Florida’s New Bentley Residences Tower
The new Bentley Residences tower aspires to be, by the time it’s unveiled in 2026, the most prestigious residential building in the already well-heeled neighbourhood of Sunny Isles Beach, Fla.
At first glance, what could be more different than a high-end car and a luxury condo? One is a small, albeit comfortable, box, while the other offers space over several rooms. Until recently, these two universes would never intersect. But, well-known Miami real estate developer Gil Dezer saw something in common: a commitment. A brand like Porsche, for example, is totally committed to what its brand represents. What if you could apply the same level of commitment to the identity of a high-end building?
“Working with a brand, there are things I know. I know that, for example, Armani is making sure I’m getting everything that Armani wants — they want to keep their name on the building,” explains Dezer. “They know that a buyer might have stayed at the Armani hotel in Dubai and has a certain level of expectations. That’s what a brand is: it’s the same across the entire board. You step in the Armani in Milan, or in my lobby here in Miami, it’ll smell the same. The textures will be the same. The types of woods used will be the same. Everything will be the same. If you walked into Mr. Armani’s house, it would be the same. That’s why it’s Armani/Casa — the furniture runs through the whole building. A lot of buyers [are] going in and [buying] pre-construction these days. I look at myself as the buyer. I wouldn’t give anybody my money unless I’m sure of what I’m getting, very simple. If a guy’s going to show me a bunch of pictures, that’s nice, but how do I even know I’m getting that? Who’s making sure I’m getting that? We were able to do the Porsche Design Tower and then the Armani/Casa building. It got me excited working with brands. It made me notice they come up with buildings way better than all the other buildings. The brands really translate, from the design standpoint and functionality. It’s really exciting.”
His new project, the Bentley Residences tower, has just been unveiled and will be ready in 2026, with construction starting in 2023. The Bentley tower will be a 228-metre-tall building in Miami’s Sunny Isles Beach area and will have more than 200 units.
But, why choose Bentley after doing the well-received Porsche Design Tower in 2018? “Bentley’s one of the best car brands in the world,” explains Dezer. “It’s synonymous with the Rolls-Royce, but it’s managed to keep itself more elegant than a Rolls by not getting involved in music video. It’s kept itself above the fray. Look at the buyer of a Bentley and you’ll immediately identify your customer base. It’s the customer who identifies with the brand, who understands what they’re looking for. A Porsche customer might be looking for something a bit more performance-oriented, while a Bentley customer might be looking for something a bit more luxurious. We don’t need to focus only on celebrities. We can have the doctor who invented a pill that cured some disease.”
At the core of the technical side of the project is well-established architectural firm Sieger Suarez and its vice-president, Jose J. Suarez. “I studied under Louis Khan in Pennsylvania. Over the years, we grew from doing one-storey houses to thousand-feet-tall towers. Now, we specialize in high-end residential tall towers. We’ve gone as high as 1,500 feet [457 metres]. We don’t have a lot of clients. We started working for the Dezer family 20 years ago. Gil stepped into his dad’s shoes. It was at a time when nothing was happening in Miami. We were trying to find something different to do.” Enter the branded residential building.
“It’s Going To Be A Diamond That They Can See All The Way From Cuba When The Sun Hits On It. It’s Going To Be Amazing” – Gil Dezer
“These buildings are complicated; they take time,” explains Charles M. Sieger, the firm’s president. “It’s not like working on a single-unit family house. They’re very technical and, at the same time, very artistic. You need some experience doing these things. We worked with Bentley to pick up their esthetic, the way they do their stitching and diamond-shaped signature visual items. We assimilated those into the building. It’s a pretty exciting building, even better than the Porsche one. We did something that had never been done before in Florida. We triangulated the glass and then pushed it in three inches [7.6 centimetres] to create that diamond effect that Bentley loves. Fifty per cent of the building has reflective silver. We built three mock-ups to make sure things fit — full-scale stuff. There are triangular windows in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, etc. They spend money because they can. But it’s a bit different in America, and definitely a first for Florida.”
