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Developer Pays $18.8 Million for Brickell Land
Miami Today   Sherri C. Ranta  March 2005

Investors are paying $18.8 million for about an acre of land west of Brickell Avenue consisting of the triangular property previously proposed for the Miami Flatiron Building and a restaurant.

Amir Ben-Zion and Asi Cymbal of Paradise International Development paid $14 million for an oddly shaped parcel of about 33,200 square feet on South Miami Avenue. The purchase from a four-member partnership of local attorney Jay Solowsky, retired construction executive Michael Smith, restaurateur Steven Perricone and Realtor Edie Lacquer closed March 3.

The investors, Mr. Solowsky said, paid another $4.8 million for the site of Provence Grill, 1001 S. Miami Ave.

Agustin J. Bunuel, reached Tuesday at Provence Grill, said the restaurant management has three years remaining on its lease of the property.

With the acquisitions, the Ben-Zion/Cymbal partnership controls about two city blocks along South Miami Avenue bounded by Brickell Plaza and Southeast 11th Street.

Plans for the flatiron site, according to previous reports, included a high-rise mixed-use development with retail, office and residential condominiums.

Mr. Ben-Zion, according to a Web site, is president of First Corporate Sedans in New York and an investor in Miss Yip’s Chinese Cafe on Miami Beach. Neither he nor Mr. Cymbal could be reached Tuesday for comment.

The flatiron site, Mr. Solowsky said, was once home to the Brickell Emporium and Martine Apartments. He and Mr. Perricone purchased the Emporium site and then joined Ms. Lacquer and Mr. Smith a few years ago to purchase the apartment site.

At one point, Mr. Solowsky said, the group had negotiated with Miami and Miami-Dade County officials to close the road and build over Metromover tracks near the site.

“Our intention was to hold the property for another five years and develop some interim retail,” Ms. Lacquer said, “and be possibly the only undeveloped tract in the Brickell corridor. We considered that versus the option of selling and decided all of us would be best-served by a sale.”

Mr. Perricone, owner of Perricone’s Marketplace, 15 SE 10th St., opened his restaurant in 1996, when the area was considered depressed and lacked a profitable dinner business and nightlife. He paid less than $800,000 for the now-vibrant site.

New development on the former Brickell Emporium and apartment sites, Mr. Perricone said, will be across from the restaurant. While new development brings more competition, he said, it also brings more customers.

“The more people,” he said, “the better it is.”