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Diamond in the Rough Miami Jewish Health Systems Celebrates 75 Years

THE SKYLINE ISSUE The Visionaries who built South Florida

Bernardo Fort-Brescia • Lucia Dougherty • Ugo Colombo

Raising the Bar Holland & Knight’s Innovative Office Design

MAY/JUNE 2015 •














The Related Group is a trade name for a group of companies and partnerships that develop distinctive real estate projects. Each particular real estate development project that uses the name “Related Group” or “The Related Group” is a separate, single purpose entity that is solely responsible for its own separate development project, contracts, obligations, duties, and responsibilities and each uses the Related Group trade name by license agreement and each condominium project depicted is developed by one such distinct and separate, single purpose entity. This is not intended to be an offer to sell, nor a solicitation of an offer to buy, any condominium units to residents of CT, ID, NY, NJ and OR, or of any other jurisdiction where prohibited by law, unless the condominium has been registered or is exempt from registration, and your eligibility to purchase may depend upon your state of residency. Any offering made for, or by, any of the condominium development projects depicted is made solely by the Prospectus of such project which Prospectus is filed with the State of Florida and available from the project developer.

Lizzie Giuffra Chief Operations Officer Alicia Cervera Chairman Monica Garcia Chief Financial Officer

Anuca Valverde President of Marketing

In The World of Bricks and Mortar, People Matter. When it comes to South Florida real estate, one team stands apart – Cervera.

Jesse D. Ottley President of Development Sales

Jim Hitchcock Executive Vice President, General Real Estate

Alicia Cervera Lamadrid Managing Partner

Veronica Cervera Goeseke Chief Executive Officer

For more than 46 years, Cervera has been instrumental in defining the South Florida skyline. Spanning three generations of deeply rooted local and global relationships with a legacy of more than 100 exclusively represented projects, Miami’s most prolific development sales team continues to demonstrate that it’s the people that make the difference -- real estate professionals with hands-on executive involvement that take deep personal pride in all they do. That’s the power of relationships -- working together to achieve results.

it’s time for fort lauderdale.

This is the waterfront condo that started the boom everyone is talking about. This is the waterfront condo that is over 50% sold out and already under construction. This is the waterfront condo where $500 sf still buys you ocean views, over 2,000 sf of indoor-outdoor living, SubZero kitchens and paddleboard heaven.

PRemIeR DeVeloPeRS We are pledged to the letter and spirit of the U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing opportunity throughout the Nation. We encourage and support an affirmative advertising and marketing program in which there are no barriers to obtaining housing because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin. Oral representation cannot be relied upon as correctly stating representations of the developer. For correct representations make reference to the documents required by section 718.503, Florida Statues, to be furnished by a developer to a buyer.

This is the waterfront condo where the average residence sells for over $1 million, and the average resident can’t wait to move-in and live. This is RIVA. And it’s time you introduced yourself. Visit our waterfront sales gallery or log on to 954.233.3288. La Dolce Vita Where the River Meets the Park. Obtain the property report required by federal law and read it before signing anything. No federal agency has judged the merits or value, if any, of this property. All features, dimensions, drawings, graphic material, pictures, conceptual renderings, plans and specifications are not necessarily an accurate depiction and are subject to change without notice, and Developer expressly reserves the right to make modifications.


From a literal perspective, a CHÂTEAU is a residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry. At CHÂTEAU GROUP we build condominium residences that reflect the same elegance, quality and attention to detail found in the finest traditional Châteaus occupied by nobility.




36 FEATURES 64 Care and Compassion

32 A Diamond in the Rough By Susannah Nesmith Miami Jewish Health Systems celebrates its 75th anniversary.

36 Skyline Makers

By Jeff Zbar Top executives at Cancer Treatment Centers of America focus on a “Whole-Person� model of medicine.

72 Raising the Bar

By David Lyons, Susan R. Miller, Mike Seemuth and Richard Westlund Conversations with developers, architects, attorneys and other professionals who built South Florida.

32 64

By David Lyons Holland & Knight modernizes its office design.
















The newsmakers, game changers, and innovators who are driving business in the region.


Capturing the area’s events, activities, and happenings.


Where business and politics intersect.

A view from the top.

29 THE EDGE Who has the competitive advantage, and how did they get it.

ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Rhonda Jenkins CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Gregg Fields Susan R. Miller Susannah Nesmith Millie Acebal Rousseau Mike Seemuth Richard Westlund Jeff Zbar CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Gio Alma Stephen Boxall Peter Cross Jorge Parra Gort Productions Candace West Donna Victor Isaac Zapata OFFICE MANAGER Liudmila Leonova COVER Photo: Gio Alma ©2015 Executive South Florida magazine is published 9 times per year by South Florida Executive LLC, 800 Brickell Avenue, Penthouse One, Miami, fl 33131. All rights reserved. The entire content of EXECUTIVE South Florida may not be reproduced without the express written consent of the publisher. EXECUTIVE South Florida accepts no responsibility for the return of unsolicited manuscripts and/or photographs, and assumes no liability for products and services advertised herein. EXECUTIVE South Florida reserves the right to edit, rewrite, or refuse material. To order a subscription, please call 305.735.2873. For more information, please contact: To distribute EXECUTIVE South Florida, please email:

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82 800 Brickell Avenue, Penthouse One, Miami, Florida 33131 305.433.6963


UNITYJETS.COM OR 888.758.JETS (5387)


Diamond in the Rough Miami Jewish Health Systems Celebrates 75 Years

THE SKYLINE ISSUE The Visionaries who built South Florida

Bernardo Fort-Brescia • Lucia Dougherty • Ugo Colombo

Raising the Bar Holland & Knight’s Innovative Office Design

MAY/JUNE 2015 •


evelopers are to be admired. They build, they preserve and they progress. They often start from nothing and make something. When they have setbacks, they see them as lessons learned. When they experience defeat, they treat it as the start of a new chapter. They do grand things, and they do modest things, but they always proceed with the same certainty that what comes next will be better than what came before. As our region rides yet another upside real estate cycle after a crash that many thought would take years from which to recover, we thought it was time to speak with some of the many visionaries and facilitators who played key roles in several decades of vertical development. The list is more of a sampling than an encyclopedic overview. But the conclusions that emerged from the snapshot commentaries are inescapable: We are reaching for the sky because Miami has learned how to harness the energy of its visitors and new permanent residents, while finding ways to mitigate the deleterious effects of a boom-and-bust economy. Standing steadfastly in the background are medical and legal institutions that for years have contributed to the community in many ways. Miami Jewish Health Systems, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, and the Holland & Knight law firm, have found ways to transform themselves as they look toward the future. They call it the “mother standard,” named for Mary Brown Stephenson, the mother of CTCA chairman Richard J. Stephenson. He founded the Cancer Treatment Centers of America after her passing to ensure that the best care and medical expertise would be afforded patients as they aggressively fight this disease. South Florida welcomed the company when it recently relocated its headquarters to Boca Raton from Chicago. Although the firm’s 7 major hospitals are elsewhere, the executive team is eager to share their operating philosophy with their new neighbors. As the year progresses, we’ll be looking for more examples of good works emanating from leaders in the private and public sectors of South Florida. From science and technology to education and infrastructure building, there is a vast landscape of problems to be solved. We’re eager to tell the stories of the people are working on the solutions.

Ron Mann 14









SA L E S G A L L ERY | ���� SO U T H B AYSH O R E D R I V E � T H FLO O R , M I A M I , FLO R I DA � ��� � ��� �� � � � �� | W W W. PA R K- G ROV E .CO M

EXCLUSIVE MARKETING AND SALES AGENT DOUGLAS ELLIMAN DEVELOPMENT MARKETING Oral representations cannot be relied upon as correctly stating the representations of the developer. For correct representations, make reference to this brochure and to the documents required by section ���.���, Florida statutes, to be furnished by a developer to a buyer or lessee. Obtain the property report required by federal law and read it before signing anything. No federal agency has judged the merits or value, if any, of this property. The Developer is 2701 Bayshore Venture, LLC, (“Developer”), which has a limited right to use the trade names, logos, images, and trademarks depicted pursuant to license agreements. Terra Group and the Related Group are not the Developer. Pricing, design, amenities, and nearby attractions are subject to change without notice. Nearby shopping, entertainment, cultural, and dining attractions are not controlled by Developer and are not offered nor guaranteed by Developer. Broker participation welcome. Plans, features and amenities subject to change without notice. All illustrations and plans are artist conceptual renderings and are subject to change without notice. This advertisement does not constitute an offer in the states of NY or NJ or any jurisdiction where prior registration or other qualifi cation is required. Equal housing opportunity.


