Real Estate Journal: Mast Capital raises the stakes

BySouth Florida Business Journal
September 9, 2022

Mast Capital has taken on some of the most high-profile development projects in South Florida in recent years, including a luxury condominium in Miami, the termination of an oceanfront condo and the redevelopment of a YMCA site. Founder and CEO Camilo Miguel Jr. has plans to further expand the Miami-based firm’s reach by entering new sectors of real estate and becoming more of a statewide developer. The company has 44 employees and is hiring, with plans to reach 60 by the end of the year, he said. Before he took on projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars, Miguel began with small real estate deals. After earning a business degree from the University of Miami, he decided to invest in real estate in 2003 because he felt it was an industry he could learn on his own. He pooled money from friends and family, and purchased land in Las Vegas. After getting approval to build apartments there, he flipped it for a nice profit. He repeated that process with several more sites, since he didn’t have the capital to actually build. “The projects were still $200 million projects, but the dollar amount [of the sales] was a few million here or a few million there,” Miguel said. “I needed to create liquidity for myself to build something bigger.”

After founding Mast Capital in 2006, he focused on bridge lending to developers and purchasing distressed debt. As the Great Recession faded and development opportunities came up, Mast Capital was in a position to begin building. One of the first condominiums the company completed was Louver House in Miami Beach in 2016. The building had just 12 units, but they sold for $1,350 a square foot, which was an impressive price at the time. What Miguel learned was to go bigger. “It takes a similar amount of effort to do a large deal as a small deal,” he said. “All the same planning goes into it, so you might as well do it bigger.” The biggest project yet for Mast Capital will be Cipriani Residences Miami, an 80-story condo with an Italian luxury brand. The first phase will have 397 units, and two more towers are planned. Developing the 2.8-acre site in the Brickell Financial District might seem like an obvious play, but the property was riddled with challenges over the years. The Great Recession scuttled the original development plans there. A company from China acquired it, but litigation between the partners prevented them for moving forward. “I kept in contact with everybody along the way because that was an important site for Brickell,” Miguel said. “We are putting a speakeasy in the base of the tower, a restaurant for unit owners only on the pool deck, and a big fitness center and spa.” Condo termination has been another way Mast Capital obtains sites in South Florida’s landconstrained market.

After teaming with Miami Beach-based Starwood Capital Group to buy out an oceanfront condo in Miami Beach, Mast Capital launched sales for the 82-unit Perigon. “Condo terminations are challenging,” Miguel said. “You need to have a willing group of owners in a property where can you pay the owners a premium to the retail market for their units …. It’s worth the effort to be able to unlock an opportunity in one of the highest barrier-to-entry markets in the state.” In another creative deal, Miguel worked out an agreement with the YMCA of the Palm Beaches to give it enough time to move out of its Palm Springs campus and into a new location. That allowed Mast Capital and its partners to redevelop the site into 264 apartments. In Broward County, Mast Capital purchased the Quay shopping and office center on Southeast 17th Street and filed plans to build 358 apartments in the parking lot, while keeping the commercial tenants in place. Now, the firm is looking at multifamily and hospitality projects across Florida, including in Tampa, Orlando, Naples/Fort Myers, the Treasure Coast and the Keys. It even acquired the Saddlebrook Resort, a golf club in Wesley Chapel, in March and is renovating it. “We can be optimistic about how Florida will perform compared to other states,” Miguel said. “It has a favorable lifestyle, continued migration. All of that will continue to bolster our market and present additional development opportunities.” Going forward, Mast Capital will seek out more deals to buy hotels and renovate them. Miguel said he’s also considering ground-up office development in South Florida, which has become attractive since office rents in Miami reached an all-time high. Even though higher interest rates and construction costs have made putting a project together more challenging, Miguel is confident the capital will line up behind his ideas. “Back when I started my business, the investors were my friends and family,” he said. “Now I have major investors like Rockpoint Group, AEW, Angelo Gordon and Starwood Capital. And some of my original investors are still with me.”