CONSTRUCTION

Construction firm bets big on Miami with Brickell CityCentre, other projects

 

John Leete

• Title: Executive vice president for Florida and partner at John Moriarty & Associates

• Headquarters: Winchester, Mass. with South Florida offices in Hollywood.

• Age: 46

• Family: Married, 8-year-old daughter

• Education: B.S. in Business Management from Central Connecticut State University.

• Off duty: “I’m a family guy. About every other weekend, we’re at the beach.’’

• Key Miami projects: Brickell CityCentre, Pérez Art Museum Miami, BrickellHouse, MyBrickell


mbrannigan@MiamiHerald.com

John Leete is the top dog at John Moriarty & Associates in Florida. That means overseeing a host of big jobs for the Winchester, Mass.-based general contracting and construction-management company.

The 46-year-old construction executive joined JMA in 1988, just three years after John Moriarty founded the company in 1985. When asked in 1990 if he wanted to move to Florida, Leete recalls, he jumped at the opportunity and has grown with the company over the decades.

“It’s the only place I’ve ever worked,’’ said Leete, who still has a strong New England accent, despite many years in South Florida.

About a decade ago, Leete became an equity partner in the construction firm, which has long snared some of the region’s biggest and most complex projects.

Perhaps its most high-profile project currently under construction is Brickell CityCentre, a massive undertaking that is expected to transform Miami’s urban core. JMA — in a joint venture with Americaribe — is managing construction of the project, which will incorporate a luxury shopping center, two condominium towers, a hotel, apartments, a wellness center and an office complex.

The construction contract for BrickellCityCentre is estimated at almost $500 million, according to developer Swire Properties.

Another highly visible project that Leete is responsible for is the Pérez Art Museum Miami, a $220-million project designed by the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron, currently under construction at Museum Park on Biscayne Bay.

Under Leete, John Moriarty & Associates has built a host of luxury condominium towers in South Florida. He has overseen more than $2 billion in work for Jorge Pérez’s Miami-based Related Group, including Icon Brickell, and is currently doing MyBrickell, a 27-story condo tower with 192 units tucked into a small downtown site.

Leete’s firm also is general contractor for BrickellHouse, a 374-unit luxury condominium that is under construction for Harvey Hernandez’s Miami-based Newgard Development Group.

Business Monday recently emailed Leete some questions for a digital debriefing. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Has your company been in a hiring mode recently, given the recovery in the business?

Yes, for the last year, and we do not see it letting up for the rest of this year as well.

Q: With 26 years in the industry, what is your favorite part about working in the construction business?

Seeing people develop, grow and adapt with the market and different trends. We have a lot of opportunities at Moriarty and some great people that make it happen.

Q: Do you see South Florida gaining momentum in construction?

Yes. It has been for the last 18 months and is continuing to pick up steam. The number of new projects this year alone is staggering. The big question is if and when they all break ground. It will be like turning back the clock to 2006.

Q: New condominium projects are being announced all the time. Do you think that South Florida’s condominium market is at risk of overheating again?

It’s hard to tell. We are cautious, especially having lived through the last boom and then the bust. Nevertheless, we are optimistic. Florida is the number one spot in the USA. We have the international connection as well as the beautiful weather for the domestic buyers. Who doesn’t want to be in Florida, especially after some nice cold winters.

Q: Are the costs of materials and labor a concern? Does South Florida have a sufficient workforce to meet demand?

Cost is definitely a concern as well as labor demand. It is a simple formula, supply and demand, we are hitting that point again with a lot of projects gearing up ready to start.

Q: How do you think Brickell CityCentre will change Miami?

Huge. It is a mega project that will impact Miami for many years to come. It is also the catalyst for the Miami recovery from the recession. A lot of new projects will follow Brickell CityCentre. A project like this creates a lot of business and employment opportunities around it.

Q: Are there special challenges to building a facility like the Pérez Art Museum Miami?

Every day. This is a one-of-kind project with design and engineering from around the world. It will be an amazing building.

The Perez Art Museum Miami has some key features such as the largest hurricane-rated glazing panels that also incorporate museum requirements for tinting and color rendering for the artwork. [There are] hanging-garden elements that mimic a Banyan tree; and also large column-free art galleries utilizing cutting-edge concrete-slab systems from Europe.

There is a tremendous amount of coordination between all the team members to ensure the designer’s visions are realized.

Q: There is a lot of focus on green building. Can you point to some innovations in energy efficiency in some of your South Florida projects?

Moriarty has numerous staff members that are LEED accredited, and we work closely with the owners and the designers to identify and target energy-efficient building systems from preconstruction through project turnover.

Reflective roof systems, insulated glazing, energy-efficient lighting, and recycled rainwater systems are just some of the examples.

Most of our projects are LEED, including the Pérez Art Museum Miami and 600 World Plaza, which is one of the nine Platinum rated LEED buildings in the United States.

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