Jules Trump on Sunny Isles and the Future of Luxury in Miami

Jules Trump

As seen in the Miami Herald

By Nicholas Nehamas

South African-born developer Jules Trump, whose parents owned a clothing store in Johannesburg, has helped transform Sunny Isles Beach from a strip of run-down motels into one of the most expensive real estate markets in South Florida.

Trump came to the U.S. in the 1970s, where he first settled in New York City and became involved in a number of businesses including real estate with his brother Eddie. That’s when the weather in Miami caught his eye.

His first local project was an 80-acre luxury residential development on Williams Island in Aventura that the Trumps — no relation to the Donald — began building in 1980.

Next they turned their attention to Sunny Isles, where they built a 51-story luxury hotel and condo project called the Acqualina Resort & Spa. That was followed by the Mansions at Acqualina next door where a 47th-floor penthouse listed for $50 million boasts a cantilevered, glass-walled pool that juts out over the building’s edge.

Now Trump has unveiled his latest project: the Estates at Acqualina.

Scheduled for completion in 2019, the 264 ultra-luxury homes at the Estates range from $3.9 million to $40 million.

In order to compete at the top end of the market, which Trump calls “recession-proof,” he’s offering a three-story amenity complex dubbed the “Circus Maximus.” It will include a bowling alley, a Formula One Simulator, indoor ice skating and a surfing simulator.

Trump answered questions from the Miami Herald via email. His responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q. You’ve built two major luxury projects in Sunny Isles and are soon to break ground on a third. What is unique about the Estates at Acqualina, especially as it relates to amenities?

A.What is unique about the Estates is the nexus of unparalleled amenities.

At the Estates, we are creating a 5.6-acre gated amenity experience in a private park-like setting directly on the ocean that is only open to our homeowners, with amenities for all ages. Our intention is to create a community where successful business owners, families with kids, or empty-nesters can enjoy an array of amenities not found elsewhere in South Florida. Where multiple generations — grandparents and parents — can relax, work, or play with total privacy and security with their kids and grandkids. They include indoor ice skating, bowling, a Formula One simulator, a Flow-Rider (which is a pool with a perpetual surfing wave), various relaxation pools and swimming pools with waterslides, soccer, basketball, bocce, an outdoor pool table, a kids arcade, a live Wall Street trader’s club room with real-time information on global markets, a signature world-class restaurant that we will be announcing soon, a quarter-mile walking and jogging path, and a 13,000 square-foot fitness center & spa, exclusively manicured with our five-star attention to detail, not to mention direct access to the Acqualina Resort & Spa next door.

We are investing tens of millions of dollars and going above and beyond what can’t be found elsewhere, and we’re doing all of this for only 264 families. I think that this is the epitome of unique.

What is further unique about the condominiums is the fact that we offer a wide array of homes We have various sized residences — each so spacious that we call them Estates — all the way to grand penthouses and even a few single-family estate homes with walk-outs directly onto the ocean.

Q. As foreign currencies plummet, Miami’s luxury real estate market has started to cool down. Are you worried that you’re launching a new project at the wrong point in the current cycle?

A. Launching any project, particularly one as monumental as the Estates, demands constant attention to what is happening in our ever-changing world. We spend a great deal of time and resources seeing what our customers want and talking to them about their needs.

For us, the best metric is what we see in demand for our niche product. Despite our not having a sales office (we are building a $10 million sales office for the Estates), a scale model, or even a final brochure, the initial sales of the Estates have been extremely successful by any measure.

Most of our buyers are American, who are unaffected by the change in currency, and we are still getting a significant amount of buyers from markets all over the world.

Q. Much of your work in Miami has been focused on Sunny Isles Beach. What are the characteristics of buyers who choose Sunny Isles over South Beach or Brickell?

A. Our buyers are attracted to Sunny Isles Beach because they like the fact that it is safe and not congested, yet easily accessible to all of the destinations South Florida has to offer.

Sunny Isles Beach offers great beaches and a calm sophistication that distinguish it from other places like South Beach and Brickell. Our customers spend time on our beach, compare it to other locations on the same coast, and find that this is where they want to invest not just their capital, but also their family’s precious time, which they value most.

Q. As a beachfront developer, are you concerned about sea-level rise? What measures do you take during design and construction to protect your properties against sea-level rise?

A. We spend a great deal of time, energy and resources working with our architect, design and construction teams to build the best buildings for these specific sites. Our teams research and employ the latest technologies and designs so that we can stay ahead of the unforeseen.

We build above sea level, we have installed flood barriers on all ground level openings, use natural dunes in the landscape design, and have many wells located near the emergency generators to pump out water if necessary. We spare no expense when it comes to our design, which is something our customers have come to expect from Acqualina-branded properties.

Q. As the beach gets more and more built up, what do you think are the next hot spots for development in South Florida?

A. I think you have to look at specific customer bases and products to answer that question. As our market is the ultra-luxury, high-end market, we do not see possibilities other than on the beach, as this is where the luxury customer wants to be.

The beach is almost totally built out which will undoubtedly cause prices for this segment of the market in the Miami area to continue to escalate as fewer and fewer opportunities remain for new condominium development directly on the ocean.

That is one reason we are so excited about the Estates. With its completion, there will be over 1,100 continuous feet of the Acqualina experience on one of the most pristine beaches in the world. Reproducing this elsewhere is virtually impossible.

Q. What does Miami need to do to make sure it keeps growing as a luxury capital of the world?

A. We have to invest in better infrastructure and explore public-private initiatives for grand projects. We need to make sure our infrastructure is up to par with growth. There needs to be a mass transit system in place to handle the growth.

We also need to continue to invest and attract capital and tourism for the arts, fashion and cultural events that have made Miami such a special place in the last ten plus years. We need to attract new businesses for growing industries — technology, healthcare, finance — with incentives such as tax credits, which in turn create jobs and provide a thriving community of young, creative professionals in the area.

The global consumers of the luxury experience will continue to view Miami as a top destination to invest their time and wealth, but at the same time, we have to continue to create the right environment for the next generation of luxury consumers to want to live here and invest their energy into the community.

Over the longer term, we are huge believers in further investment in education and opening opportunities for learning for youth. We, as a family, have demonstrated this commitment for the last 20 years with the I Have a Dream Foundation helping inner city kids achieve higher education. We think this will create more opportunities for our local community to live closer to the urban and coastal areas, particularly the young professionals who are so vital to a sustainable greater Miami.

We’ve seen Miami make great strides in the four decades that we’ve been investing and living in South Florida, and we are extremely excited about where the city is heading.