressive, and visitors frequently park on grassy patches between the homes, which creates a fair amount of mud on rainy days, though it doesn't seem to bother the Miami Beach police. Lately, on weekdays, joggers have had to maneuver around a horde of pickup trucks and subcontractor vans that line chunks of the road.

But walk through one of the homes on the bay side and you are in a whole other world. There you can't help but stop and stare at the serene expanse of the bay and marvel at how quiet it is.

Brokers love dishing about the famous residents, past and present, and can be less restrained than usual because most owners are not hiding behind LLCs. North Bay Road residents seem to revel in the world knowing they have the fancy Miami Beach address.

Singers Ricky Martin, Barry Gibb, Alejandro Sanz, and Jennifer Lopez have all owned homes on the street. Designers Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as singer Shakira, are longtime residents, though they are all trying to sell their homes, perhaps to take advantage of the high prices. Hollywood director Michael Bay still lives on lower North Bay Road and spends a lot of time in Miami.

Singer Phil Collins became North Bay Road's newest resident, at least on paper, in June when he purchased Jennifer Lopez's former 11-bedroom mansion at 5800 North Bay Road, for $33 million.

After selling actor Matt Damon's 10-bedroom Mediterranean-revival estate last year for $15.375 million, the Jills are trying to find a taker for the eight-bedroom, 13,000-square-foot home at 5446 North Bay Road. It features 186 feet of waterfront with direct views of downtown, a Koi pond at the foot of a spiral staircase, an internal elevator, and a soak tub strategically placed in the master bath to face straight out towards the bay.

Developer Todd Michael Glaser and the Posner Group, the same team that built a 16,000-square-foot spec estate on Star Island that sold last year for $29 million, built the house. Eber and her partner Jill Hertzberg at Coldwell Banker brokered that sale as well. Eber emphasized that while the design details by architects Choeff + Levy are nice, it is the quality of the bay view that separates the home from others on North Bay Road. A good example: Shakira has struggled for two years to unload her 8,400-square-foot home further down the street, which looks straight at the Julia Tuttle Causeway.

Another interesting spec home under construction is 6440 North Bay Road. Peter Fine and his To Better Days Development company are building the home, which sits next door to yet another spec home under construction. Like De Berdouare, Fine lives on North Bay Road and has been scooping up properties. He is also doing a spec home at 6010 North Bay Road and has a project underway at Palm Island, said Darin Tansey, a broker with Douglas Elliman.

Fine paid $6.6 million two years ago for the 28,000-square-foot lot and is now building a 14,500-square-foot manse with about 3,000 square feet of outdoor space. Choeff + Levy are also designed the home, which will have a distinctly contemporary flair.

Then there is De Berdouare, another resident who has found a niche building ultra-luxury spec homes. Last year De Berdouare bought "The Pink House" at 5860 North Bay Road for $9.65 million, which was once owned by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. He has plans to tear it down and build another spec house in two or three years.

But De Berdouare says he won't do that until he finishes with his current spec house, at 5004 North Bay Road. He purchased the vacant lot in 2008 for $3.1 million with the intent of having a home to live in for two or three years – a sort of self-loaner – while he was rebuilding a home at his present address, 5750 North Bay Road, where he has lived since 1988.

De Berdouare, the owner of the Chicken Kitchen healthy food chain, admits to a certain obsessive passion when it comes to home development. He hired the same architect who designed homes for Michael Jordan, Dan Marino, and Matt Damon, Zbigniew "Zeb" Jarosz, to build a 14,000-square-foot home with a 3,500-square-foot rooftop deck. "I wanted to be involved in the design from the beginning, so I spent nine months in his studio with one of his top architects," De Berdouare said.

The home, which is due to be completed in December, will feature a green-walled atrium and a sizable rooftop pool, which De Berdouare believes will be the last rooftop pool in Miami Beach, since rules were recently changed to disallow such extravagances.

The Chicken Kitchen king took me through the math of how he arrived at $36 million as his asking price. He said he spent $8 million on construction, plus another $2 million on architectural and interior design. Lots on North Bay Road of 35,000 square feet are selling for at least $17 million these days. "So if you figure in three years of my time, asking $36 million is a bargain," De Berdouare said.

At about $2,500-per-square-foot for the interior space alone, he figures his home is more than comparable to the 12,500-square-foot penthouse at Faena House, which is under contract for $60 million, or $4,800-per-square-foot.

De Berdouare said he had planned on living in the home for two or three years, while he tears down and rebuilds his current home. But he is testing the market first. "If somebody comes along and offers me the money I am asking obviously I would sell the house and I would have to find a place to live while I am building the other house," he said. If not, he later told me by text message, "I'll keep and rent it for $200,000 a month. So all my options are terrific."

That's life on North Bay Road, where there are a disproportionate number of stunning sunsets.

· All Property Lines columns [Curbed]
· All North Bay Road coverage [Curbed Miami]
· Chicken Kitchen Founder Lists $35.9 Million Spec House [Curbed Miami]