3 & 4 Bedroom Townhomes • 2 Car Garage • Boat Slips • Private Elevator • Gated Entry • Starting at $350/Sq. Ft. • T 786 693 9669 • 25 - 135 North Shore Drive, Miami Beach, FL 33141

A Development by:

Exclusive Sales by:

Architecture by:

Interiors by:

Construction by:


Oral representations cannot be relied upon as correctly stating the representations of the developer. For correct representations, make reference to this brochure and to the purchase agreement furnished by a developer to a buyer. No federal agency has judged the merits or value, if any, of this property. We are pledged to the letter and spirit of U.S. policy for the achievement of equal housing throughout the Nation. We encourage and support an affirmative advertising, marketing and sales program in which there are no barriers to obtaining housing because of race, color, sex, religion, handicap, familial status or national origin. The information contained herein, including, without limitation, any and all artist’s or architectural conceptual renderings, plans, floor plans, specifications, features, facilities, dimensions and amenities depicted or otherwise described, are based upon current development plans, which are subject to change or abandonment without notice. No guarantees or representations whatsoever are made that any plans, floor plans, specifications, features, facilities, dimensions or amenities depicted by artists’ or architectural renderings, or otherwise described herein, will be provided, or, if provided, will be of the same type, size, quality, location or nature as depicted or otherwise described herein. This is not intended to be an offer to sell, or solicitation to buy, a dwelling in Iris on the Bay (the “Community”) in any jurisdiction where prohibited by law. In no event shall any solicitation, offer or sale of a dwelling in the Community be made in, or to residents of, any state or country in which such activity would be unlawful. Marketing by

Photo by Donna Victor


ALEJANDRO “ALEX” M. SANCHEZ President & CEO, Florida Bankers Association

As the public voice of the banking industry in Florida, Alex Sanchez wants you to know that protecting the consumer is his main priority. MAY/JUNE 2015



ounded in 1888, the Florida Bankers Association (FBA) promotes and advocates on behalf of Florida’s banks in Washington, D.C., and in Tallahassee. Alex Sanchez is only the third CEO in the organization’s 126-year history. “As president of the FBA, Alex provides invaluable leadership to one of the largest state banking associations in the country,” said Luis de la Aguilera, president and CEO of TotalBank, which has $2.6 billion in assets and has been an FBA member for more than 25 years. “The FBA has a long and proud history of providing its member institutions with the tools and resources to succeed in Florida’s dynamic banking marketplace,” added de la Aguilera. Sanchez wants people to know that banks, and bankers, play an important role in the United States, especially in the free enterprise system. “We are the funding source for small businesses and businesses in general. Those businesses are the ones that create jobs,” he said. He added that sometimes banks unfairly get a bad reputation. During the recession, people felt that banks should forgive their loans. “Banks are lending you deposits that you and I deposit in a bank. The loans have to be repaid in order to have those depositors have access to their money,” he said. “That’s what people fail to understand, but when you explain it that way, people get it.” The FBA has 300 members. The association, said Sanchez, provides a platform for educational and training events to keep bankers on the cutting edge, whether it’s with regulatory or other issues impacting the industry. The FBA also offers its members instruction on how to run a successful bank, and how to meet the changing needs of customers. Apollo Bank is a Miami-Dade-based institution with seven branches and $500 million in assets. The bank has been an association member for five years, and its chairman, Eddy Arriola, serves on the organization’s board. “We need someone to speak up for us to the regulators and specifically to legislators and the government,” said Arriola. ”It’s been a great leadership development system for so many bankers,” he said of the FBA. Two emerging issues facing the industry today is how to offer services to tech-savvy millennials who prefer to bank online, and how to protect customer assets from online criminals who have stolen billions as a result of porous cyber security. “Banks are spending billions of dollars to protect [customers],” Sanchez said. He explained that security systems track the usage patterns on credit and debit cards to 18


Photo by Donna Victor


make sure it’s in sync with customer spending habits. When vacationing, “I recommend telling your mom where you’re going, but also tell your bank.” Sanchez said that when the big box retailers had their computer systems invaded by hackers, it was the bankers who re-issued credit and debit cards to the customers. “We took the bull by the horns to help our customers.” Sanchez is an attorney by trade who worked at the Miami-based law firm Sinclair, Louis and Zavertnik prior to joining the FBA. He served on the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board for nine years. He was first appointed in 2002 by President George W. Bush. The board administers the thrift savings plan (TSP)—tax-deferred contribution plans similar to private sector 401(k) plans— to nearly four million federal workers and military personnel. As of 2011, when Sanchez was there, more than $1.5 billion was contributed to the plan in an average month. As a board member, Sanchez was responsible for the management of the agency. Some of the

board’s accomplishments included the expansion of technology and the implementation of a system that allowed people to check their balances every day after the market closed. “There is nothing subtle about Alex; what you see is what you get, and you get the message clear,” said Guillermo Diaz-Rousselot, president and CEO of Continental Bank, which has $360 million in assets. “You’re never going to find a stronger advocate for Florida banking in Florida.” Sanchez tells consumers to always bank with FDIC institutions. “Our bankers, our industry, were blamed unfairly for a lot of things that were going on in our country. Our FDIC backed traditional banks were being blamed for what was happening on Wall Street, but they were doing their best to serve the public. As part of his job, Sanchez makes sure the FBA and member banks reinvest in the communities where they do business. “It’s in our best interest; we like to see the communities we serve be strong.” E —Millie Acebal Rousseau

We make business happen.

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Member FDIC * Loans are subject to credit and collateral approval.





Partner, Shutts & Bowen LLP

Photo by Stephen Boxall


he business day—and energy level—of downtown Miami is waning, but Arthur Furia bounds down the stairs at the Shutts & Bowen law firm at the pace of a category one Hurricane. “I have a couple of visitors from Italy,” he explains. “I was just about to show them the view.” Ushered into the 15th floor Miami Center conference room, Biscayne Bay looms like a lateafternoon postcard from paradise. His visitors are near-speechless. The view, he later adds, is a great client recruiting tool for local law firms. That Furia’s guests are Italian isn’t surprising. Miami is home to innumerable causeways, spans and overpasses. But another impressive bridge is the commercial connection Furia has forged between Miami and the homeland of all his grandparents. He’s a director at the National Italian American Foundation, an influential Washington, D.C.based group. He is Florida’s representative for the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy. He’s organized innumerable trade missions, which three Florida governors have led. And in 2008 he was named “Cavaliere Ufficiale” (Knight Official) by the president of the Republic of Italy. It’s enough to make any nonna proud. And it’s a reminder that Miami’s trade ties aren’t just Pan-American, but also transatlantic. “I like bringing people together,” says Furia. “I was the first non-Italian-born head of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce,”

he says. “At the time, it was mainly Italian companies that happened to be in Miami.” And that energy level? It seems to come naturally, says Bowman Brown, Shutts & Bowen’s managing partner in Miami. “He’s one of the most enthusiastic people I know,” Brown says. “He likes what he does.” Furia officially is an Italian citizen. But only since 1998. By birth, he’s a native son of Philadelphia, alternatively the City of Brotherly Love or home of the cheesesteak, depending on whether your interests are historical or culinary. And he’s highly regarded for his acumen in corporate and international business law generally, not just deals involving the land of la dolce vita. Florida Trend magazine put him on its “Must Know Contacts in Miami” list. “We’ve been going that [international] way for a long time,” says Brown. “We brought in three international tax partners in the 1970s. He fits beautifully into that program and he’s built a nice book of business on his own.” Born in 1953, Furia could have had a typical white-collar Center City life. He went to Villanova University, became an accountant, and then returned to his alma mater for law school. In 1980, he flew out of wintry Pennsylvania when a Miami law firm called. “They took me to lunch outdoors at Mayfair,” the late, luxe Coconut Grove shopping center. “I remember thinking, ‘They pay you too?’“ He joined Holland & Knight, and became a name partner at an independent firm from 1993-2003. He migrated to Gunster before landing in 2010 at Shutts & Bowen. At the time, the firm was celebrating its centennial year.

