One look at the Miami skyline is ample proof that the luxury real estate market, most notably in high-rise condominiums in oceanfront South Beach, is set to sizzle in 2015 and beyond. The once low-rise cityscape, speckled with graceful Art Deco buildings, is rapidly turning into a Manhattan-style metropolis with stunning glass and steel residential towers soaring skywards. Luxury hotels and resorts are also fueling the real estate boom with major companies like Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and EDITION Hotels – a joint venture between high-profile hotelier Ian Schrager and Marriott International – adding residences to their Miami properties. Top realtors say buyers from North America and around the world are scrambling to purchase new waterfront property, with South Beach and other areas of Miami securing record prices. Agents report prices have tripled in the past five years, with each development setting new benchmarks in quality and design. “Traditionally South Beach has had beautiful properties, but they were never really the quality of the projects going up today,” says Jorge Uribe, senior vice president of ONE Sotheby’s International Realty. “These are very, very special projects.” Miami has a reputation for foreign buyers, but Uribe says many of the top-priced sales are coming from New York and Connecticut, as well as Canada and Europe, with some overseas investors buying in Miami to secure residency in the United States. Aside from quality architecture and design, Miami’s growing reputation as a sophisticated cultural hot spot – including hosting the annual Art Basel international art showcase – and not just a place to party, is another draw. “Miami has completely reinvented itself,” Uribe says. In the past, homes on the water have been more expensive than condominiums, but that trend has flipped. “The really big sales have occurred with condos. It makes homes look cheap again,” adds Uribe. “Between Ian Schrager and Alan Faena [developer of the new Faena District, a massive $1 billion hotel, retail and residential project under way in Miami Beach], they are creating a whole new hot area of the beach,” he says. Uribe cites The Surf Club Four Seasons Residences – a revival of the legendary Surf Club – that is offering 150 residences and penthouses in two towers, designed by the award-winning architect Richard Meier. It’s due to open late 2015. “Adding a world-class architect has seen areas that were selling for $500 a foot are now averaging $1,200 a foot,” he adds. Dennis Mangone, of Douglas Elliman, backs that view. Mangone is handling Schrager’s The Residences at The Miami Beach EDITION and has buyers from London, New York and Moscow. “There are so few oceanfront apartments done at this level – this is the new generation of waterfront living that has design, services, amenities, a private entrance for the residences, and world-class architecture by [the top British designer] John Pawson,” he says. “People demand a certain level of quality now, and Ian has been able to produce that.” There are just four of 26 apartments left. “We sold them at record prices,” Mangone adds, “and all of the apartments are appraising at 20 to 25 percent higher than we sold them for.” The penthouse will close at $3,800 per square foot, he says. “That’s basically New York prices in Miami.” At Faena House Miami Beach, designed by the acclaimed British architect Norman Foster, the 47 residences have sold out. Faena House is the 18-story centerpiece of what will be Faena District Miami Beach by Alan Faena, the Argentinian fashion entrepreneur turned developer, which will include the new Faena Hotel Miami Beach. Trayor Lesnock, the president and founder of Platinum Luxury Auctions, says the Miami market has never been stronger. “Oceanfront is certainly the main prize. The $60 million sale for a residence at Faena House is significant as it’s located in an area that many don’t consider to be the core Miami Beach market,” he says. Lesnock reports a unit at The Setai Resort and Residences in South Beach sold recently for a record $4,400 a square foot, with 2,500 square feet of living space. He says The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Miami Beach development is also seeing strong sales. Located at 4700 N. Meridian Ave., on Surprise Lake, the project is being developed by Lionheart Capital, and Ritz-Carlton will manage the property for residence owners when it opens in 2016. If one luxury hotel captures the essence of South Beach, Miami, surely it’s the new Metropolitan by COMO. Perched directly on the beachfront, with panoramic views to the Atlantic Ocean, this stylish hotel blends urban cool with a breezy beach vibe. Located at 2445 Collins Avenue, and occupying a whitewashed and authentic Art Deco building called Traymore, the hotel has a quiet and calm residential feel with only a discreet sign at the front entrance to herald it as a hotel. The dramatic design statements are reserved for the Metropolitan’s interiors, a creative masterwork by Italian designer Paola Navone who has cleverly blended 1930s architecture with contemporary furnishings and bathed them in Miami’s iconic sunlight. Step inside the sun-splashed lobby, an eye-catching amalgam of soaring ceilings, oversize columns encircled by silvery gray banquettes and armchairs, large light installations, and a marble-lined reception desk, and the noise of the city instantly subsides. Three wide steps lead up to the stylish Traymore Restaurant and Bar – rapidly becoming a hotspot on Miami’s fast-paced social scene since the hotel opened in March 2014 – and out onto a small but chic al fresco dining terrace. The piece de resistance, however, lies a few paces be- yond, hidden behind a secure gate and tropical greenery – a glamorous guest-only pool and bar, complete with outdoor showers, chaises covered with plump towels, and poolside service by neatly pressed staff. A wooden boardwalk extends from the rear of the swimming pool directly to the powdery sand of South Beach, where more staff attends a beach hut offering sun loungers, chilled drinks, and other beach amenities in the searing Miami heat. Compared to the neighboring high-rise hotels and condominiums lining South Beach, the nine-story Traymore building looks like a minnow, but what the 74-room hotel lacks in stature, it more than makes for in style and substance. The accommodations come in six configurations – with city or ocean views – five lake view suites, five ocean view suites, and the apartment-style COMO Suite that can connect to two additional bedrooms. Interior designer Paola Navone has opted for soothing pastel colors, including an ice-cool spearmint green, and sleek terrazzo floors, paired with all-white bed linens, white furnishings, and glistening tile-and- chrome bathrooms. The result is a relaxed but functional hotel experience that works equally well for South Beach vacationers as an executive doing business in the city but wanting to chill at night. Needless to say, the ocean view rooms are the premier accommodations. The rooftop comprises the hotel’s signature COMO Shambhala Urban Escape spa offering Asian-based therapies, as well as an outdoor hydrotherapy pool and terrace with sweeping views of the beach and ocean. Wellness is a central theme of the hotel’s philosophy, with healthful cuisine and fresh fruit juices served in the restaurant, bar and poolside, but not at the expense of gourmet menus and high-octane cocktails. Master mixologist Jack Araque presides over the bar – home to Miami’s first gin club, offering monthly events and tastings, and serving more than 30 artisanal gins paired with house-made tonics. Executive chef Jonathan Lane’s menus have a strong seafood bias, incorporating local ingredients and flavors and matched by a thoughtful American and international wine list and attentive service. The Miami hotel is COMO’s fourth urban property worldwide, complementing the Halkin by COMO and the Metropolitan by COMO in London, and the Metropolitan by COMO in Bangkok. Having visited all four hotels, I’d wager a ‘Traymore 1939’ (Nolet’s Gin, Rosemary Syrup, Orange Curacao, Grapefruit and Pomegranate) that this one is the best.