From left, Robin Dolch, president and founder of Hundred Stories; Gil Dezer, president of Dezer Development; and Michael Stern, founder and CEO of JDS Development Group, explored branded residences at Elevate.
Giovanna/Belo Foto Studio From left, Robin Dolch, president and founder of Hundred Stories; Gil Dezer, president of Dezer Development; and Michael Stern, founder and CEO of JDS Development Group, explored branded residences at Elevate.

The luxury high-rise industry being limited only by its imagination was a major theme of the Elevate conference in Miami in early December, an exclusive gathering that explored the art of living in high-rise buildings.

This event, powered by Zonda and Livabl—in partnership with ARCHITECT and Multifamily Executive magazines—featured a star-studded list of speakers over its two days. From panelists such as Zonda chief economist Ali Wolf, managing principal of multifamily Kimberly Byrum, and vice president Adam McAbee to top players in the industry like Gil Dezer, Lauren Rottet, and Edgardo Defortuna, conversations varied from architecture and market breakdowns to branded residences.

Market Differences Across North America

During the "Decoding Today’s High-Rise Consumer" panel, speakers David Diestel, CEO of FirstService Residential; Peggy Olin, CEO of OneWorld Properties; and Nelson Stabile, principal and co-founder of Integra Investments, discussed the specifics of the Miami market and the desires of the luxury high-rise consumer.

“Luxury high-rises are always early adopters of new services and technology amenities,” Diestel said. “Luxury high-rises are always about the four P’s: People, pets, packages, and parking.”

“We see tremendous diversity across the segments. We’ve always partnered with developers to realize their vision for these communities. What makes them so diverse is people look for communities that resonate with them for where they are in their lives. Our developer clients are building those communities that fit with their vision for the community—they know who they’ve targeted for their project, and they’re designing around that idea,” he added.

There were also discussions on the luxury high-rise markets throughout North America. Matt Slutsky, vice president of Livabl, moderated the panel with Camilo Miguel, CEO and founder of Mast Capital; Neil Vohrah, president of High Rise North America, Great Gulf; and Chris Drew, senior managing director and co-head of the Miami office of JLL Markets.

The panelists spoke about the differences in the market between locations such as Miami versus Toronto. Purchase prices have been ranging from $3,500 to $4,000 per square foot in Miami, whereas in Toronto the costs range from $1,200 to $1,800 per square foot. There’s been a slowdown in the velocity of sales, but prices are remaining stable in the United States. In Canada, the focus markets are changing from investors to end users.

Day 2 concentrated on imagination, branding, and the “wow” factor of the luxury high-rise experience.

Robin Dolch, president and founder of Hundred Stories, moderated a panel featuring Michael Stern, founder and CEO of JDS Development Group, and Dezer, president of Dezer Development.

This panel focused on branded residences throughout the world. Dezer stated that branding “boils down to the smallest detail,” and these residences are designed to create a complete and immersive experience, up to and including china, branded bathtubs, and elevator buttons.

Unique Experiences and the Future of Luxury Amenities

Antonia J.A. Hock, CEO of Antonia J.A. Hock and Associates, drove home the differences between luxury service and a complete luxury experience—the latter being the ultimate goal for today’s consumers.

She compared a scenario where a couple was at a restaurant and received five-star service versus an outing where the chef creates an original menu for the couple, complete with surprise courses and a personal dessert.

The experience is now the goal for luxury high-rise customers because it creates lasting and priceless memories that could never be purchased. Hock pointed out that there is a “luxury pyramid,” where “product resides at the bottom, followed by service, and experience reigns at the top.”

Defortuna touched on redefining the luxury high-rise experience for buyers. “We try to understand and anticipate the needs of those customers,” he said. “We’re trying to figure out what the wishes and wants are even before they know. That’s because any large project you start today will be delivered four or five years from now. So, it’s key to anticipate what new trends will look like—that includes what technologies, kitchens, bathrooms, public spaces should look like.”

So, where is the future of luxury amenities headed? According to Abbie Newman, president and chief business development officer of LIVunLtd, home buyers might expect IV drips to encourage a longer life and touchless services such as massages delivered by robotics. “People are feeling more isolated than ever before,” Newman said. “They are seeking additional help for maintaining connections with loved ones.”