In Philadelphia, a single century might brand you a newcomer but in Miami it bestows old-school status. “I think in a business community where people are all new, that validation is very important,” Furia says. “That’s why I’ve always needed to be at a larger firm that had resources.” Sunshine aside, he arrived in Miami at a time of the Mariel boatlift, race riots and cocaine cowboys. Italian Consuls of that era were either semi-retired business leaders or novices that were looking for a quick pit-stop before they moved on. The local economy was not the healthiest. “To say we’re more sophisticated would be an understatement,” Furia says, when asked how things have changed. One indicator: A steep drop in “the New York state of mind,” as he calls it, where global players formerly felt “real” dealmaking occurs only in Manhattan. Although he shows no signs of slowing down, he’s nonetheless prepping Miami’s next generation for leadership roles. He has served on the board at St. Thomas University and is currently a board member of the Miami Dade College Foundation. In that capacity, he helped cement a partnership sending students from MDC’s Miami Culinary Institute to prestigious Citta del Gusto cooking schools across Italy. “I want to be a good mentor to the next generation,” he says. “I want to keep building bridges to help the community thrive in the ways it deserves.” E —Gregg Fields






ou may have spotted the recent billboards for Sunshine Health and wondered what the company was. Sunshine Health is a large health plan that focuses on the Medicaid arena, but also offers other products including Medicare SNP, Healthy Kids, and most recently, Ambetter by Sunshine Health (under the Affordable Care Act), among other plans. Sunshine Health, providing services in South Florida since 2009, is the second largest Medicaid plan and the largest long-term care health plan in the state. Its parent company, Centene Corporation ranked 251st on the Fortune 500 list and contributed $85.3 million to the local economy in 2013. In May 2014, Sunshine Health began to implement a statewide specialty plan for more than 20,000 children in the state foster care system. Paterson said the original company founder was a foster child who was in 17 placements. “There is special place in our hearts for foster children,” he said. Since Paterson came aboard nearly six years ago, he’s grown the company patient roster to 411,000 members. He attributes the increase to both organic growth and acquisitions of other companies, but also quality of care. “We compete on service,” he explained. “People go to the plans that answer the phones and pay the claims, and treat them with a high degree of respect.” 22


Sunshine Health also stays competitive by offering additional benefits other plans do not such as art therapy. “We’re not required to offer [them], but add it as a way to entice members to take a look at us.” As part of the corporate mission, Sunshine Health, which employs 1,300 people, is also big on giving back to the community. “Centene differentiates itself by being very community focused,” Paterson said. As for the future, Paterson expects to expand into additional types of health plan services, including Centene’s trademarked Ambetter option, which is tied to federal healthcare reform. The option offers comprehensive medical coverage, a 24-hour, seven-day a week nurse line, optional dental and vision coverage for adults, prescription drug coverage and an incentive reward plan for patients who proactively engage in preventive measures. Sunshine Health is a current corporate member of the Orange Bowl Committee and Jarrett Nasca, COO met Paterson when the company participated in a sponsorship. “What I’ve learned about Chris is that he is truly a great steward of the South Florida community,” said Nasca. “He understands the importance of giving back to the communities that Sunshine Health serves.” Sunshine Health supports a number of community outreach programs, including the Orange Bowl Health and Wellness Fair, a free event that promotes healthy lifestyles. “It opens up another group of potential members that we can offer products to,” he

said. “Hopefully, it will put a dent in the uninsured population. We see it as an opportunity.” He added that the plan is an important service for its Medicaid members because they can stay with Sunshine Health once they come off Medicaid. Paterson is also focused on preventative care for members and patient-centered “medical homes.” Medical homes, he explained, revolves around making sure members have a place to go—such as a doctor’s office that will closely monitor their needs. “It’s the key for staying healthy and away from acute medical crises, especially for those with chronic diseases,” he said. “It makes good business sense.” Sunshine Health, under Paterson, places a lot of emphasis on care management by hiring nurses and social workers to keep in touch with at-risk members and to assist them with staying healthy. Dr. Nelson Adams, Sunshine Health’s chairman of the board, has full faith in Paterson’s leadership and the direction he’s taking the company. “Chris is a man of action. He embodies the notion that you under-promise and overdeliver,” he said. “Sunshine Health has moved from a newbie just a few years ago to now one of the major players in the healthcare arena in the state of Florida, particularly in Medicaid and long-term care.” Indeed, the company’s prognosis is bright. E —Millie Acebal Rousseau

Photo by Stephen Boxall

CEO, Sunshine Health






KEVIN DIEMAR President & Founder, Unity Jets

For some brokers, it’s simply a transaction; for us, it’s a long-term relationship. We are very transparent with our clients, and they appreciate our honesty. — Kevin Diemar

Photo by Stephen Boxall


or the wealthy entrepreneur or high net worth individual, there is no need to spend millions on a corporate jet in order to fly privately. Traditionally, there have been two ways for the well-heeled traveler to beat the crowds on commercial airliners—fractional jets, where customers purchase a “share” of an aircraft, or prepaid jet cards, where travelers buy a pre-determined amount of jet time, which is then deducted as they use up flight hours. Kevin Diemar, president and founder of Miami-based Unity Jets, now has a third less expensive way to enjoy private aviation. A tripby-trip solution, which requires no commitment to upfront capital or prepaid hours. His company’s business model is about clients not having to commit to a particular aircraft or block of flight hours, saving the client capital over time. When clients want to take to the air, they simply contact Unity and forward their trip details such as destination, dates of travel, and any special requests they may have. The company assesses the availability of aircraft and recommends several options for the client’s desired trip. Once clients choose an option, they sign a simple one page agreement and pay only for the forthcoming flight. Unity also offers the client a concierge like service for catering and ground transportation, saving the client time, money and headaches. Diemar estimates Unity is saving clients 20-25 percent when compared with the fractional jet and jet card business models.

“When looked at as only one trip the savings may seem trivial, however when it is 10 trips a year, the numbers are significant, no matter what your level of wealth is,” Diemar said. “When you look at hourly rates on jet cards, they are very expensive, $8,000 to $20,000 per hour,” he added. Prior to launching his company in 2011, Diemar worked for NetJets/Marquis Jet for seven years as vice president of sales, where he sold both models of private aviation. He felt he could offer clients savings between 20 and 40 percent with his no capital commitment model. “For some brokers, it’s simply a transaction; for us, it’s a long-term relationship,” he explained. “We are very transparent with our clients, and they appreciate our honesty.” “The prices are very competitive to what’s in the market,” said Rosa Nuñez, an executive assistant for an investor who frequently charters flights. “They go far and beyond to accommodate and make things happen,” she added. Since the company’s inception, the delivery of personalized service, Diemar believes, has allowed Unity to increase its sales by 200 percent. The company started with three employees, the head count has risen to nine. “We really get to know clients and their preferences [so we can] provide them with what they’re looking for .” he said. “It’s a trust business, much like a wealth advisor.” “A lot of our business comes because we deliver good service, a good product, and [as

a result] we’ve really been growing organically,” said Chad Howett, chief operating officer. Diemar has a few hundred clients on his radar, mostly high net-worth individuals and families, self-made entrepreneurs, athletes and even corporations. He also serves Europeans and South Americans who fly to the U.S. commercially, but then want to fly to New York, Miami or other cities privately. Unity Jets arranges flights for customers who fly to anywhere in the world, but the majority of its business is within the U.S. and the Caribbean. To attract new clients, Unity spends marketing dollars attending high profile community events, as well as placing ads in magazines and periodicals aimed at their target market. Running a boutique private jet charter brokerage is not without its challenges. Many problems are outside the company’s control, such as bad weather. “I have demanding clients who want to go where they want to go, when they want to go” he said. Although the team will always try to minimize delays, safety is always paramount. “In life, things happen; you want to know you’re doing business with true professionals who do right by you,” says Diemar. The majority of Unity’s clients come from referrals, and Diemar hopes to continue growing the company by 20 percent, year over year. The goal is to continue to grow while maintaining Unity Jets as a boutique style firm and being recognized as the best in the industry. E —Millie Acebal Rousse MAY/JUNE 2015




hile studying in Canada, Edward Beiner, a native of Brazil, got involved in the optical industry. “It was the 1980s, and at the time, eye gla s s e s we re t re a t e d a s a medical device, and sold on a very low and middle level,” said the chief visionary office (CVO) of his namesake store, Edward Beiner. “Back then, the artisanal [aspect] and quality weren’t there,” he said. “Europe was more advanced and already considering eyewear as a fashion accessory, but in the U.S., most of the market here was a necessity.” He saw an opportunity to offer a product that was of higher quality and also fashionable. In 1981, he opened his flagship store in South Miami, where it still stands today. He’d travel to Europe, as he still does, to curate products from factories in Italy, France and Germany, offering the best in handcrafted eyewear. That quality, combined with personalized customer service, has solidified the company’s position in the eyewear market. Scott Bernstein has been a customer for three decades. “I remember finding things 26


Photo by Stephen Boxall

EDWARD BEINER Chief Visionary Officer (CVO), Edward Beiner

there that I’ve never seen before. They have really interesting styles,” he said. “What kept me coming back was the service.” He added, “… it’s not just about what you see, it’s also a fashion element.” Some of the exclusive eyewear collection carried by Edward Beiner includes IC Berlin, Tag Heuer, Chanel, Cartier, Gucci, and sunglasses by Ray Ban and Persol. Beiner also designs and manufactures his own line, Edward Beiner, which is handcrafted in a small factory in France. Beiner’s success is due, in part, to his knack for spotting trends. “Once you own the ability to understand retail, it comes from the creative end,” he said. “It’s a question of wanting to learn, and exposing yourself, to different opportunities, markets, cultures and different styles; it opens your eyes.” Having passion for what you do helps, and Beiner says his inspiration comes from the environment and everyday life. “Maybe it’s at a coffee shop, the way they delivered the spoon,” he said. The Edward Beiner Capsule collection, for example, is based on colors from South Beach and buildings in downtown.