If some modern luxury buildings are all flash and no substance, that’s not the case for the Bentley building. The emblematic British car brand insists on being environmentally responsible. “Bentley’s move toward sustainability has gotten really strong recently. They only use vegan leather made out of crushed grapes,” explains Sieger. “They’re doing a lot of things, so that they can recycle the cars. They impressed upon us that the project needs to be sustainable. Just by the nature of a high-rise, it’s one of the most sustainable types of building you can have because they’re usually in already ecologically destroyed areas.”
The Bentley Residences is expected to surpass the Porsche Design Tower in terms of amenities and design. “What we learned from doing the Porsche Design Tower, we’re now applying to the Bentley tower,” explains Dezer. “Major things like each unit is now going to have a four-car garage inside the apartment, instead of two, on the Porsche tower. A four-car garage up in the sky? Unheard of. We had the swimming pools of the Porsche towers on the balcony, but it was also blocking the view of the ocean. Now, we’ve moved the location of the swimming pool, and we’ve sunken it. It’s never been done before. It’s going to be very cool. On every floor and every unit,” enthuses Dezer. “You walk out of your elevator and you see water — from your own pool, 16 storeys up in the air,” adds Sieger. “Things like that, that make the units a bit more liveable,” says Dezer. “We’re putting saunas in each unit, as well as outdoor showers on the balconies.” When Dezer talks about balconies, don’t start imagining small big-city balconies people use to store potted plants. “Balconies range from 1,100 feet to 1,800 feet [335 metres to 549 metres]; they’re the size of a New York City apartment, with an outdoor kitchen,” he laughs. “Of course, those buildings are also full service, they’re like a five-star hotel without the transient guests,” he adds. “You have the restaurants, the bars, the lounges, the massage rooms, the hair salons, car-racing simulators, etc.”
Perhaps the most talked-about feature of the tower — its showstopper — will be its car elevators. Sieger remembers how the idea came about. “I said to Gil, ‘Let’s do a robotic elevator that takes you up to your apartment. Let’s have something nobody can compare it to.’”
“We thought that if we do a car building, it has to be focused on the car lover, the car collector, the guy who wants it in his living room,” adds Dezer. “We had engineers figure out how to do the car elevator in principle. I started YouTubing and Googling, and saw that there was an existing system in Germany. It was in Wolfsburg [Germany], in Volkswagen City, the brand headquarters. I saw this thing at their factory and thought, This thing obviously works. The Germans don’t mess around. We figured out how to modify it to carry people inside the car and we got a patent. That’s why we call it the ‘Dezervator.’”
No one likes waiting for the elevator. Surely, a car elevator must mean more waiting. Not according to Sieger. “We had to actually slow the elevator down,” he laughs. “They were faster than pedestrian elevators. Originally, they were 900 feet [274 metres] per minute. We had to slow them down to 800 feet [244 metres] per minute. It’s not a long time to go 700 feet [213 metres]. Not only are they fast, [but also] you don’t have to be in them. You can go and have a drink at the bar while your car gets deposited into your apartment. In the Porsche tower, we had one elevator serving two units. On the Bentley, we’ll have four elevators serving four units. No one will have to wait. You go into a garage, you have to find a parking space, park your car, go to the elevator, change to another elevator. By the time you get home, you’ve done a lot of driving and a lot of walking. But with this, you pull in, you turn off your car and it’s preprogrammed. It’s always waiting for you when not in use. Even if you gave your car to a valet, it wouldn’t be as fast. People who own these apartments don’t want anyone banging up their expensive car; that’s why they want to keep their car right next to them. Someone who has a $2.3-million Pagani car doesn’t want anybody messing with it. They prefer to drive it themselves. There are all kinds of pluses that come with that car elevator. For example, the interesting thing about the elevators is that they’re also very useful for moving in. The moving truck just puts all the furniture on the platforms, and then it almost instantly appears in your garage. You don’t have to hold up the elevator to move in your couch.”
