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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real Estate Florida.)

BAL HARBOUR, FL-Recession or not, the local St. Regis Resort & Residences is well under way toward completion over the next year and a half. One of three 27-story beachfront towers has reached the 21st floor, while construction of the other two is to the 13th and fifth floors.

The Atlantic Ocean-side project, which broke ground nearly a year ago, offers 268 ultra-luxury residences, 37 condo-hotel suites, 183 hotel rooms (including a presidential suite) and 24 St. Regis Residence Club units. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. is partnering with Miami-based Related Group on the development, which has an estimated value of over $1 billion at sellout.

With starting prices at $1.9 million and an average of $4.1 million per unit, the St. Regis is at a level well above most concern over the economy, says John Manrique, the project’s vice president of sales and marketing. Even though a recovery may be well under way by the time its units open in mid-to-late 2010, its prospective buyers are looking at units as secondary homes rather than simply short-term real estate investments.

“We’re lucky enough to be in one of those spots that doesn’t feel it as much,” Manrique tells GlobeSt.com. “We’re blessed with a great location and the St. Regis brand.”

The nine-acre site at 9701 Collins Ave., with 1,000 feet of shoreline, is the former site of the Sheraton Bal Harbour hotel and is among the last remaining beachfronts suitable for high-end development on the north end of Miami Beach. Plans for St. Regis were announced in March 2005, at the height of South Florida’s luxury condo boom.

Manrique describes the Bal Harbour project’s buyers as being reflective of the “face of Miami,” largely international but with a fair amount coming from New York City. He notes that prospects are aware of current conditions in the market, yet aren’t impacted as much at higher income levels.

“It’s truly an emotional purchase for themselves and their families,” he says. “They’re thinking more with their lifestyle than their checkbook.”

Amenities being promoted by the St. Regis Bal Harbour include “white glove” butler service, 24-hour in-room dining and a 12,000-square-foot Remede Spa. The towers are across the street from the popular Bal Harbour Shops and are convenient to the Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports, as well as private jet service at the Opa-locka executive airport.

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