Guido Balocco, president of Edward Beiner Group, calls Beiner a visionary and pioneer. The two initially met at a Moschino fashion show during Fashion Week in Milan. The former CEO of the Italian luxury eyewear company, Persol, joined Beiner as a partner and board member in 2001, after relocating here from his native Italy. The partnership works because Beiner is the creative force. Balocco focuses on the business side. This strategic approach has been successful. In 2009, sales were just under $6 million. Balocco projects over $14 million in sales for 2015. Growth has been quick, and the duo plans to add two to three stores a year. Currently, there are 12 locations, and soon the number will jump to 15. “When Ed and I started, we wanted to achieve the dominant position in the high-end market in Florida. That’s what we’ve done,” Balocco said. The company has expanded to Orlando, Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Naples and Sarasota. “Now it’s time to exceed the borders of Florida,” Balocco said. The first store outside of Florida will open this August, at the Oculus in New York. E —Millie Acebal Rousseau

Photo by Jorge Parra


Carlos Lopez-Cantera Lieutenant Governor, State of Florida

Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera is the first Hispanic to hold the state’s No. 2 executive post. A former legislator and Miami-Dade property tax appraiser, he may be headed to an even loftier position. MAY/JUNE 2015




ieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera is a man bearing several messages: the state of Florida does not need new taxes, it does need more education funding and it is deeply interested in expanding its employment base. Up until early last year, delivering messages on behalf of the state’s chief executive was the furthest thing from the mind of Lopez-Cantera. He was serving as the Miami-Dade County Property Tax Appraiser when Governor Rick Scott came calling in search of a new number two. “Let’s just say that I was in awe and the gravity of the appointment is still hitting me,” Lopez-Cantera said in a recent interview at the offices of Enterprise Florida in Coral Gables. “It’s a tremendous honor. Working with the Governor has been an absolute treat. He says what he means and means what he says. There’s no agenda other than what he’s talking about. He’s focused, he’s tenacious. He’s got more energy than anybody I have ever seen. And he’s got a vision that he’s executing and that’s working.” Lopez-Cantera was re-elected with Scott last November after he replaced Jennifer Carroll as lieutenant governor. She resigned in 2013. Scott named Lopez-Cantera in early 2014. A former state legislator who twice chaired the Miami-Dade Legislative Delegation, Lopez-Cantera is now mentioned in political and media circles as one of several GOP candidates who might run for the U.S. Senate in 2016. In recent weeks, he has said he would keep his options open. But now, he sticks with his immediate political tasks: promoting the governor’s jobs agenda, encouraging lawmakers to cut taxes and boost education funding and talking up Florida as a place to do business. Outside of replacing a governor upon an unexpected death, the Florida Constitution is silent on what duties the lieutenant governor should perform. In some states, the role is ceremonial. Elsewhere, the post does not exist. Over the years, relationships between Florida governors and their lieutenants have varied. Lopez-Cantera says he communicates frequently with Scott, visiting him “several times a week.” “We talk on the phone almost daily,” he added. “I travel the state, talking about our agenda, tax cuts, education funding, college affordability, and then when necessary, I help with the legislative agenda,” Lopez-Cantera said. Members of the business community see advantages in having a Hispanic as lieutenant governor. “He may be reaching a part of the population that has not been effectively reached before—our very large and significant Hispanic population which has been a very 28


Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Lieutenant Governor, State of Florida important part of the business success of South Florida,” said Fort Lauderdale attorney Alan Becker, who serves as vice chair of Enterprise Florida, the state’s official economic development agency. Miami lawyer Leoncio de la Pena, a former member of the Republican Party of Florida Team 100, thinks Lopez-Cantera will use his new post as launching pad to higher office. “I believe that Lopez-Cantera took the job with the idea, and the likely commitment from his boss, to use it as a springboard to enhance his own political standing while leveraging his apparent political qualities in service to his boss,” de la Pena said. It doesn’t hurt, he added, that Lopez-Cantera is friends with Sen. Marco Rubio, who just announced a run for the White House. Lopez-Cantera’s promotion to Tallahassee meant his term as property appraiser was cut short. He was the first person to be elected to the position, which he sought because he felt the office had not been responsive enough to the county’s property owners. “We did accomplish a lot both structurally and even cosmetically,” he said. “We redid the whole front to make it more customer friendly and provide the ability of property owners to sit with actual appraisers and get value issues handled right on the spot. I empowered the appraisers up in the front to make up to a 10 percent reductions on the spot.” Lopez-Cantera’s public service career was built on a foundation developed in the private sector. With his father and sister, he worked in the family commercial real estate business, the Pan American Companies.

“It was very lean,” he recalled. “We would normally work on one project at a time and that was enough to keep us all busy. Everybody did everything. Once we finished one [project] we would go onto the next one. We eat what we kill.” His interest in politics evolved “almost concurrent” with his involvement in the business and his emergence from school. He studied business and political science at the University of Miami. “It was great because I got the politics and I also got the business education. After I graduated I got involved. I volunteered in the ‘96 presidential campaign for Bob Dole and from there on I guess I got the bug.” In 2002 he ran for the state house and lost, but was elected in 2004. “I’ve been serving in either legislative or local government, and in executive capacities ever since.” In part, his time as a legislator would dictate what he would do later. Tax abatement was an important plank of his platform. “When I got elected I was actually able to in my first term get a constitutional amendment on the ballot that passed with over 75 percent to double the homestead exemption for low income seniors,” he recalled. “And throughout my career in the Legislature I focused primarily on a policy level on property taxes.” That’s a good thing about working with the governor, Lopez-Cantera said. “There is no risk of tax increases at any time during his administration,” he said. “He has not signed any legislation that increases taxes or fees. I’d be shocked—no, strike that— I will guarantee he won’t do it in his second term, either. He’ll only sign things that reduce costs.” E —David Lyons

Photo by Jorge Parra


JACQUELINE DASCAL-CHARIFF Chairman, Continental National Bank, Miami

Jacqueline Dascal-Chariff never envisioned a full-time career in financial services. But now, the daughter of the late banking pioneer and philanthropist, Carlos “Charles� Dascal relies on her marketing and entrepreneurial skills to build and expand on his legacy.





ne year ago, Jacqueline Dascal-Chariff became the chairman of Continental National Bank, the first Cuban-American owned bank in South Florida. She oversees the bank’s board of directors and is responsible for business development, marketing, communications and branding. The institution has more than $350 million in assets. An experienced entrepreneur in the marketing and distribution of international consumer brands, she spent 10 years as a member of the bank’s board of directors before becoming chairman. She holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising and communications from Florida International University. EXECUTIVE South Florida magazine: Was it always your intention to enter the banking industry and join the family business? Did it take much convincing from your father and other family members to do so? Jacqueline Dascal-Chariff: No. It was never my intention to become a banker. My father was very big in the car business as well. I’ve always been an independent individual. I started my own business in advertising from the bedroom of my parents’ home. I sold imprinted items to banking customers. I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I’ve had many different businesses that I’ve been involved in ... anywhere from developing a micro-brewery beer when that was a big thing to being in the in-line skate business when that was big. My claim to fame is how to know the next big thing and how to capitalize on it. EXECUTIVE: What is your vision for the business in terms of growth and development? Dascal-Chariff: Being from a different generation I have a different vision. We revamped and re-launched the website. We also launched our mobile app which I’m very happy with. Most of the banks of our size do not have that availability to their customers so I guess we’re ahead of the curve. We are adding quite a few different aspects to the focus of the bank … we are about to come out with a residential program that we are going very strong with. We have a wealth management division which we’re looking to grow aggressively. We have this customer base in some cases from the very beginning of our 40-year history. Lots of baby boomers are accumulating their wealth and are in need of advice. We opened a branch in Sweetwater. We’re looking to develop a program for teachers and students at FIU. EXECUTIVE: Has your experience in the distribution of international consumer brands led to growth in international clientele for the bank? Dascal-Chariff: Everything is related to marketing and I’m by nature a marketing person. That’s how my brain works. If you know how to communicate and give people what they need you’re going to be successful. As far as international per se, we are a local bank so we focus on local projects in financing. We have many international customers. It’s not as though we are going out to the international market to look for opportunities. I am a Hispanic woman. We were the first Cuban-American bank in the country. Miami is a very Hispanic city. So I have the best of both cultures to give me the ability to relate to the two different mixes of what Miami is about. EXECUTIVE: As the Miami area continues another round of explosive growth, particularly through vertical real estate development, do you think this the right route to take? Dascal-Chariff: : I’ve got to tell you, it’s getting crowded. The traffic is horrible. All the growth is great up to a point, but at what expense? This 30


