Working at his laptop, Mehmet Bayraktar is quiet and unassuming until he is asked to talk about his Island Gardens/Deep Harbour project in Miami. Then he becomes animated.
“Miami is becoming one of the 10 best cities in the world that the super-rich prefer to go to,” says the chairman and CEO of the Flagstone Property Group.
Still in development, Island Gardens is a $1 billion luxury destination on Miami’s Watson Island that is designed to pamper the wealthy with two luxury hotels, a residential high-rise, upscale restaurants, high-end shops, water taxi service and a superyacht marina.
Miami is right up there in swank with New York, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong — and with the two places that inspired the design of Island Gardens: Monaco and St. Tropez, Bayraktar says. “We’re creating a Mediterranean lifestyle with yachting,” he says.
Deep Harbour, the marina, is for 50 yachts as large as 550 feet, and it is laid out Med-style for tying up stern-to. It is dredged at 18 to 21 feet to accommodate deep-draft superyacht sailboats. “We’ll be able to dock all of the biggest boats in the world,” he says.
Waterfront Auckland, which does research on New Zealand‘s yachting industry, reports 4,836 yachts larger than 30 meters (about 100 feet) worldwide in 2013. That number has been growing by an average of 5.4 percent a year for 20 years. The group projects 5,771 yachts in this category by 2019.
Meanwhile, a 1997 study for the Marine Industries Association of South Florida found that a single 130-foot charter motoryacht costs $1.2 million a year to operate, so the communities that host these big yachts benefit significantly.
“Watson Island is the perfect spot for megayachts,” Bayraktar says. It has direct access to the ocean via Miami’s 50- to 60-foot-deep Government Cut, and it is strategically located between South Beach — its beaches and nightlife — and downtown Miami’s performing arts center, science and art museums, the opera, nightclubs, shopping at Bayside Marketplace and the Miami Heat’s NBA arena.
The area also hosts a lot of events: Art Basel on Miami Beach, the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, NASCAR racing. “The 1 percent love coming to Miami,” he says. “They’ll come multiple times.”
Those that have businesses to run can do it from their boat while they play in their free time.
Island Gardens will have 500 hotel rooms, 100 residential units, 70 boutiques, 14 restaurants, water taxi service to Miami, South Beach and Fisher Island, and a state-of-the-art marina. It also will have a public promenade so locals will be able to come down and enjoy the ambience, the water, the shops and restaurants, and the view of the Miami skyline, says Marieke Van Peer, Deep Harbour’s marina manager.
The hotels will offer discounted rates to yacht captains and their crews. Island Gardens also will have a heliport and is next door to the Miami Seaplane Base, which offers seaplane service to Key West and the Bahamas.
The marina will be open in time for the Feb. 11-15 Yacht Miami Beach, formerly known as the Yacht & Brokerage Show in Miami Beach. Van Peer, a former dockmaster at the Miami Beach Marina, says the marina will have in-slip fueling, sewage pumpout, “all the electricity a boat could need” and water-taxi transportation. The superyacht part of the show will be staged on the marina’s uplands, Bayraktar says.
Superyacht service is available at RMK Merrill-Stevens on the Miami River or at other yards — Rybovich Superyacht Yard in West Palm Beach or Derecktor Shipyard in Dania.
Van Peer describes Miami as a cosmopolitan city with “a lot of nationalities, ethnicities — Europeans and South Americans. … It’s a fun, fast-paced city with culture and luxury,” she says.
And the marina? “It’s going to be the pearl, in my opinion.”
Bayraktar expects the upland part of the project to be completed by 2018.
This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue.