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MIAMI-Shaya Boymelgreen, a Brooklyn, NY, developer, and several partners are committing to invest $1 billion in several multifamily, office and retail projects with an anticipated build-out of 3.5 million sf in the city and on Miami Beach. Boymelgreen’s main partner in this commitment is Africa-Israel Investments Ltd., a publicly held real estate development and investment organization based in Tel Aviv, Israel. This is their first investment in South Florida.The two parties, operating as AI & Boymelgreen, have paid $130 million for 25 parcels totaling 12.5 acres. The sellers of the land were Swiss Bank UBS and parking lot magnate Hank Sopher, which sold 14 of the parcels, along with other individual owners, including Fremont of San Francisco, Emilio and Gloria Estefan, and George Lindemann Jr.The 25 parcels include the Miami Arena (if they are the high bidders in the city’s auction of the property, set for Aug. 10); the former Howard Johnson hotel at Biscayne Boulevard and 11th Street; a 1.5-acre block west of the Howard Johnson property; a three-acre block west of Biscayne Boulevard situated east of the NAP of the Americas and west of the Marina Blue condominium site; the site of the proposed parking garage west of the Opera Ballet Theater at the Performing Arts Center; an office building and redevelopment site situated on 3.5 acres in the Biscayne corridor; and an office building on Meridian Avenue on Miami Beach.Plans call for most of the existing structures–including the Miami Arena and the former Howard Johnson hotel–to be demolished, says Seth Gordon, a spokesman for the project. The arena property, zoned C1-Restricted Commercial, can have up to 300 multifamily units an acre, or 1,410 total units. The developers hold the existing bid of $25 million on the arena. “I suspect they will stay in (the auction) for a reasonable period,” Gordon says. “It would be acquired as a development site.”Miami Mayor Manny Diaz in a statement called the commitment “a remarkable demonstration of confidence in the long-term strength of the Miami economy by some of the most practical and accomplished businessmen in the world today.”"It will be largely residential,” Gordon says. Generally with their projects, the commercial space is to support the residential. “Both in the US and in Israel, everything I’ve seen of their development is multifamily,” specifically, condominiums, he says.Why are these developers making such a big splash in South Florida? “It was happenstance,” Gordon says. Boymelgreen has been coming to Miami for years. He has a cousin in nearby Coconut Grove, and while he was in town visiting, he was introduced to the mayor as a developer in New York, he explains. The mayor then asked what he develops and whether he considered South Florida, Gordon says, which led Boymelgreen to look into local land available for development.Africa-Israel, which had more than $600 million in 2003 revenue, partners with Boymelgreen on all his US projects. “They have formed a joint venture mainly for (projects) in the United States,” Gordon says. “This is the joint venture’s first foray down here.” They also have partnered in New York, Texas and Canada.Miami real estate broker Edie Laquer of Laquer Corporate Realty Group Inc. negotiated the transaction. Laquer represented Sopher when he purchased the parcels included in the recent transaction. Sopher will be a minority investor in the projects and plans to continue to look for similar parcels for future investment and development.AI & Boymelgreen is involved in planning and developing 15 projects in New York City totaling six million sf with a $1.5-billion total value at completion.

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