is not something Miami suffered from even a few years back. We’re going to have to revisit the infrastructure as all of these projects become completed. EXECUTIVE: What types of real estate lending does the bank undertake? Is it focused mainly on small business objectives? Does the bank envision the financing of large-scale, multi-use projects in the future? Dascal-Chariff: Our main focus has been up to now on the commercial real estate market. Going forward we’re going to focus very strongly on the residential market, but proceeding with great caution. I feel a lot of this growth is being financed by buyers coming in with big cash payments. EXECUTIVE: What do you believe is Continental’s chief competitive advantage amid South Florida’s universe of community banks? Do you have any plans for acquisitions or expansion? Dascal-Chariff: Our biggest advantage is our deep understanding of the community and our customers. The bank has been here a long time and we have grown with many of our clients. I have an entrepreneur’s mentality, which is different than the typical banker. It helps me relate to my customer in a way that other bankers probably can’t. Automation is a beautiful thing, but that personal touch is special and it is difficult for a big bank to appreciate that. We want to help our customers grow their business and be there for them and not just be a recording on the other end of the line. We’re always open to acquisitions if it’s in our desirable footprint. We will be the exclusive bank in Codina’s Downtown Doral project and we will look at other expansion opportunities as they make themselves known. E

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A Diamond in the Rough Miami Jewish Health Systems celebrates its 75th Anniversary.

By Susannah Nesmith | Photography by Jorge Parra

LEFT TO RIGHT: Marc E. Agronin, M.D., Vice President, Behavioral Health and Clinical Research ChurĂŠ Gladwell, Vice President and Chief Development Officer Jeffrey P. Freimark, President and Chief Executive Officer Alfred J. Katzin, Chairman, Miami Jewish Health Systems, Board of Directors 32





Jeffrey P. Freimark, President and Chief Executive Officer

hen Lucia Mitrani Susi spots a stitch out of place in the stuffed monkeys she sews, she pulls out every other stitch and starts over. “I want them to be perfect and I’ll redo one ten times until it’s perfect,” the 93-yearold Cuban immigrant explained in Spanish. Mitrani Susi lives in the nursing home on the 28-acre campus of Miami Jewish Health Systems. Staffers got her working on the stuffed animals as a therapeutic project after learning that she had worked as a seamstress in factories in Hialeah. It’s that kind of personalized attention that characterizes all of the services at Miami Jewish, from the specialized rehabilitation services offered at the Rosomoff Rehab Center to the advanced research into Alzheimer’s being conducted by Dr. Marc Agronin, one of the country’s leading geriatric psychiatrists. 34


Marc E. Agronin, M.D., Vice President, Behavioral Health and Clinical Research Miami Jewish is celebrating its 75th year in South Florida, and looking forward to 75 more, with plans for a new state-ofthe-art Memory Care Village to provide comprehensive care to the growing number of seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s. With a lushly landscaped campus tucked away in a quiet corner of Miami just north of the Design District, Miami Jewish serves approximately 12,000 of South Florida’s older residents in its 420-bed nursing home, assisted and independent living facilities, a 32-bed hospital and with in-home services to seniors who can still live at home with a little help. “I see people who come in here and they can’t walk or they can’t talk but once they’re here, they begin living again,” president and CEO Jeffrey Freimark said. “We’re making differences in people’s lives. We feel very strongly that people don’t come here to lie in bed. This is not a place where old people simply go to die.” In addition to individual arts and crafts projects designed to engage residents physically and mentally, Miami Jewish

regularly hosts concerts by the New World Symphony, has animals come in for pet therapy, holds happy hours with pina coladas in the Hazel Cypen Tower assisted living facility and brings in a variety of musicians and performers, with some playing in the auditorium and some going room to room to visit less mobile residents. For its 75th anniversary celebration, Miami Jewish commissioned two colorful, multi-story murals and brought in the graffiti artists who painted them to talk to residents, some of whom had owned galleries or been artists themselves. “We try to find things they used to do back in their lives and find ways to continue to do those things here,” explained Ana Agosta, manager of therapeutic programs. “Maybe they’re not as fast as they used to be, but finding those activities that engage them really helps keep them active. Many of them, when they came here, expected to have nothing to do.” For Elayne Weisburd, an 83-year-old resident of the Hazel Cypen Tower, that meant getting involved in campus politics.

Churé Gladwell, Vice President and Chief Development Officer Weisburd was the first woman elected to the Miami Beach City Commission back in 1977. Today she’s president of the HCT tenants’ council. She regularly goes on outings organized by the staff, while fitting in time for daily games of Rummikub with friends. “The doctors here have been wonderful and I don’t have any worries about making appointments,” she said. “They bring me my breakfast and a nurse checks my vitals every morning. I go downstairs for lunch and dinner. They clean my apartment and do the laundry. I don’t have to worry about any of that.” Seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s and their caregivers can find comprehensive care at the Girsh Memory Enrichment Institute. The Hazel Cypen Tower also has special secure floors for residents who need more specialized supervision and Miami Jewish is on the cutting edge of Alzheimer’s research, with more than a dozen active clinical trials currently under way. Residents and non-residents can participate in the research, which is testing everything from

Alfred J. Katzin, Chairman, Miami Jewish Health Systems, Board of Directors

With dedicated rehabilitative services and advanced Alzheimer’s research, Miami Jewish provides over 12,000 elderly South Florida residents with meaningful and quality care.

— Jeffrey Freimark President & CEO

promising new drugs that may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s to transcranial magnetic stimulation combined with computer stimulation that may help with Alzheimer’s symptoms. “The main trend in Alzheimer’s research is to try to identify people in the very early stages and slow the disease down,” said Dr. Agronin, author of the book How We Age: A Doctor’s Journey Into the Heart of Growing Old. “We offer A to Z evaluation and diagnosis with access to the latest technology in brain scans and research.” While insurance and Medicaid cover many of the services Miami Jewish offers, the health system relies on donations to maintain the services and grow in the future. When Freimark took over as president seven years ago, the organization was running a deficit. Now the finances are on solid footing, he said. He’s hoping for more community support for Miami Jewish’s plans to remake the campus and position it for the future. “This is a hip area,” he said. “We love being here. We need to convey the message that growing old can be fun here.” E MAY/JUNE 2015



MAKERS Conversations with the people who helped South Florida go vertical.

By David Lyons, Susan R. Miller, Mike Seemuth, and Richard Westlund Photography by Gio Alma, Stephen Boxall, Jorge Parra, Candace West, and Isaac Zapata




n evening of champagne and paella at a Miami sales center packed with visitors was well under way when the normally reserved Stephen Owens, president of Swire Properties became the life of the party. He grabbed a camera from a photographer, snatched the ball cap from his head, placed it backwards on his own head and proceeded to snap pictures of guests who posed before a giant model of Brickell City Centre in Miami. For Owens and Swire, the occasion marked the second tower “topping off” party for a $1.05 billion, multi-block, mixed use development that many believe will aid Miami’s quest to become a 24-hour urban area. At the podium, Owens recalled that when Brickell City Centre started construction in 2013, the project was mentioned in the same breath as the proposed Genting casino resort project on Biscayne Bay and the proposed Miami WorldCenter in Park West. The media touted all three as being in the vanguard of the next wave of high-rise expansion in Miami. “I haven’t had time to check on their schedules,” Owens told the crowd. But the last time he looked, he said, neither one of the other projects had shown signs of emerging from the ground. “To be moving at such a healthy pace … is a tremendous achievement for us,” he told the crowd. Indeed, the race to go vertical in Miami and elsewhere in South Florida has taken on new energy and excitement among city fathers, 38


members of the real estate and development communities and foreign and domestic investors who hope to make a buck from another boom. Rarely does a week pass without a new high-rise project being announced, whether it’s in Miami’s Brickell Avenue district, Downtown, Midtown, along the beaches or along the shoreline and interior of Broward County. The projects are the inspirations of not only local developers, but also entrepreneur-builders from Canada, South America and Europe. A prime motivation, it goes without saying, is money. But others bring with them a desire to make a special mark, whether it’s a builder who plans to install elevators to transport luxury cars to their owners’ condo units, or the dreamers who hope to further the concept of “New Urbanism,” where residents live, work and play without having to turn on an automobile ignition switch. The building binge may be surging out of sheer necessity as population growth continues unabated in a region nearly fresh out of raw land. Since 1980, according to statistics compiled by the South Florida Regional Planning Council, the combined resident population of MiamiDade, Broward and Palm Beach counties stood just short of 3.5 million people. By 2010, that number nearly doubled to more than 6.1 million; by 2030 it is expected to surpass the 7.1 million mark. This spring, writers and editors from EXECUTIVE South Florida magazine reached out to more than 40 developers, architects, lawyers, city officials, and real estate sales professionals to get their takes on the evolution of vertical development in Greater Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Decade by decade, from the 1970’s through the present, these professionals are among those who helped shape the region’s future as a global destination for business people, investors, tourists and new residents.

