By Michael E. Miller
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In 1983 she created news by selling the Brickell Concourse building for the Prudential Insurance Company to Silverstein Properties for $22.2 million. She toted several million dollars in other sales that year, making her the top earner at her company. Persistence was her secret. Market conditions had nothing to do with her success, she declares. She joined Cushman & Wakefield in April of 1984 and soon made a splash in the local press by assembling a 100,000-square-foot site composed of seven parcels at Grand Avenue and Virginia Street in Coconut Grove. In a Miami Heraldstory, reporter Seth Lubove described an encounter on the street between Laquer and the distraught owner of Coconut Grove Camera, whom she had persuaded to sell: "She straightens the lapels on his suede jacket, picks at a piece of lint beneath his nose, comforts his hand in hers. Not to worry, she chirps. Selling out will help, not hurt. It's that mixture of schmaltz, confidence, and a hint of sexuality that has earned Laquer respect as one of the most successful commercial real estate brokers in Miami, a field still largely dominated by men." Architect Edward Grafton paid $11 million for the Grove Camera site and six other parcels. (In 1990 Constructa, a French company, built CocoWalk there.)
Her drive also alienated some fellow brokers. Beginning in 1984 she tangled with two Cushman & Wakefield colleagues over commissions and lost. "She put everything behind herself and her career," recalls John Fleeman, one of the brokers. "She made that sacrifice, and it's made her very successful."
In the mid-Eighties she met Lucia Dougherty, then the Miami city attorney, and the two became friends. Through Dougherty she became acquainted with other important city officials involved in development, including city planner Lourdes Slazyk and zoning administrator Juan Gonzalez. Laquer still raves about each. "If she goes I'm changing industries," Laquer says of Slazyk, now assistant director of planning and zoning. As for Gonzalez: "He's a doll." Niceties aside, she is frank about their importance in the development game: "These are the people at the city staff level who really help make things happen, and they make recommendations to the city commission." Dougherty left her city post in 1988 and joined the Greenberg Traurig law firm, where she is one of the premier commercial development attorneys in Miami-Dade.
According to Dougherty this is what is special about Laquer: "Most other brokers get a client and they get a piece of property to sell. Then they find a buyer. Then they leave it up to the buyer to do their due diligence with their zoning lawyer, and they just sit and wait for the thing to close or not close. She doesn't sit and wait. She pushes constantly until the deal is done, and she'll be right in the middle of the negotiations. She'll find out from the buyer that he needs to build 400 units or 350,000 square feet of retail and she'll go back to the seller and say, 'Okay he needs this many units, but you can't provide this many units unless you get this increase in zoning, and therefore you have to give them more time to get this increase in zoning. So she's playing both sides, realizing and recognizing what each side needs. I've never dealt with a broker who did that. Anywhere."
Laquer also played hard, sometimes attending the now legendary wild parties at the Mutiny Hotel bar and the Grove's private clubs, such as Stringfellows, Faces in the Grove, and Cats. "When I moved here I realized how innocent and conservative my lifestyle in Toronto really was, particularly moving next door to the Mutiny Hotel, but that's another story." She witnessed the legendary piles of cocaine on the bar. "Well, we would never want to discuss that as part of this [story]," she insists. "But yeah, what I saw was a very fast lifestyle."
Laquer was a prominent player in high society, working for the Miami Film Festival and attending fundraising bashes. In 1985 she even thwarted Elena, a tropical storm that threatened to scuttle an Easter Seals benefit party slated for a tent on Fisher Island. Laquer launched an eleventh-hour search for a hotel that could accommodate 500 revelers. She succeeded in contracting the Biscayne Bay Marriott.
Jack King, the perspicacious and occasionally ribald former publisher of the now-defunct Coconut Grovermonthly, says Laquer always seemed to float above the fray. "She was never, like, drunken with her dress up over her head or anything like that," observes King, who notes such indecencies were commonplace on those libertine nights of yore. "She was always absolutely immaculate. I never saw her go home with four guys. She was a real pro, and she always seemed to know what she was doing. She'd show up for a cocktail party for some function at six o'clock after working fourteen hours and would look like she had just stepped out of the beauty parlor. I always thought she was the consummate professional real estate person in a world that was dominated by men."
Although she has no regrets, Laquer is relieved the era has ended. "What other time would there have been to have witnessed the Roaring Eighties or whatever we call them?" she ponders. "It was wild; it was crazy. It was an interesting time. It was certainly educational for me. And I met a lot of interesting people. But I'm glad the Eighties are over. Because dancing until three in the morning and getting up at four didn't work very well.... We all did it and I wouldn't change it; I wouldn't change a hair. It was great. But I got tired of it."