During the real estate boom, Miami developer Jorge Pérez hit on an international strategy that fed right into Americans’ love affair with real estate: building second-home communities in sunny spots in Latin America.
Pérez’s The Related Group bought property in Panama, Uruguay’s Punta del Este, the Bahamas and Mexico, and in Cartagena along the Colombian coast. “We went to the areas where we thought international buyers would go,’’ said Pérez, whose company has developed more than 80,000 condominium and apartment units and is credited with transforming Miami’s skyline with its condo towers.
At first the concept held promise. Then came the U.S. housing crash and the second-home market for American buyers dried up as well. Related scrambled to save its U.S. condo empire and after two years negotiations with lenders on dozens of troubled projects in the United States, it emerged debt-free last year.
But Pérez, chairman and chief executive of Related, didn’t give up on going international. He just shifted gears and began exploring parts of the world that were still growing briskly: India and Brazil.
Related in the process of selling two middle-income projects in India, Panipat and Amritsar, and is in various stages on four other Indian projects but where it is really poised to take a big leap is Brazil.
Earlier this year Pérez, business associate Stephen Ross, president of New York-based Related Companies, and Daniel Citron, a Brazilian real estate executive, launched Related Brasil.
If all goes as planned, Pérez said Related Brasil hopes to announce its first Brazilian development — a 5-million-square-foot mixed use project with high-rise residential towers, office and retail space and a hotel in Sao Paulo — before the end of the year.
“It will require an equity investment of hundreds of millions of dollars and will be much bigger than anything that we’ve done as a single project in Miami,’’ said Pérez.
The sweet spot for Related has been luxury mixed used projects and that is how it wants to position itself in Brazil where it has been prospecting for sites in Rio de Janeiro, including in Barra da Tijuca and in Porto Maravilha — the port redevelopment area — Sao Paulo and in cities in Brazil’s Northeast such as Recife, Fortaleza and Salvador.
“Our focus for the foreseeable future is upper middle-income and above — the upwardly mobile, management and professional class that is growing tremendously in Brazil,’’ said Pérez.
The company will concentrate on developing condominium units that start at $300,000 and above, he said.
Related Brazil is also talking with major Brazilian construction and development companies about possible joint ventures and also studying opportunities for hotels and infrastructure for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The Indian residential projects have done well, said Pérez, but it is Brazil that really attracts him.
“Brazil is very interesting, very big and very serious about trying to join the developed countries. Right now I’ve reached a point where I want to do things that are very pleasurable to me and I enjoy going to Brazil very much,’’ said Pérez as he sat in his art-filled Miami office.