Pat Riley, president of basketball's Miami Heat, sold his spectacular bayfront mansion in gated Gables Estates for $16.8 million last March.
The 12,856-square-foot Mediterranean-style dream house has a theater, wine cellar, library, and a sprawling pool with waterfalls and an aqua bar.
But that's all coming down.
Turns out the lure was the lot: a rare fingertip of prime land, nearly two acres, jutting into the turquoise waters of Biscayne Bay.
In December, the buyer -- listed as an LLC represented by Miami attorney Mark Hasner -- presented the City of Coral Gables, Fla., with plans to tear down the home, built in 1991, and erect an even grander estate along the 900 linear feet of bayfront.
"Most people would move in and be perfectly happy, but clients are looking for perfection -- really good stuff," said Jorge Uribe, a senior vice president at One Sotheby's International Realty, who wasn't involved but sold an even bigger trophy property last year: a $39.4 million estate on Indian Creek Island in Miami Beach, dubbed "Miami's Billionaire Bunker" by Forbes magazine.
"The trend in the last several years is a demand for very high-quality product. People are looking for really good locations, really good materials, and they're willing to pay for it," Uribe said.
Miami's ultra-luxury market is on fire. Prices for the fanciest single-family homes and condominiums have soared to levels never before seen in the area, fueled by strong foreign demand and renewed interest from New Yorkers and others in the Northeast.
With Miami's global image burnished by Art Basel Miami Beach and the debut of other cultural and entertainment venues, the city is emerging as an even greater magnet for the world's super-rich.
In January, a penthouse at the Setai Resort & Residences on Miami Beach fetched $27 million, a new high for a Miami-Dade condominium.
"Every building we do business in is at its highest price of all time," said Mark Zilbert, president of Zilbert International Realty, which represented the buyer in the Setai deal.
Last August, a sleek, new home built on spec sold for $47 million, a record high for a Miami-Dade residence. The buyer, whose identity has not been revealed, is Russian.
"People are realizing how valuable the bay waterfront is," said Oren Alexander, co-founder of the Alexander Group at Douglas Elliman Real Estate, who co-listed the 3 Indian Creek property with The Jills team at Coldwell Banker and represented the buyer for the home. His father, Shlomy Alexander, developed the property with partner Felix Cohen.
Shlomy Alexander is working on two more extravagant spec homes, his son said. Plans envision a tropical modern-style project that fuses the indoors and outdoors -- a concept popular in Brazil.
The elder Alexander recently traveled to Italy to shop for exclusive stone for the projects, said the son.
"It's really trending to the ultra-luxury. All sorts of exotic materials -- exotic woods, exotic marbles, exotic stones," said Sean Murphy, an executive vice president at Coastal Construction, a major builder of luxury hotels and condominiums that also has erected some of the most extravagant mansions in the region. "Everything is so exotic."
Some rich folks building their dream castles "are buying a stone quarry, harvesting the stone, and shutting it down, so that no one else can have it again," Murphy said. "It's happened multiple times."
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