Developer Jorge Pérez, chairman of The Related Group of Florida, is widely known as Miami’s condo king for the tens of thousands of units his firm has erected across the region, reshaping the skyline as his business has grown.
But he hasn’t done it alone. Like all large successful firms, Related leans on a broad and deep management team to lead its varied enterprises, including affordable housing, workforce rentals, townhouses, property management and the luxury condos for which it is best known.
Leading its signature division is Carlos Rosso, president of condominium development. Since joining the firm in 2002, Rosso has developed more than 16,000 units in South Florida and Latin America. The division now has 20 projects underway, including Brickell Heights, Hyd Midtown, Gran Paraiso, Paraiso Bay, One Parais, Paraiso Bayviews, Paraiso Bay Homes, Park Grove and SLS Lux in Miami. In Broward, the firm is developing Hyde Beach House Hollywood, Hyde Resort & Residences Hollywood, W Fort Lauderdale, Auberge Fort Lauderdale and Icon Las Olas.
Q. You have a somewhat unusual background. Tell us about your education and where you worked before joining Related.
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A. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have lived and learned all over the globe, which is the greatest education anyone could ask for. I began my formal education as an architecture student at the University of Buenos Aires and then landed an internship with Besix International in Brussels. I expected to be with the company for three months, but I enjoyed the work and stayed on for 10 years. My time at Besix allowed me to travel extensively to countries like Egypt, Morocco, Guinea, Dubai and others.
After about a decade I was eager for new opportunities, so I enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I earned a master’s degree in real estate development and finance. I met Jorge Pérez while at MIT, and the rest is history.
Q. Related is a large and complex company. Can you help us understand your role there?
A. To better streamline the management of such a large-scale conglomerate like Related, each division (rental, condo, affordable, management and international) operates as its own entity with leadership and dedicated teams of developers. We are synergistic and work closely together, but each of us has areas of passion and expertise. I head the condominium and international development divisions and oversee all facets of condominium development, sales and marketing throughout South Florida. Internationally we are actively working in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.
Q. How has living in a variety of countries shaped your career and your outlook?
A. Miami is an international city, so I feel my experiences abroad have been integral to my success at Related. Working throughout the Middle East and South America provided an intimate and unique understanding of international markets and mindsets, and prepared me to better manage the complexities that come with doing business abroad.
Miami is the hottest city in the world; everyone wants to be here. Being exposed to life in so many countries has provided context and inspiration as to what truly defines and sustains a global city. Miami continues to grow as an international hub and our role as developers and residents of this amazing city is to continue to raise the quality of life here.
Q. Relatively few developers are trained as architects. How do you think that plays into your work?
A. Both of my parents are architects and instilled a love and fascination for design from a very early age. You could say that being an architect was almost like a rite of passage. This background in architecture has allowed me to be much more plugged into each facet of our projects, which in turn allows me to make sure our true vision is reflected in the finished product.
Q. Jorge Pérez started his development career in affordable housing. Now his company, Related, and your division in particular are more commonly associated with luxury condos. Yet many of those condos are too expensive for most locals to afford. How does the community balance luxury development with workforce needs?
A. We’ve gone to great lengths to diversify the firm and establish ourselves as more than just luxury developers. Our rental and affordable divisions are both the most prominent in their respective categories and are bringing the same level of excellence to their jobs as we do at our condos. It is incredibly satisfying to sit in our conference room with all division presidents and collaborate.
The concern of affordability and gentrification is one that is affecting all major cities throughout the world, but we’re working very closely with the County to build a better Miami for all.
Q. Community-builders often talk about traffic and housing affordability as chief stumbling blocks to Miami’s economic development. What do you see as the community’s greatest challenges in the short-term and the long-term? How should we address those challenges?
A. Attracting well-paying companies in the service, tech and banking industries are key for the economic growth of our city. More shops, cinemas, educational institutions and quality urban life is the recipe to entice large and respected companies to come and establish themselves in South Florida. In my opinion, the increased diversity in neighborhoods will also be key for our continued growth. Wynwood, for example, is defining its own personality and attracting a specific demographic, which is completely different from those gravitating towards areas like Brickell. Each one of these neighborhoods has its own pattern of growth, and this segmentation of the market is going to help diversify South Florida’s economy and keep it balanced through the years to come.
