How the Okan Group builds through sales slumps and uncertainty

by Andrew Morrell

Miami’s real estate market, especially its inventory of upscale condominiums, continues to attract interest from all around the world. The Latin American community has always been well represented here, but some of the newest and biggest names in the city’s real estate scene hail from even further away.

The Okan Group, a Turkish developer with a strong presence throughout Asia and Europe, is one of the newest and most surprising entrants to the local market. The group’s Okan Tower is to be its first project in the U.S. and will claim an unmistakable spot in the downtown Miami skyline as the city’s new tallest tower upon its completion scheduled for 2022. But Okan Tower isn’t attracting attention just because of its record-breaking ambitions — the Okan Group is also hoping the project acts as a beacon for Turks who are seeking shelter, financial or otherwise, from uncertainty at home.

Kasim Badak

Okan Group founder and owner Bakir Okan, as well as Kasim Badak, CEO of Okan Group U.S., have built strong ties to Miami that stretch back more than 20 years. Of course, they are hardly the only Turks to have fallen for Miami over many years.

“They know Miami, everyone wants to be in Miami,” Badak said, explaining the city’s cachet in his home country.

Multinational cities like London, Paris and Frankfurt are also top destinations for Turkish expats, but a renewed sense of urgency from within the country could present an opportunity for Miami. Turkey’s president since 2014, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has overseen rapid deterioration in the country’s political and economic institutions. After winning re-election in June, Turkey under Erdogan continues to show signs of regression, leading to a flight of capital across its borders.

Developments in Turkey have only fanned Okan Group’s ambitious plans. Badak explained that the company spent millions to construct a showroom in Istanbul to show off mockups of condo units within Okan Tower. Together with the Miami sales center, around 60 out of the planned 389 units have been sold as of September, according to Badak.

Unlike most developments at this scale, Okan Group plans to begin construction on the $300 million project later this year, rather than wait for a majority of the building to sell out. Miami’s condo market is fresh off a surge of new units, bringing prices down and making things more difficult for builders. Badak and his team are not concerned, however.

“Bakir [Okan] is a quick decision maker,” he said. “Once he starts a project, he believes you have to keep going and you have to get the job done.”

The Okan Group is instead self-financing the tower’s construction to get it off the ground sooner. Badak is confident that within its projected timeline of 40 to 44 months, the market for condos in Miami will have shifted back in favor of sellers.

“We have seen the changes in the market, but my gut tells me this is a great time to start building,” Badak said. “Our units are priced better than other new luxury condos in the city, making it a great value for the money.”

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