Bradley and Gordon Deckelbaum

THE 1970’s: UPWARD AND OUTWARD “New Urbanism” and revised state condo laws helped lay the foundation for vertical development.

Photo by Candace West

By Richard Westlund In many ways, the outlines of modern South Florida began to emerge in the 1970’s. New office towers changed the skyline of downtown Miami with financial institutions like AmeriFirst Savings and Loan, Barnett Bank and Southeast Bank as lead tenants. Innovative developers like Tibor Hollo, president of Florida East Coast Realty, introduced the concept of living and working in the urban core through his Plaza Venetia residential high-rise, completed in 1975 near the Omni shopping mall. However, the neighborhood didn’t catch fire until the arrivals of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the American Airlines Arena three decades later. Other lofty visions took flight in the 1970’s, including the City of Miami Beach’s far-reaching South Beach redevelopment project, covering everything south of Fifth Street. “This was the first big project here for me,” said real estate financier Ezra Katz, who came to South Florida in 1976 to oversee the properties held by US Realty Investments, a public real estate investment trust. “The city envisioned new residences, hotels and retail centers, but it became too complicated and the plan never materialized.” South Florida’s real estate market weathered two major challenges during the 1970’s, the “stagflation” recession of 1973-74 and the high inflation of 1979-80, when mortgage rates reached the 20 percent region.

But despite the market challenges, residential and commercial developers pushed outward from the central cities of Miami and Fort Lauderdale to create new suburban neighborhoods. Unlike today, most of the new development was driven by family-owned businesses, rather than large corporations. South Florida saw its first condominium boom—and bust—during the 1970’s. Lewis Goodkin, president, Goodkin Consulting, Miami, notes that condominiums were a relative bargain in the 1970’s. “Units were typically much smaller than they are today, even in some of the luxury markets,” he said. “However, the initial wave of condo sales led to the creation of a large move-up market in the 1980’s and 90’s. Towards the end of the 70’s we also began to see greater emphasis on design, which has become a key selling point in today’s market.” Another turning point for the South Florida residential market in the 1970’s was the launch of Turnberry Isle Resort & Club in today’s Aventura. By attracting wealthy snowbirds to South Florida, Turnberry set the pattern for future luxury resort communities. “The seasonal market was very different than it is today,” said Goodkin. “Most purchasers were pre-retirees and retirees from the U.S and Canada.” MAY/JUNE 2015


1970’s1980’s1990’s2000’s+ ALAN BECKER A co-founding shareholder of the Fort Lauderdale-based law firm Becker & Poliakoff, Alan Becker moved to Florida in 1966 to attend law school. “Until graduation, downtown Miami had basically one high-rise. It was the building now known as New World Tower located at One Biscayne Boulevard, built by Jose Ferré—the father of former City of Miami Mayor—Maurice Ferré.” “I think no building at the time was permitted to be bigger than the courthouse building,” he added. Then, some serious vertical development kicked in with the emergence of more bank office buildings and a condo boom as high-rise rental buildings such as Winston Towers in north Dade started to convert to condos. “We started being a real town. The rest just started to follow,” Becker said. “Fort Lauderdale at the time was way behind. The population of Dade County was maybe at 1.2 million. Broward County was probably no more than 250,000. So it didn’t warrant anything high.” The law firm opened for business in 1973 and “very early on we kind of caught the wave of condominiums.” The firm started to represent tenant associations, as the notion of tenant rights was “negligible to non-existent.” Becker was elected to the state Legislature in 1972 and helped spearhead laws that gave residents basic rights pertaining to warranties, disclosure statements and operating rules. By then, the high-rise condo line-up along the Galt Ocean Mile in Fort Lauderdale had emerged, and lower level condos sprouted in West Broward.

high-density projects where fewer resources could be used to supply a greater number of people. That is most reflected in buildings such as Plaza Venetia and elsewhere in the city such as the Rivergate Plaza building on the south bank of the Miami River. “Now we’re talking about downtown in the 70’s,” Wayne Hollo said. “Look at Rivergate Plaza. It was the first Class A office building on Brickell Avenue. My father had the audacity to put in a restaurant—Cye’s Rivergate, which became one of the original power lunch spots in the city. Back then nobody stayed downtown. So it was that kind of vision that bucked the trend.” Added Jerome Hollo: “’Live, work and play downtown was this revolutionary idea and he was the first one to infuse that concept in Miami in the 70’s and 80’s.” These days, Florida East Coast Realty has taken it to a higher level, in multiples. The 83-story Panorama Tower, which is rising behind a pair of office towers the Hollo’s own at 1101 Brickell Avenue and facing east on Brickell Bay Drive, will be filled with rental residences, offices, restaurants and a wellness center.

The ensuing population growth, he recalled, begat things like air conditioning and mosquito control. And the growing body of consumer protection laws gave an impetus for more development as the statutes provided a “clear format for what a developer must do” to build a project. “Development accelerated remarkably,” Becker said, with condo and office building projects sprouting along the Gold Coast from Broward to Miami-Dade County. The law firm benefitted, growing with the times. It now represents more than 5,000 condo associations statewide, as well as developers.

TIBOR HOLLO Starting in 1973 and continuing into the 1980’s, the Hungarian-born developer who immigrated to the U.S. after World War II developed the Omni/Venetia area in Miami on the northern edge of downtown with several notable projects: The Plaza Venetia, the 605-room Biscayne Bay Marriott, The Grand, the Omni International Mall and an adjacent 527-room hotel which now fly’s the Hilton flag. His sons, Wayne and Jerome, both executive vice presidents of his Florida East Coast Realty, said their father, a trained architect, always had a passion for real estate construction after he came to America. His vision, they said, was known then and now as new urbanism. “He did not believe in suburban sprawl,” Jerome Hollo said. “He believed resources were better served in an urban corridor. His passion has been urban mixed-use,

GORDON DECKELBAUM Developer Gordon Deckelbaum and his family came from Canada and began developing single-family homes in 1977, followed by condominiums, in

Improved state condo laws creating and protecting tenant rights passed by Legislature. One Biscayne Tower, AmeriFirst skyscrapers built in downtown Miami at 39 and 31 floors.

Point of Americas Condominiums built near Port Everglades with 32 floors.

One Financial Plaza becomes tallest building in Fort Lauderdale at 28 floors.

Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale and other communities. “At the end of the decade, South Florida was a disaster zone, and we had to compete against many failed projects,” he said. “So, we focused on newer and better designed developments with innovative features.” For instance, in 1979, most units had a small bath with a tub, sink, toilet and area rug. During the 70’s and into the 80’s, the Deckelbaum’s developed 5 and 6-story condo buildings in Broward County and in Boca Raton. “We designed spacious master baths and open kitchens, which only became possible when manufacturers came out with quieter dishwashers,” said Gordon’s son Bradley Deckelbaum. “Before that, you couldn’t hear the TV over the dishwasher.” The Deckelbaum’s are still in the condo game. In early April, they launched construction of Riva, a 15-story, 100-unit luxury residence that curves along 400 feet of the west bank of the Middle River in Fort Lauderdale. Distinguished by modern design and cutting edge architecture, it is scheduled for completion at the end of 2016.

DONALD SOFFER Recognizing the potential in catering to the snowbird market, Donald Soffer purchased a 785-acre tract of marshland facing the Intracoastal Waterway in North Dade County in 1967. Rather than build another suburban tract of single-family homes, he convinced the







1970’s 40

Brickell Bay Club built with 30 floors.

Photo by Stephen Boxall

Donald Soffer

Plaza Venetia residential tower rises 33 floors near Miami Omni by Tibor Hollo.

Hyatt Downtown built on banks of Miami River at 21 floors.

