Miami's Paramount Bay condo cost $262 million and two lives

Paramount Bay's luxury waterfront condo was scheduled to open more than two years ago. But stop by the 46-story blue glass building at 2066 N. Bayshore Dr. and you feel like you've wandered onto the set of some postapocalyptic film. The only sign of life is a receptionist silently poised in front of a giant blue wall fountain. The gleaming condo is a ghost town.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. When developer Royal Palm Miami Holdings broke ground in 2005, Paramount Bay was billed as the cutting edge of the Magic City's booming real estate industry. Topnotch firm Arquitectonica drew up the plans. "We're not just building condos; we're building lifestyles," Royal Palm President Dan Kodsi said at the time. "We're selling cool, luxury, the future."

Like other Miami developers, however, Royal Palm was also wasting money at a furious clip. The developer spent half a million dollars to turn the historic Wolf House — featured in the movie There's Something About Mary — next door into its sales center. And it splashed $200,000 on a celebrity-studded launch party, including ten grand on fireworks.

In 2006, Royal Palm took out a $210 million loan from Chicago-based Corus Bank and private lender iStar Financial. But by 2008, with the condo half-built and the market slumping, Royal Palm was struggling to pay.

Then, in March, a construction crane fell 37 stories from the top of Paramount Bay onto the Wolf House. The seven tons of steel crushed the office, killed two workers, and led Gov. Charlie Crist to call — in vain — for greater crane safety legislation.

To make matters worse, Corus Bank went belly-up in 2009 after making too many bad loans.

Finally, last month, iStar Financial won a foreclosure settlement against Royal Palm for $262 million.

"The writing was on the wall," says iStar Senior Vice President Anthony Burns.

Burns expects iStar to buy the condo at an auction this week, clearing the way for it to finally open its swanky doors later this year. Burns believes Paramount will live up to its name.

"It's a great building in a great location", says Burns adding that sales should restart this summer.

Neighbors aren't so sure that everything is all right. "I heard that it's got a crack in the foundation," says midtown resident Michael Fiorellino. "Otherwise, why would it still be empty?"

There's no crack, building managers say. Just a gaping hole in logic.

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.