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Will Miami Become The Next Destination For Billionaires' Superyachts?

For a week in Miami this winter, 20 luxury superyachts worth around $800 million docked in a newly-opened marina as part of the city’s exclusive yacht show. Among them was Fountainhead, the 288-foot mega yacht owned by billionaire NBA Dallas Mavericks boss Mark Cuban, which features a basketball hoop on the deck. Billed as the only harbor in North America that can accommodate 50 yachts of up to 550 feet, Island Gardens Deep Harbor could be Miami’s next game changer. But will the development, which plans to have 221,000 square feet of retail space and two hotels with some branded residences by 2018, become the next Monaco or St. Tropez?

The project’s developer, Mehmet Bayraktar of Flagstone Property Group, hopes so. ”When the yacht owners come, it will be like pulling up to Fifth Avenue instead of just parking your boat in a random marina,” he says. “Everyone will meet with the lifestyle of the rich and famous.” Born in Turkey, Bayraktar developed his homeland’s first private marina in Istanbul in the 1990s through his family’s holding company. He saw even more potential in the U.S., and founded his own firm in 2001. ”I said, ‘Well, this is a perfect spot.’ All we have to do is create a European-style destination.”

Island Gardens is located in Biscayne Bay between Miami’s main land and the barrier island where South Beach lies. The marina is also the only one in North America branding itself as designed solely “to cater to super yachts.” ”If you have a large yacht, Miami is one of the coolest cities on the planet right now. That in itself is a pretty big draw,” says Tony Harris, president of Boats International Media (publisher of Boat International magazine), who visited the marina this past winter.

Mark Cuban's 288-foot super yacht was docked at Miami's Island Gardens in 2016.

Mark Cuban’s 288-foot super yacht was docked at Miami’s Island Gardens in 2016. Photo Courtesy of Island Gardens.


Could Island Gardens make Bayraktar a billionaire himself? He claims that once the development is completed, it’ll be worth more than $1 billion. His company, though, has a leasehold interest in the development, so while they’ll make money on rent from tenants, Flagstone doesn’t own the land. To be sure, for the project to become successful, it’ll have to attract the yachts of the .1%.

“We haven’t seen anything like this in South Florida. The developer has a vision of Miami becoming a world-class harbor for the super rich in the near future,” says Jack McCabe, an independent analyst who covers South Florida real estate for his firm, McCabe Research & Consulting. Of the billionaires FORBES tracks, yacht-loving entrepreneurs include Dennis Washington (who owns several), Roman AbramovichPaul Allen, Larry Ellison and David Geffen.

Bayraktar says docking occupancy at Island Gardens has been about 50% (based on boat square footage) since opening in January but declined to say if any high-profile owners have docked there recently. Rent is per day, based on the size of the boat and whether it’s a monthly, seasonal or annual contract. Rent runs from $3.50 to $10 per linear foot per day, he said.

While the marina is Bayraktar’s only U.S. project, he still has stakes in numerous real estate developments in Turkey through his family’s holding company, which built Turkey’s first shopping mall, Atakoy Galleria in Istanbul, and first outlet mall. Bayraktar says those projects taught him about how to build a community hub based around shops and restaurants, something he aims to replicate in with the new Miami harbor. “I’m not the typical developer that builds and sells. I enjoy creating a place and then running it – creating a baby and making it grow into a beautiful place,” say Bayraktar. 



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