Moscow Rising in Miami: MIRAX

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 In fact, MIRAX is responsible for changing the landscape of Moscow, which, thanks to major development efforts on the behalf of the government, is being described as the “Manhattan of the East.”

MIRAX has been known to reach the sky, literally. Their Federation Tower project in Moscow is currently the tallest building in all of Europe, measuring in at 1,500 feet, if you include the steeple. Founded in 1994 by Sergei Polonsky and Artur Kirilenko, the Russia-based MIRAX is an international leader when it comes to largescale projects across Europe. Why, then, is the first U.S. project eschewing their typical formula for cloud-hugging skyscrapers in favor of 13 single-family residences in Miami Beach?

Dmitry Lutsenko, member of the five-man board of directors for MIRAX, explains that the Miami Beach project, AQUA by MIRAX, is a way for the company to get a foothold in the U.S. Although MIRAX is well-known throughout Russia and Europe thanks to large-scale, mixed-use projects, the U.S. is a new frontier, one they are open to explore with Lutsenko heading up the efforts. “MIRAX Group is expanding internationally,” explains Lutsenko. “The market in the United States is full of tremendous opportunities, and not just in the acquisition of new and potential projects. It offers a unique combination of professional knowledge base, expertise, technology, and labor market in large-scale, high-rise construction and development. No other country has all these components present in one place and on that scale.”

Miami is certainly home to each of these elements, and so MIRAX collected a portfolio of properties in what is considered the gateway to America, although the dubious nickname is normally reserved for those immigrating from Latin and South America, and less for those entering from behind the Iron Curtain. Nevertheless, last year MIRAX scooped up 13 homes in AQUA on Allison Island, Craig Robins’ planned community situated on the waters of Indian Creek in Miami Beach. “We acquired the properties with the purpose of upgrading the homes to state-of-the-art properties,” Lutsenko explains, which again goes against the grain, as developers are typically hesitant to meliorate prior to sale. MIRAX’s AQUA properties are being sold as turnkey residences and are mainly marketed to MIRAX’s loyal portfolio of cosmopolitan customers who are already familiar with the luxuries associated with the MIRAX brand.

In Russia, MIRAX is synonymous with high-end locales and elite customers have named MIRAX their top choice in real estate. The affluent realize that real estate is a sound investment. These customers rarely rely on the mortgage system when dealing with large transactions in Russia. “MIRAX Group works with the high-end customer segment, where transactions for any residential property start at $1 million, and any commercial- office or retail-purchase ranges between $10 and $15 million per transaction,” Lutsenko explains. With this selection of core customers who are able to make such large transactions sans credit, MIRAX certainly has a stronghold on the affluent population of Russia.

In fact, MIRAX is responsible for changing the landscape of Moscow, which, thanks to major development efforts on the behalf of the government, is being described as the “Manhattan of the East.” MIRAX is very actively involved in said efforts. Since its founding, MIRAX has grown as one of the leading development companies in all of Europe. “On the scale of the global economy, 15 years might not be an impressive track record,” Lutsenko laughs. “However, considering that it has been only 18 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a market economy in Russia, we are proud to be one of the oldest and most recognized real estate developers in the country.” In recent years, MIRAX has been responsible for the construction of more than 20 million square feet of commercial and residential real estate in St. Petersburg and Moscow, most notably the Federation Tower Complex.

Constructed on the Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment in Moscow’s international business neighborhood, Federation Tower is a grand scale project that is redefining the skyline of Moscow while simultaneously defining the MIRAX brand. It is currently the tallest building in Europe; the twintower project is made up of one 98-story building connected via bridge on the 62nd floor to the top level of the second tower. “Federation Tower is a special project for MIRAX because it played an important role in shaping the company’s identity, corporate culture, and its core competence….We already have most of the tower sold or rented out.”

The towers are linked by a high-speed elevator, which appears as a shaft in between the buildings. The lower tower, which is already complete and ready for move-ins, entails residential and office components including the MIRAX headquarters, while the large tower will have retail, office, and residential space alongside the Grand Hyatt Moscow Hotel. Lutsenko explains, “Hyatt has a certain reputation in Russia for being the best. It is a privately owned company with family-like corporate philosophy, which is of utmost importance to MIRAX, operates under the same principles.”

