Miami Herald: Château Group is upbeat on South Florida 02/03/2013

By Martha Brannigan, [email protected]

For years, Manuel Grosskopf and his father Sergio Grosskopf have quietly been helping finance major real estate developments in Miami.

The Argentine real estate investors — whose Château Group is an established developer of malls and condominiums in Buenos Aires — helped bankroll two big Miami condominium towers: 900 Biscayne and Quantum on the Bay, developed by Miami-based Terra Group.

Yet outside of developer circles, the Grosskopfs have been little known around Miami.

“We’re a very low-profile family,’’ Manuel Grosskopf, head of U.S. operations for Château Group, said in a recent interview in his Hallandale offices — located in a building that Château owns at 1000 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd.

“Coming from Argentina, you have to be very low profile,’’ he added, citing security concerns common to wealthy Latin Americans.

Recently, however, the Grosskopfs began ratcheting up their Miami profile as they step out on their own.

In December, the Grosskopf launched construction as sole developers on their first major U.S. project, Château Beach Residences, an oceanfront luxury condominium at 17475 Collins Ave., Sunny Isles.

On hand for the groundbreaking ceremony was Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

The Grosskopfs drew attention last year when they plunked down $50 million to buy the Best Western hotel near 94th and Collins Ave., in Surfside, an expansive oceanfront site. They expect later this year to begin building another high-end condominium there called Château Ocean. “The $50 million we did was a vote of confidence,’’ Manuel Grosskopf said.

In keeping with Surfside’s height restrictions, that project is slated to rise 12 stories with a maximum of 85 units. (It likely will have about 60 units, the younger Grosskopf said.)

In Sunny Isles, the 33-story Château Beach project that is now under way will feature 84 units with floor-to-ceiling glass to take advantage of the ocean views.

The units are expected to range from $1.5 million to more than $15 million for a two-story penthouse, Manuel Grosskopf said, though prices haven’t been finalized. The project will include an oceanfront infinity-edge pool, a swank spa and fitness center, and something less common: a cigar bar and a wine lounge.

Manuel Grosskopf said the project is drawing interest from foreign buyers from spots like Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia and Russia. So far, 60 percent of the units are under contract “with large, hard deposits,’’ he said.

Château is financing the project with large deposits from the unit buyers — a model that is being used by nearly all South Florida condominium developers in the current cycle, in which traditional bank financing is still unavailable.

A stream of money continues flowing into South Florida from foreign investors looking to develop projects or to own commercial property. Amid the global upheaval, Miami is viewed as an attractive safehaven for investment.

Sergio Grosskopf founded Château Group in Buenos Aires, where it emerged as a prominent developer of luxury condominiums and big malls, such as the Alto Palermo shopping center in the city’s chic Palermo neighborhood.

“My father brought Walmart to Argentina when I was young; Zara Spanish clothes; and C&A, the department store in Europe,’’ Manuel Grosskopf said.

The Grosskopfs’s business is privately held, with backing from family money and investments by a few friends, Manuel Grosskopf said. “We have friends. It’s very private. It’s not investor groups put together,’’ he said. “There are very close people we invite.’’

The family’s foray into South Florida real estate started in 1998, soon after the elder Grosskopf sold major mall holdings in Argentina to a company controlled by hedge-fund billionaire George Soros. Sergio Grosskopf came to Miami with plans “to retire,” said his son.

“He’ll never retire,’’ Manuel said.

At the time, the Sunny Isles area was mostly known for its seedy motels and cabarets, and the Grosskopfs were among the early investors to spot its potential.

“We saw a beautiful piece of property on the ocean between Bal Harbour and Aventura,’’ Manuel said.

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