The Dealmaker

Possibly the most influential person in Miami's ongoing facelift is a Paris-born, Toronto-raised workaholic named Edie Laquer

In 1987 Bayside Marketplace signaled new possibilities for Biscayne Boulevard. But as the decade wore on, the commercial real estate market faltered and prices fell. "It takes a long time to make history," Laquer told the Herald, trying to maintain a positive spin on the recession. That year she had no luck trying to attract $13.5 million for a two-acre parcel at the mouth of the Miami River now known as the Miami Circle site. But the owner, Sol Luger, one of the developers of the Atlantis luxury condominium high-rise farther down the avenue, persisted. So Laquer proposed a swap: The City of Miami would move Brickell Park to the riverside spot and she would sell the old park's two acres of prime commercial land. The city tried to accomplish the swap but dropped it after a legal challenge by the Brickell family. (A decade later she finally cashed in, brokering an eight-million-dollar sale of the site at the river's mouth to developer Michael Baumann. Ironically with Baumann's plans blocked by the discovery of historic artifacts on the property, Laquer's idea of a park there may come to fruition.)

In 1989 Laquer left Cushman & Wakefield for the Doran Jason Group, a smaller brokerage and development firm on Brickell Avenue. Laquer found new ways to make handsome commissions and sometimes took on work outside her downtown domain. As the decade came to a close, she brokered what was then the most expensive rental agreement in Dade County history: Carnival Cruise Line's $100 million lease of a west Dade building.

Even in an early 1990s recession, Laquer managed to prosper. The savings-and-loan crisis of the late Eighties had created new opportunities for commercial brokers. Working with Peter Andolina, a former Cushman & Wakefield colleague who followed her to Doran Jason, she began to sell properties the federal Resolution Trust Corporation and the FDIC had acquired as collateral from failed S&Ls and banks. When Jason, a 30-year real estate veteran, became cash strapped Laquer moved on. In 1992, while showing a piece of property in Brickell, she met former Florida Secretary of State George Firestone and Richard Millard, the owners of Tecton, Inc., a small Miami-based real estate firm. They didn't buy the building but were sold on Laquer, so they invited her to join their company. While Millard and Firestone concentrated on buying and selling hotels, Laquer kept her sights trained on RTC-acquired office buildings, vacant land fertile for high-end development, and dilapidated structures that were ripe for razing.

Laquer's legwork has preceded the building of prominent urban landmarks such as CocoWalk and the Yacht Club condominium tower in Brickell
Steve Satterwhite
Laquer's legwork has preceded the building of prominent urban landmarks such as CocoWalk and the Yacht Club condominium tower in Brickell

With demand for downtown office space and condos on the rise, 1993 was a banner year: A $3.3 million sale of a Brickell lot here, a $2.1 million sale of an acre of Brickell Key there, a $5.7 million sale of a Brickell office building over there, and many other deals left Laquer's bank accounts brimming. She also occasionally brokered high-end residential sales, like the $2.35 million deal for a seven-acre estate in Coconut Grove to then-Burdines president James Gray and his wife Sheila in 1993. The couple needed a new home because they had sold their previous residence to Madonna for $4.9 million. "I still was my own show," Laquer says of her tenure with Tecton. "I did my own thing. I stayed very focused in my area and didn't deviate from it. We were really just sharing office space."

When she could not satisfy her taste for grandeur in the Magic City, she still found buyers. For more than a year she marketed three and a half acres of RTC-acquired land at South Dixie Highway and 27th Avenue. She envisioned an upscale office and residential complex connected by overpass to the Metrorail station. In 1993 she brokered a three-million dollar deal that brought a Shell gas station, a Pollo Tropical, a strip mall featuring a Pet Supermarket, and a mattress store to the location. Beginning in 1995 she brokered two similar projects in Brickell for developer Harvey Taylor: the $2.4 million sale of property for Publix and Blockbuster stores on Coral Way, and a three-million dollar transaction that brought an Eckerd drugstore and a McDonald's to SW Eighth Street a few blocks away.

She also displayed tenacity in court. In 1996, when Arturo Comas ignored a contract with Laquer and sold a vacant parcel at Grand Avenue and McDonald Street in Coconut Grove to developer Bruno Carnesella, she sued Comas. A court ordered Comas to pay Laquer a $105,000 brokerage fee and $40,000 in attorneys' fees. These days the lot remains unrepresented by Laquer and undeveloped.

When Firestone retired in 1998, she left Tecton and hung her own shingle. Millard is a huge fan: "She was incessant. She never stopped working. She never let go. She was very thorough, very detail oriented. She knows what she's talking about. She knows everybody. She's not afraid to talk to anybody in the entire world. She has time for everybody. She keeps unbelievable records. She's great to work with. You ask Edie to do something and it gets done. I was very impressed with her. And most of us couldn't keep up with her. She is a machine." He continues: "She didn't have a lot of time for any nonsense. I don't think I ever walked into Edie's office when she wasn't on the phone talking business." She was also thoughtful. "She never forgot anyone's birthday. As a matter of fact it was my birthday last week. There was a message on my voice-mail from Edie."

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