The hotel and residences are designed by Yabu Pushelberg, the masterminds behind 5-star locales like the Four Seasons in Tokyo, the W Hotel in Times Square, and the St. Regis in San Francisco. Aside from the designs, what separates this hotel from others is the bird’s eye view panoramic vistas of the exploding Moscow skyline, most notably from the Sky Club on the 93rd floor.

From that perch, visitors are able to keep a watchful eye on MIRAX’s many other projects in the Moscow City area. With Moscow’s long history, it is no surprise that many of the buildings that housed both local and international businesses in the city center were shoddy. Roughly 10 years ago, government officials allocated a large plot of land on the banks of the Moskva River, just several kilometers from the Kremlin and the Red Square, for the development of a new business area that would be similar to London’s Canary Warf. “At that time, there were very few developers who were energized by the idea and were willing to risk the money and reputation by venturing into this new development,” Lutsenko explains. “So the land plot was idle for a few years until several young companies like MIRAX decided to seize the opportunity and join with the Moscow government to implement this ambitious project.” Today, the $12 billion project, officially named Moscow International Business Center but called Moscow City, is a thriving developmental playground for domestic and international conglomerates. The success of the Moscow City development encouraged local government and businesses to expand the area’s borders and add more land mass resulting in a new, larger Moscow City. Once again, MIRAX Group became the first developer to seize the opportunity. In the entrance of the district lies MIRAX Plaza, providing a bridge between new Moscow and Soviet-era Russia. The project brings much needed life to the district, inviting people into Moscow City to shop in the boutiques, dine in the cafés, or conduct business in the office space.

Nearby, MIRAX is also constructing Paradise Living, designed by acclaimed Japanese architect Kiyonori Kikutake. The building’s awe-inspiring façade is somewhat pyramid-shaped, and seemingly defies gravity with its curved exterior. Paradise Living is the perfect convergence of art and architecture, a combination that MIRAX is known for.

In fact, it was the combination of art and architecture at AQUA, which is outfitted with several signature art installations, that first captured the attention of MIRAX. Lutsenko explains, “The aspect of design and art was very important in choosing AQUA as MIRAX’s first U.S. project, as was the town planning and the public art displays; we thought it would be interesting to associate ourselves with AQUA.” Everyone can build high-rise condos, but not every company is able to garner success by breaking the mold for a small-scale project.

The impressive architectural designs are the products of a group of renowned architects, while much of the public art come from Craig Robbins, who has lent numerous pieces from his impressive personal collection to AQUA. The pieces are on display throughout the public areas, which include a spa, mango grove, and swimming pool. AQUA looks to answer the question of whether MIRAX’s formula and brand goals translate to the U.S. market.

So far, so good. Since purchasing the 13 properties, MIRAX has been hard at work outfitting each with fine finishings from renowned designers. “Each home interior is being custom designed and outfitted by several well-known U.S. interior designers whom MIRAX selected for this project,” states Lutsenko. Among those chosen, Rene Gonzales, Sam Robin, Jeffrey Thrasher, and Brown Davis stand out as the project’s stars. These four have spent the past months decking out the Island Homes, which are 4-story townhouses with three or four bedrooms designed by an array of architects. Every MIRAX house will feature a collection of contemporary art, custom-made furniture, and artisan elements of décor worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The houses will be fully equipped with professional video and sound systems, kitchens, and bathrooms. Concierge and other hotel services will be provided based on individual needs of each of the residents of AQUA by MIRAX.

Lutsenko explains that because of the recent plummet of the Miami housing market, the homes were acquired for what he feels is a “fair price that will allow MIRAX Group to capture the premium from end users after resale.” Two of the 13 homes have already been sold, leaving 11 on the market, priced between $5.5 million and $7.5 million.

MIRAX is looking to their established Russian customer base as the ideal purveyor of the properties. “We would certainly offer our core audience AQUA by MIRAX homes in Miami,” Lutsenko says. But the real goal is to capture both the attention and the hearts of U.S. investors, which will allow them to continue on their quest to become a dominant developmental force in the Americas. With the inevitable success of AQUA, it won’t be long before MIRAX and Lutsenko develop more sturdy roots in the United States. Once they have established a solid base, they can continue to reach for the sky.

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