Real estate developers often have a particular personality type. They take huge risks, are obsessed with being “players”, often live garish lifestyles and do crazy things that you can’t believe would ever work out. Especially in Florida; John D. MacDonald described the type in his wonderful 1977 novel Condominium, where Marty Liss is trying to decide whether to build a project or not. After looking at all the negatives he assesses the positives:
Arguments in favor of going ahead: When things look the blackest, then is the time to make your move, because you get the jump on the ones holding back. The politicians can’t risk big unemployment. They’ll goose the economy. The government protects industrial pensions. Social Security will keep going up. They have to come to Florida. Where else can they go?… They’ll keep coming until there’s no more water to drink or air to breathe, and that is a long time off. Like five years? And I can be in and out in two—if I decide to go ahead. Jesus Christ, it is scary.
It’s a type that is obsessed with rolling the dice for millions. look at Donald Trump, look at Marty Liss, and look at Gil Dezer, who is building the Porsche Design Tower in Miami. TreeHugger covered this before when it was a proposal, because of its most interesting feature: the monster elevators that bring your car right up to your apartment. I was actually impressed at the time:
There is a perverse logic to using a car elevator, particularly in Miami where you can't easily build an underground garage. It eliminates all the ramps and circulation that can take up almost as much area as the parking, and gets rid of the street-destroying parking garages that are so high that the new buildings don't even start until after the old buildings end. Technically, it is actually pretty impressive.
And now that it is almost finished, It really is impressive. the elevators, now rechristened Dezervators after Mr. Dezer, appear to work. Thomas Musca describes them in ArchDaily:
The Dezervator is a fully automated car elevator powered by electricity and hydraulics (there’s currently no plan to power them off any alternative to the South Floridian grid). Three Dezervators whose energy-hogging acrobatics operate independently of one another cleverly meet in adjoined circles occupying the hollow concrete core of the tower. Inhabitants can drive their automobiles right into the building and get transported directly up to their condominium all without leaving their car or having to deal with a valet.
The building contains 284 apartment-adjacent parking spaces for its residences, allowing owners to leave up to four cars (in the more expensive units) right at their 50th floor doorstep. The Dezervator finally fulfills the long held gear-head fetish of being able to “sleep with your sports car.”
But Musca raises a major question about the project, more fundamental, that harkens back to Marty Liss, which is how long can this go on, considering the effects of climate change:
This massive stream of investment dollars is downright paradoxical considering the impending calamity that surrounds Southern Florida: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that the sea level could likely increase almost 35 inches (0.89 meters) by mid-century. If current trends continue, that number is anticipated to rise to up to 80 inches (2.0 meters) by the year 2100, threatening the habitability of the entire metro area.
And it is not like they can do anything about it really;
Given that harrowing scenario, Miami is either refusing to acknowledge the inevitable, or desperately trying to become relevant enough to be saved—not that saving the city is actually feasible. The region sits on extremely porous limestone which pretty much rules out the option of a Netherlands style sea wall. If the Atlantic couldn’t make any horizontal inroads, the rising tide would simply bubble up from below. Miami’s pancake topography doesn’t stand a chance.
In John D MacDonald’s Condominium, a massive hurricane destroys much of western Florida and makes the condominiums worthless as the land under them is washed out to sea. It was a world built on sand. Sunny Isle Beach is not really that different. Meanwhile, Developer Gil Dezer claims that “"Nearly two dozen of the homes — 22 — under contract will belong to billionaires; one put down a deposit on one of the priciest units, sight unseen.” But as Thomas Musca concludes:
Unfortunately this very real threat of rising seas encroaching on low lying property will continue to be ignored until the city is literally drowning. The Porsche Design Tower is an apt symbol for the self-absorbed hedonism of Miami's one percent. As Gil Dezer writes on his Instagram bio: "The one who dies with the most toys, WINS!!!"
It's too bad that John D. MacDonald is no longer with us, he could write a great sequel.