by David Drake
The Pi Art Tech and Trade Center, led by Jorge Brugo, is a Florida-based corporation which submitted bid to develop a prime property of the Miami Dade College (MDC) on 520 Biscayne Boulevard. He is also the president and founder of Axis Realty Trust, Spainvestment and co-founder of the LuxurInvest LLC.
Brugo is a low profile developer catalyzing the many innovations in the Miami’s luxury residential market. He is also focused on signature designed buildings to enhance the Miami skyline. I had a chance to talk to him. We talked about his plans for this property on 520 Biscayne Boulevard where his company is one of the 4 bidders.
He said “The 2.2 million sq. ft. mixed- use tower, named after the greek letter Pi, which represents infinite possibilities, is structured as a Public Private Partnership with Miami Dade College. It will incorporate both a cultural center for the public and private uses, including retail, office, hotel, and residences.”
I have asked him about the project in terms of total investment, partners’ involvement, components and features, and impact on the Miami skyline as well as environment. Here are his answers:
DD: What is the cost of the project in terms of investment and partners’ involvement?
JB: The cost of the project is close to $1B in investment, combining a capital stack that includes equity, debt, mezzanine, taxable municipal bonds, and tax exempt municipal bonds. The partners involved are Axis Realty Trust, Ella and Oswaldo Cisneros, and future capital partners and lenders to participate through Berkadia a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway and Leucadia.
DD: What are the top 5 strengths of your bid?
JB: Our bid’s top 5 strengths are: 1) the iconic structural design; 2) strong cultural component/integration into the city’s everyday life; 3) the team; 4) the CIFO collection; and 5) the gala systems technology.
DD: Please expound on this gala systems technology.
JB: The gala systems is a key aspect of the convention center. It is a state of the art technology behind flexible venues. You can transform a conference center to a gala or to a meeting space in less than 15 minutes downtime. This means you can have 2 events in one day, with 2 completely different concepts. The MDC can offer the venue for a conference, convention, or meeting for a fee. The MDC will be able to profit from this concept. Hence, MDC will not be dependent on endowment funds, or donations for its operational expenses.
DD: How will the art component complement the Miami’s growing art scene?
JB: The 50,000 square feet space of the MDC Art Museum will be side by side with the the 75,000 square feet Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO). The new and larger space will permit the implementation of new programs, aside from the currently existing ones. It will also facilitate access by the local community to a wider selection of exhibitions and programs that CIFO will offer. Moreover, it will also provide access to collaborations with other institutions that CIFO has,similar to Reina Sofia (Spain), TATE Modern (U.K), Centre Pompidou-Metz (France) among many others. The new space will allow CIFO to continue and expand its grants and commission programs available to artists of Latin American dependence. With this bigger facility, MDC will be able to hold a permanent exhibition, thus the local and nearby communities will have access to 3000+ pieces of the Ella’s Fontanals-Cisneros Collection.
Even though MDC requested 1,600 seats and 3,000 persons convention center, the project provides for more than that, with a 3,000 seat theater and a 3,800 capacity convention center that maximizes the value for MDC needs. This space can be divided into 3 separate auditoriums, which would allow for an additional performance space for symphonies, musicals, concerts, dances and any type of performance.
DD: During the design process, what are the environmental considerations you had to be mindful of?
JB: The project will incorporate all environmental criteria certification to make it environmentally friendly such as LEED or BREEAM. Specific certifications such as those suited for hot weather as in Miami will be considered.
DD: With regards to MDC and CIFO Art Museum Integration, what kind of education offerings will you have? Any opportunities for scholarships or internships?
JB: Other than the incredible value of the curriculum that CIFO would bring in to MDC, there are opportunities for grants, scholarships and internships to champion together, as both are already doing so. Likewise, by sharing common access areas, lobbies, cafeterias, gift shops, and more, would benefit both museums in terms of savings on operational costs.
DD: Why did you decide to include so many components into one design?
JB: The site has almost unlimited development rights. The cost of the dirt is significant, so it is very well suited for a mixed-use project. It is one of the last waterfront blocks along Biscayne Blvd, and a prime waterfront location in close proximity to the causeway to the Port of Miami. It is the perfect opportunity to mix the public/cultural use, with the private/commercial use and come up with a solution that adds to the cultural mix, but also make economic sense.
DD: How would the design impact the Miami skyline?
It would standout as the global symbol for Miami – something other major international cities have that Miami does not. The design elements are unlike any currently seen in the skyline, so it would be a wonderful addition to our rising city.
David Drake is the Chairman of LDJ Capital, a multi-family office; Victoria Partners, a 300 family office network; LDJ Real Estate Group and Drake Hospitality Group; and The Soho Loft Media Group with divisions Victoria Global Communications,Times Impact Publications, and The Soho Loft Conferences. Reach him directly at David@LDJCapital.com.