Dade County Commission to approve a high-rise concept that would open up land in between the buildings for a golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones and a marina for easy access to the Intracoastal and Atlantic Ocean. Soffer’s Turnberry Club quickly attracted affluent buyers from the Northeast looking for an appealing lifestyle, rather than just an inexpensive retirement home. “Our customers were from New York and Chicago who lived in high-rises,” said Soffer. “They wanted a place where they could play golf in the winter, lock the door and go away for the summer. They had the financial ability to go skiing in Aspen or boating in the Caribbean, so Turnberry was a natural attraction for them.” Soffer took another step that helped ensure Turnberry’s success. He would only sell one unit to a buyer, rather than try to attract speculators and investors. “Other developers were selling 10 or 12 smaller, cheaper units at a time to investors, but I didn’t want to go that direction,” he said. “Instead, I wanted to create a wonderful social environment, and that really paid off for our family and our community.” Soffer weathered the recession of the early 1970’s and the rampant inflation of 1979-80 as he continued to develop high-rise residences, the regional Aventura Mall, office buildings and other projects. Today, Aventura is a self-contained city—much of it developed by Turnberry Associates. Swire Properties U.S. unit of Hong Kong-based Swire Pacific Ltd., opens Miami Office.






1970’s MAY/JUNE 2015


1970’s1980’s1990’s2000’s+ JOSEPH MILTON One of South Florida’s successful early suburban builders was Jose Milton, who was able to translate his construction experience in Cuba during the 1950’s into moderately priced single-family homes and rental apartment communities in Dade and Broward. “Back then, Miami was a very seasonal city with lots of activities from November to April, and a real slowdown in the summer season,” said Jose’s son Joseph Milton, president and CEO of J. Milton & Associates. Jose Milton passed away two years ago. “I started working summers for my dad,” he said. “We were busy year-round building in Hialeah, Miami Lakes, Lauderhill and lots of other places.” During the 1970’s, owners would typically hire an architect and a contractor to develop new projects, said Milton. “My father came up with a turnkey solution for the design and development of residential projects. That kept costs down and allowed us to build homes that were affordable to low- and middle-income buyers.” Two decades later, Joseph Milton was instrumental in the creation of today’s Sunny Isles Beach, with early 1990’s highrise projects like Sands Point and Pinnacle attracting wealthy buyers, and spearheading the movement to incorporate as a city. And now, a J. Milton affiliate is working to build Parque Towers, a Sunny Isles Boulevard project involving two 26-story high-rise condo buildings. “My father’s lifelong passion was developing residential housing at all price points, and he passed that passion along to our family,” said Milton.

Joseph Milton 42


Another prominent 1970’s developer was Norman Cohen, who also focused on North Miami Beach and the pre-Aventura market. Cohen, who died in 1991, had extensive experience in manufacturing before entering real estate in the late 1960’s with several projects in North Miami Beach. “My father learned the development business very quickly,” said Gary Cohen, partner and principal of the Privé Development firm. “He would drive up to Singer Island and meet with the legendary billionaire John D. MacArthur, who would only do business with you if he liked you,” said Cohen. “I remember sitting in the coffee shop with them as they discussed land deals.” “About the only thing that saved our market was the arrival of buyers from oil-rich Venezuela and Mexico,” he said. Soon Norman Cohen was building projects like Commodore Plaza on north Biscayne Boulevard, which at 290 feet was the region’s tallest building north of downtown. Eventually, he got tired of building condominiums and focused on buying land and obtaining entitlements for properties like Williams Island in north Dade, which he sold in 1980 to developer Jules Trump. “Back in the 1970’s, the city looked nothing like it is today,” Cohen said. “But even then, people were complaining about too much building and too much traffic in the region.”

Photo by Jorge Parra


THE 1980’s AND 1990’s

A surge in iconic high-rise is slowed by crime, corruption and a condo glut. By Mike Seemuth

Photo by Gio Alma

Matt Gorson The two-decade period spanning the 1980’s and 1990’s was an energetic era in the high-rise development of Miami-Dade County as residential and commercial towers popped up in Miami’s Brickell Avenue area and its downtown district. They also rose in Miami Beach and, farther north, in Sunny Isles Beach and Aventura. Broward County was slower to go vertical as the local government imposed restrictions on density in favor of environmental protection measures. Several additions to the Miami skyline were completed in the early 1980’s on Brickell Avenue, according to the website Construction was completed in 1982 on the iconic Atlantis Condominiums on Brickell Avenue. The project, designed by Arquitectonica, is a 20-story condominium building with a hole in the middle that was featured in the opening credits of the old Miami Vice television series. Two other Brickell high-rise residential buildings of similar vintage are the 42-story Palace, opened in 1982, and the 31-story Imperial, opened in 1983. Unfortunately for their developers, these projects opened amid a condo glut on Brickell. Of course, one investor’s flop can become another’s fortune. The period brought national exposure to Miami when a TV police drama series called Miami Vice helped raise the region’s visibility by showing off new high-rises in the opening credits. It was when developers Ugo Colombo and Jorge Pérez entered the condo business.

The 1990’s saw a slowdown in high rise construction from the previous decade, as half the number of tall buildings rose skyward. It was a decade when crime and corruption helped dissuade many developers and investors from operating in Miami. But the urban core did start to fill in as “down-zoning” forced a limit on buildings near the ocean to 200 feet. So developers looked toward empty spaces from Coconut Grove to Brickell to Midtown. Along with new residential towers, commercial construction also altered the Miami skyline in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The 34-story InterContinental Miami hotel in downtown Miami was completed in 1982, and the following year, the neighboring 34-story Miami Center office building opened. The tallest 80’s-vintage office tower and Miami’s first true skyscraper, the 55-story Southeast Financial Center—rose in 1984 and the 28-story Stephen P. Clark Center, opened in 1985. A surplus of commercial space developed after four more office high-rises crowded into the Brickell market in 1986: the 33-story Brickell Bayview Center, the 27-story 1221 Brickell building, 33-story One Brickell Square and the 33-story 701 Brickell building. The year 1986 also saw the opening of three office buildings with inland locations closer to Interstate 95 than Biscayne Bay: the 29-story Museum Tower, the 30-story Courthouse Center and the landmark CenTrust Tower, the sleek 47-story office building that changes color at night, which is now known as the Miami Tower. MAY/JUNE 2015


Bernardo Fort-Brescia

BERNARDO FORT-BRESCIA Yes, it was Fort-Brescia’s firm that designed the Atlantis, the venerable condo by the bay with the hole in the middle. Fort-Brescia says he and his wife, Laurinda Spear, did not jump into the architectural profession to “purely make a statement for the sake of it.” They had arrived in Miami in the late 1970’s when inflation was

through the roof, and the climate for new construction was grim. “We were looking to do something contemporary that reflected the excitement and exuberance of the tropics,” he recalled. “Both my wife and I had gone to school in New England. I was at Harvard and she was at M.I.T. She was from South Florida. She had a particular insight into Florida. I was from Peru.”

The Palace boasts 42 floors of luxury residences on Brickell.

They were, he said, more about ideas than style, “not just designing for the sake of design but we had to bring some values.” “We were always very careful to have a story about our buildings—a reason why they were created the way they were created,” he said. “It was really our intent to do that. I think that’s what helped us succeed.” Thus, Arquitectonica highrises conveyed a sense of community and sharing, where residents had places in the building to gather together, such as a square a la South America. Today, their business born in Coconut Grove has offices in the U.S., Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Eastern Asia. Locally, a diversified portfolio includes Brickell City Centre; condo towers such as 500 Brickell Condo; Bentley Bay in Miami Beach; Icon Brickell Condo and Viceroy Resort and the Marquis & Casa Moderna Hotel & Spa in Miami. In his 1987 book, “Miami City of the Future,” author T.D. Allman wrote that Arquitectonica delivered a “revolutionary new style” to the burgeoning metropolis. “Far from representing some foreign ‘takeover,’ Arquitectonica was a stunningly successful example of Miami’s ability to attract foreign talent, and to arouse in it possibilities that couldn’t exist anywhere else.”

EDGARDO DEFORTUNA Edgardo DeFortuna was 24 years old when he departed Buenos Aires, for what was supposed to be a three-month stay in Miami.

Brickell Key One, a 22-story condo tower, is completed.

“After experiencing what the U.S. lifestyle and the Miami lifestyle was like, I never went back,” he said. Miami’s vertical development was sparse back then. “I got to Miami in 1982, and the skyline, especially in the downtown business district, was very thin,” DeFortuna, 57, recalls. “The residential high-rise buildings were just starting in the Brickell corridor south from 15th Street all the way to the Rickenbacker Causeway.” By the end of the 1990’s, DeFortuna was planning Jade Residences at Brickell, a highrise condominium project that set new standards for luxury living in South Florida. “Jade had elevators directly into your unit,” said DeFortuna. “It’s almost like the norm now on the luxury side, but before, it was almost unheard of.” In the early 1980’s, DeFortuna studied at UM and found a niche that would open a new career path. “While I was getting my MBA, my father and some partners of his had acquired some [condo] units in the Brickell corridor in the 19801981 period. I started helping them manage and maintain their properties,” he said. In doing so, “I recognized that there was a big niche that wasn’t covered. And that was servicing the foreign buyers, specifically Latin American buyers,” said DeFortuna, president of family-run and Miami-based Fortune International Realty. “They can really have a safe haven here,” he added. “We were one of the early ones to see that.”

