Indian Creek, which The New York Times revealed as the home to two of the nation’s most influential political donors, is V.I.P. even by Miami standards.
It has 35 homes, all in a row along one superlatively expensive road, each with at least an acre of land and a slice of waterfront on Biscayne Bay. It has its own security-minded police force, 20-strong for 89 residents. One time, Beyoncé lived there.
“It’s a very private place. It’s almost secretive,” said Julian Cohen, 28, who grew up on the island. A few years ago, working with his father, a developer, Cohen participated in the sale of 3 Indian Creek Drive for $47 million, at the time Miami’s largest real-estate deal ever.
The megadonors of Indian Creek belong to a class that is “overwhelmingly, white, rich, older and male, in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters,” the Times notes. Like other donor havens in Houston and Los Angeles, it probably leans Republican.
But like the rest of America, even this cloistered billionaire bunker has grown diverse over the years, demonstrating the rising clout of new money the Times investigation uncovered. People who sell houses there even call it a melting pot.
True to Miami, a few famous residents are originally from Latin America, like Don Francisco, the Chilean-born host of Unvision’s recently departed classic Sábado Gigante, and Adriana Lima, the Brazilian supermodel.
In the early 90s, some Saudi royals hid out there for a while in a mansion built by the Woolworths. One of them, Mohammed al Fassi, had pissed off his neighbors by painting the genitalia of his home’s statues, The Associated Press reported. Cohen’s massive sale of 3 Indian Creek Drive went to an anonymous Russian buyer.
“I pretty much know of every resident of the island. There’s really not that many Americans left,” said Cohen. “[Former Dolphins coach Don] Shula, Johnson, Johnson, a couple others. For the most part the residents are international.”
At least two lots have sold to international buyers within the last year, said Jill Eber, a founder of the real-estate firm The Jills. Another sale within that period went to an American, she said.
Eber and her partner Jill Hertzberg are currently listing 36 Indian Creek Drive for $19.9 million, a rare opportunity to get in under $20 million, Eber said. "It's got 137 feet on the water. An acre and a quarter. High ceilings, beautiful appointments." They're also listing No. 19 for $29 million. They're courting both American and international buyers.
Privacy and security are the big selling points, they said. The village has its own mayor and its own city council. Police are strict. "They've got a guard gate where…you're not going to get in," Hertzberg said.
As the island's Jewish population grew, so did clashes with the country club. In 1999, Bill Clinton golfed there during a fundraising trip, which did not go over well with the island's Jewish mayor, Leonard Miller. A year later, according to the Miami New Times, then-Gov. Jeb Bush learned the lesson and cancelled a tee time after consulting with Miller.
The club’s guest list is a secret, of course, but it has about 300 members and costs six figures to join. A 1998-1999 roster obtained by the Miami New Times shows the name Charles B. Johnson, one of the Times’s two presidential superdonors, along with his wife Ann. The other, car tycoon Norman Braman, who is Jewish, isn’t listed.
As of 2000, the only Jew who lived on the island and was a member of the club was the billionaire Carl Icahn, according to the Miami Herald. “I joined the club because I wanted to play tennis,'' Icahn told the Herald. “I'm not into the politics of it.”
Johnson, one of the two Indian Creek donors named in theTimes's investigation, recently moved off the island, according to the Jills. But for interested buyers, it's still a paradise.
"It's like Fantasy Island," Hertzberg said.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article included an anecdote Julian Cohen recalled about Indian Creek resident Julio Iglesias and the island's country club. Post-publication, Cohen said he and his family recalled it differently, and Fusion could not verify the account with Iglesias or the club, so we removed it.
Adam Auriemma edits the Justice section at Fusion.