Q. Has conventional bank financing become easier for developers to arrange? Or do you still need those 50 percent buyer deposits to finance projects?
A. Lenders are still hesitant to finance residential projects and have established stringent vetting processes. Banks are not only working exclusively with developers with proven track records, but are also requiring projects of the utmost quality in the most desirable locations. Related is one of very few developers to meet all of the criteria and continues to earn the confidence of our lenders.
Q. As a developer in the downtown/Brickell area and on Miami Beach, how concerned are you about sea level rise? Do potential buyers ask about its impact?
A. This is a concern, but steps are being taken and Related is obviously committed to South Florida for the long term. We will continue to build and develop because the demand is there and will continue to be met. We are certainly not ignoring its implications.
Q. Related recently began developing in Mexico. Why? What are you doing there?
A. We’ve had a presence in Mexico for many years and delivered Icon Vallarta back in 2009. We’ve been keeping a close eye on the market and feel the entire country is on the verge of a major boom. Currently, we’ve begun work on two projects: SLS Cancun and SLS Zihuatanejo. Both are mixed-use projects with residential, hospitality and commercial components set to completely redefine their respective region. SLS Zihuatanejo launched earlier this year and was 90% sold-out in the span of 90 days, while SLS Zihuatanejo had similar success, with all units sold out in the matter of weeks. We’ve been working for close to 20 years to develop relationships throughout Latin America. When potential buyers and brokers heard about our new projects they knew exactly the kind of top-notch quality they can expect. Related is known for creating some of the most iconic towers in Miami’s skyline and we look forward to doing the same in Mexico and each country we enter.
Q. Invariably, one of the hottest Miami topics is ‘where are we in the real estate cycle.’ Clearly things are cooling here. What's your take on where we are and when things heat up again?
A. Word about the natural beauty and unique atmosphere of our city continues to spread throughout the world and establish Miami as one of the top destinations for international investors. Yes, there are slowdowns, but there is a lot of liquid capital and interest in South Florida, making us expect a rebound during the next 12-18 months. If you take a step back, past these up-and-down cycles, you'll see that Miami real estate shows an overwhelmingly positive trend. Those with long-term commitments have seen double or triple returns and agree Miami is very well poised.
Q. What concerns you most about 2017?
A. I think truly realistic expectations and patience are going to be key in 2017. There are a lot of assumptions about the market, but we just finished closing 90 percent of units at SLS Brickell and have yet to see any kind of tribulation. Buyers today are much more savvy and while some may opt for the quick way out, most understand the natural cyclical tendencies of the industry and are in it for the long term. Obviously, we are also looking at the world as whole and monitoring the fluctuations in the market caused by international political and cultural issues. We remain positive about the new administration, but also vigilant.
Q. What makes you most hopeful about 2017?
A. The standard of excellence to which we’re adhering makes me hopeful of not only projects set to be delivered this year, but also of those we’ll build down the road. Hyde Hollywood, Brickell Heights and SLS LUX are each uniquely tailored to complement their surrounding districts and further establish Miami as year-round cultural destination.
Q. In your view, what is your top professional accomplishment to date?
A. Definitely surviving the crash and beginning a new cycle in 2009 with the incredibly successful MyBrickell and Apogee Beach projects. The current cycle is based entirely on the hard lessons learned back in 2008. We now understand how to be measured in our approach and truly weigh the risks and rewards.
Q. What keeps you awake at night?
A. My projects! The mental toll of building close to 20 jobs in the condo division alone definitely robs me of some sleep. They each have their own issues and my hands-on-style makes rest a real luxury, but at the end of the day it is all worth it!
Q. What is the most valuable business/career lesson you’ve learned, and how did you learn it?
A. The level of dedication and obsession for perfection that Jorge brings to each and every single project is truly admirable. He tackles our more affordable residences with the same fervor as the multimillion dollar condos. He has shown me, and everyone around him, development is an extremely demanding industry and there is no alternative to hard work. You have to be prepared to work eight days a week/25 hours per day and even then, you’ll feel like there isn’t enough time.
Company: The Related Group
Job title: President of the Condominium Division, The Related Group
Wife: Estefania Rosso, married 15 years
Children: Four children – Lorenzo, 14; Federico, 13; Santos, 10; and Antonia,8
Hobbies: Travel, art, cinema