Full circle with Jorge Pérez

Five years ago I was interviewing Allen Morris about the SLS Lux Brickell Hotels and Residences that he was developing with the Related Group. SFBW had yet to publish its first regular issue, but our preview issues were sitting on the conference room table.

Jorge Pérez walks into the room for his interview and sees the preview issue with a cover story about David Beckham planning a pro soccer franchise in Miami. “What is this? I was just watching soccer with David Beckham the other night,” Pérez says. I explained that we were in the process of launching South Florida Business & Wealth. His response, “I want to be on the cover.” Chairman and CEO Gary Press and I thought having Miami’s condominium king on the first issue was a great idea.

A few weeks later, design director Melanie Smit and myself were in the top floor of a Miami office building that had been turned into a private gallery for some of Pérez’s artwork. I remember the moment Pérez strode out of the elevators and looked at his works, because his face lit up like a child who was looking at presents under a Christmas tree.

I had interviewed Pérez about 10 years earlier in 2005 at a different publication and he predicted that South Florida would turn into a collection of urban villages. That wasn’t yet the case. The core of the Brickell Avenue neighborhood was still heavy on offices and light on residential. There was little retail and no supermarket because Mary Brickell Village was still a year from opening. Midtown Miami was being constructed on a former Florida East Coast Railway yard. The Wynwood Walls wouldn’t emerge for another four years.

By the time of the 2014 cover interview, those areas were in full bloom, and Related Group was already pioneering other areas like Edgewater with its Paraiso Bay towers. While Pérez said the only city more on fire than Miami was London, he was also cautious. “I wouldn’t trade Miami for any of those places, but I would be very careful about pricing and not starting until we sell out, not overleveraging and making sure you can withstand a downturn.”

As the cover story in this issues outlines, Pérez with the increasing help of his sons, Jon Paul and Nicholas, really has diversified Related from a geographic and product standpoint, which will give it resilience against a downturn. There are an array of apartment buildings and affordable housing products beyond condos.

The interview for this issue’s cover story was at Wynwood 25, a millennial-oriented condo development that Jon Paul put his stamp on. It’s one of four projects Related has in the neighborhood. While there is a bit of a condo glut in Brickell, Wynwood is a still-emerging neighborhood where a developer faces less competition. It’s fitting that Jon Paul has a project that reflects his generation and Related’s historical DNA.

Another full circle: SFBW’s “CEO Connect” feature with Pérez, which will be in December’s fifth anniversary issue, took place at Grove Bay in Coconut Grove. In 2014, I noted that the original urban village in South Florida seemed to have fallen out of favor and asked if it was coming back.

Pérez said he lived in Coconut Grove and whatever you did, people seemed to be opposed to it. “I think because of that, it has become the most undervalued great neighborhood in Miami.” As SFBW’s October story on Coconut Grove shows, he was right once again.

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