Testing the elevator and making sure it worked seamlessly wasn’t an easy task and took some time. “We developed this prototype building in Chicago to test the elevator moving up the cars,” remembers Sieger. “It took about three years to make sure it worked. You can’t take a risk with something like that. But the real key to the success of a car elevator is economic. Once you put a garage inside a unit, you get tremendous value for it, whereas if the garage is in some public garage box, you get almost no value for it. All of sudden, you can sell that garage space maybe not at the cost of your living room, but at a cost that more than pays for the cost of those elevators. That’s how we got there. At the beginning, I got calls from my other clients saying, ‘We heard you’re doing an elevator to put cars into units. It’s not gonna work; you’re going to ruin your reputation.’ But now, it has become a showcase around the world. We’ve gotten calls from China, from Taiwan … everybody’s trying to steal the idea.”
People living elsewhere watching the news are sure to associate the eastern Florida coast with high winds and hurricanes. Not to worry: the team behind the Bentley has planned for this. “When we get over eight storeys tall here in Florida, we have to do wind-tunnel testing on buildings,” explains Sieger. “We have to test three things: torsional drift (oscillation due to the wind), pedestrian comfort and wind pressure on the skin of the building, on the glass (for hurricanes).” But, sometimes, the extra weight from the swimming pools in each unit is actually an advantage. “The heavier the building, the less likely it is to move,” says Sieger. “The bigger concern is always the wind. When it’s blowing five miles an hour on the ground, it’s blowing 30 miles [48 kilometres per hour] an hour 600 feet [183 metres] up in the air. What we’ve been doing in the upper levels of towers is we’re including a secondary layer of glass — what we call a back-pressure pocket. It captures the air, the air stops and then it’s forced to go around the corner and leak back out of that area. So the air could be blowing at 40 or 50 miles [64 or 81 kilometres per hour] per hour outside, but you can still smoke a cigarette on your balcony, because there’s no wind. That static pocket is important. You can create a great balcony, but no one can use it if it’s too windy.
“I Said To Gil, ‘let’s Do A Robotic Elevator That Takes You Up To Your Apartment. Let’s Have Something Nobody Can Compare It To’” – Charles M. Sieger
When looking at the rendering of what the Bentley tower will be like, one immediately notices the triangular-shaped windows. Dezer confirms this will be a replacement feature of the tower. “When we developed plans for the Bentley, we immediately thought of the triangular windows,” he reveals. “We did the whole mockup — I spent $300,000 just on the mock-up: to find out if we could do the windows that way. It’s going to make a statement. It’s going to be a diamond that they can see all the way from Cuba when the sun hits on it. It’s going to be amazing. You don’t live on the exterior of your building, but when you tell people, ‘Hey, I live in the Bentley tower,’ people will understand. They’ll ask, ‘Is that the one with the diamonds sparkling?’ Everybody will know where you live. There’s a pride in ownership that makes a building iconic. After this one, we’re going to have a hard time outdoing ourselves.”
It’s surely an exciting time for luxury real estate in southern Florida, with the region experiencing a true real estate boom. “What’s been happening in Miami during the last three months is pretty unique,” says Sieger. “We got a massive influx of very high-end people moving to Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, ready to spend all kinds of money. They’re coming from New York, Chicago, New Jersey, California. It’s just crazy, I’ve never seen anything like it — I’ve been here my whole life. It reminds me of when I first started working out here. We’d open up a townhouse project in the suburbs. We’d have hot-air balloon rides and cotton candy for the children, and the properties would sell out over the weekend. It’s almost what’s happening here, except it’s not a $16,000 home. It’s much more expensive units. Last week, we were joking, ‘Should we do Bugatti or Lamborghini next?’”