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Architect Robert A.M. Stern is best known for designing buildings for the wealthiest New Yorkers. Some of the largest residential deals in the U.S. have been at his towers overlooking Manhattan’s Central Park. Now, Mr. Stern’s eponymous firm is putting the finishing touches on the design for a Miami Beach project that is seeking to entice those same buyers to the Sunshine State. The project will be the firm’s first oceanfront residential building.

The complex is a pivotal one for the city. It involves the reimagining of the Shore Club hotel, a late-1940s architectural landmark designed in the Miami Modern, or MiMo, style by Albert Anis, and the Cromwell Hotel, a 1930s Art Deco building, as well as a new tower. Prices will start at around $6 million and top out at about $40 million, excluding the penthouse, said Alex Witkoff, co-chief executive of developer the Witkoff Group, based in New York. Sales of the units are expected to begin later this month.

Industry insiders say projects like the Shore Club will be a litmus test for whether the Covid-sparked Miami property boom, which drew wealthy Northeasterners to Florida, has legs beyond the pandemic. More important, it will show whether the Miami area, known for its dramatic boom and bust cycles, has transformed itself from a vacation-home market for the international jet set into a more sustainable primary-home market that appeals to the affluent—and can command prices akin to those in New York. 

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said he believes projects like the Shore Club speak to a new era of Miami Beach and to how the beachfront area on Collins Avenue, where the project is located, has “caught fire.”

“First there was the Coppertone-girl phase, then the ‘Miami Vice’ phase. Now, we’re in the Art Basel phase,” he said with a laugh, referring to a 1960s ad campaign, a popular 1980s television show and the current international art showcase. “We have matured. We have reached a tipping point.”

For years, the project was the “will they or won’t they” saga of South Beach. The 3-acre oceanfront parcel cycled through various owners and went through a legal battle over a foreclosure. In 2017, a redevelopment plan by embattled New York development firm HFZ Capital Group fell apart amid the market slowdown. The hotel then closed when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020. But when real estate started on the upswing, the Witkoff Group and its partner, Monroe Capital, hatched plans to redevelop the site. 

The new project will include a five-star resort, to be known as Shoreclub and operated by Auberge Resorts Collection, 49 private residences, most split between the upper floors of the original Cromwell Hotel, which is being refurbished, and a new adjoining 200-foot tower designed by Mr. Stern’s company. The new tower replaces one by the architect David Chipperfield. There will also be a 6,000-square-foot, single-family mansion on the site facing the beach, also by Mr. Stern’s company.

Neither the home nor the penthouse have been priced, Mr. Witkoff said. The penthouse will be about 10,500 square feet with an additional 7,500 feet of terraces and a private rooftop pool, he said.