Southeast Financial Center, tallest office building in city and state built at 55 floors. Miami Center downtown office building and Pavilion Hotel (now InterContinental) each completed with 34 floors.







1980’s 44

Photo by Gio Alma


Ezra Katz, founder and CEO of the Aztec Group Inc., played a major role in financing new commercial developments, including the $142 million sale of 13-high-rise buildings in the Hallandale area from developer Sam Adler in 1983. “That was a game-changer for the market and for me personally,” said Katz. “At that time, there was not a lot of liquidity in the real estate market as the capital markets did not consider real estate to be big business. However, the costs of a transaction were much less than they are today. For instance, loan documents that used to be 10 pages now run 100 pages or more.” Katz has been described as Florida’s leading real estate dealmaker and financial engineer who is known for his innovative strategies in creating joint ventures and solving complex real estate transactions. He began his real estate career in 1971 after graduating from Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering. He spent three years in the residential construction business as a construction superintendent in Cleveland. He then joined US Realty Investments, a NYSE equity REIT, where he oversaw development, management and workouts of more than 50 properties throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. After liquidating the REIT’s assets in 1980, he formed Aztec Group in 1981. The firm became recognized as the premier real estate investment banking firm in Florida. In 1993, he formed Mayan Properties, a merchant bank, to invest in real estate transactions as a principal in a variety of partnerships. He built a diverse portfolio of office buildings, shopping centers, residential land development, hotels, industrial and healthcare/senior housing. Between Aztec Group and Mayan Properties, Katz has been involved in over $12 billion in closed transactions as a principal and intermediary/broker.

Ezra Katz

Grand Doubletree rises to 42 floors near Omni and next to Biscayne Bay. Stephen P. Clark Government Center rises to 28 floors in middle of downtown Miami.

Courthouse Center, a 30-floor venue for 11th Judicial Circuit, completed. 701 Brickell Ave. office building completed at 33 floors.

110 Tower Fort Lauderdale office building completed with 30 floors.




CenTrust Tower, now known as Miami Tower, completed in downtown at 47 floors.


1980’s Broward Financial Center rises to 24 floors in downtown Fort Lauderdale.


Photo by Gio Alma





Eagon joined Stiles Corporation, the Broward-based commercial real estate company in 1981. As the president of the firm founded by the father of the current chairman, Terry Stiles, Eagon oversees Stiles’ operations, investments and finances. He once served as a city planner for the Fort Lauderdale Planning Department and the Broward County Office of Planning. Stiles played an integral role in the development of the downtown Fort Lauderdale skyline. The projects include the office, retail and residential towers, 300 Las Olas Place, Las Olas Centre, New River Center, One Blockbuster Plaza, Bank of America Plaza at Las Olas City Centre and 350 Las Olas Place. Elsewhere in Broward, the company developed projects such as Corporate Park at Cypress Creek, in uptown Fort Lauderdale in 1980, the first master planned corporate part in the county. The firm also developed the 650-acre Sawgrass International Corporate Park in Sunrise. Eagon said demand for verticial development was primarily confined to downtown Miami and downtown Fort Lauderdale in the 1980’s. “You started to see meaningful vertical development along the Brickell Avenue corridor that included both office and residential,” he said. “In downtown Fort Lauderdale some vertical office development took place along the Broward Boulevard corridor. By the late ‘80’s vertical office development

had shifted to the Las Olas Boulevard corridor.” In the suburbs, “a significant amount of office and retail development” took place because that was where the population growth was occurring. “Master planned business parks were being developed and corporate America was locating offices in these because of proximity to reasonable commutes for the executive housing and within general workforce,” he added. “Retail was servicing the growing residential base.”

JEAN FRANCOIS ROY The Canadian-born developer grew up in Quebec City and built retirement homes before migrating south to Broward County in 1990 with the idea of replicating his work in Fort Lauderdale. “The market was really bad with the savings and loan crisis,” he recalled. “There was no financing available. We bought an old hotel on the beach for almost nothing.” He bought five more hotels in the early 1990’s with the goal of building retirement homes on the beach. But that’s where the plan ended—as an idea. “We didn’t build one senior citizen home because the condominium market came on very strong.” His first project was in Hallandale Beach. Since then he became involved with the 41-story Trump Hollywood and the Ritz-Carlton Singer Island, which is 40 stories high. These days, he’s developing lowerlevel waterfront condos below 16 or 17 stories in the Fort Lauderdale area.

Photo by Gio Alma


Ugo Colombo

Courvoisier Centre on Brickell Key. Twin-tower office project completed. New River Center, 21-floor, former home of Sun-Sentinel completed in Fort Lauderdale.

Wachovia Center in Fort Lauderdale rises downtown at 23 floors.







1990’s 46

“Compared with what was selling in 1990 and 2000, now the product is completely different,” he said. “The size of the condo unit was 1,500 to 2,000 square feet. Between 2000 and 2010 the size ranged from 2,000 to 2,500. Now it’s 2,500 and 3,500.” Ceiling requirements demanded by customers are also as high as 10 feet compared to the eight- to ninefoot ceilings of the past. “People are getting more sophisticated. They are very demanding.” In a nod to a healthier lifestyle, Roy is now building a group of smoke-free residential projects— including the AquaBlue, AquaLuna, AquaVita, and 1800 Las Olas developments.

UGO COLOMBO Ugo Colombo showed an early talent for deal making shortly after the Imperial condominium opened in 1983. The Imperial’s original developer failed to survive, so “I purchased about a third of the units there with FDIC financing, and basically resold them,” Colombo recalled in an interview at his 24th-floor office on Brickell Avenue. Then another investment opportunity emerged when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation took over Villa Regina, a multicolored, high-rise condo at 1581 Brickell Avenue that Colombo wanted to acquire as a whole, not in units. “That was a little big for me,” he said, “so I bought it with the Trammel Crow Company, and there was an extensive renovation and redo of the building.” When he first heard about the Imperial condo project, Colombo was in his 20’s, living in his native Italy and longing to attend college

in New York. “My father bought a few apartments in the Imperial in the previous cycle. And I wanted to go to college in the U.S. My dad said, ‘Why do you want to go to New York when you’ve got an apartment in Miami?’ He didn’t get much resistance from me,” said Colombo, who entered the MBA program at the University of Miami. “I started in ‘83 and I graduated in ‘87. It took me a little bit longer because, at the end, I started working.” Colombo formed his diversified real estate company CMC Group with two partners and “started by managing [condo] units for a lot of investors that bought these units in the previous cycle. So, originally, it was a condominium and apartment management company.” But by the early 1990’s, Colombo was wearing a developer’s hat and planning 41-story Bristol Tower, the first high-rise condominium built on Brickell Avenue after the early 1980’s—“which, looking back, was a crazy risk,” the Italianborn developer said. “It worked. But today, 30 years later, if I had to do that again, I’m not sure I would have the guts to do it. Back then, I had no experience building anything, so I got lucky having the right people in my company and more importantly— “the right construction people.” And in unit sizes ranging from 2,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet at the penthouse level, where he resided for a while, Colombo said the Bristol Tower units were “twice the size of any units ever built” in Miami at that time. “That was my first experience with development, along with a small hotel in Miami Beach,” Colombo said. Boosted

by the successful 1994 opening of Bristol Tower, he built another high-rise condominium on Brickell, the 51-story Santa Maria, which opened in 1997. “I mainly stayed on this side of Biscayne Bay,” Colombo said. “One of the things I regret in my career is not locking in land in Miami Beach” prior to a surge in the city’s development starting in the 1990’s. “As far as a massive development on the Beach, I sort of missed that.”

MATTHEW B. GORSON An affluent German-born investor named Thomas Kramer bought and sold land south of Fifth Street in Miami Beach, including several sites for skyline-changing residential developments. “He owned the property where Portofino Tower is and the whole oceanfront piece where the two Continuum towers are,” and north of the nearby Penrod’s nightclub, “he bought the next two or three sites,” said Matthew B. Gorson, shareholder and co-chairman of law firm Greenberg Traurig, which represented Kramer. “He tried to buy Penrod’s.” Perhaps the most pivotal South Beach project that Kramer undertook was the 44-story Portofino Tower condominium development, which he failed to finish without help from Jorge Pérez and his Miami-based Related Group, which had operated solely as a rental apartment developer up to that point. Kramer “got up to 10 or 12 stories [at Portofino Tower] and he ran out of money. And so we introduced him to Jorge Pérez, who became a partner and finished that off,” Gorson said.

Santa Maria—At 51 floors on Brickell, tallest building to be constructed in the decade. Courvoisier Courts, 28-floor residential building, is completed on Brickell Key.

One Tequesta Point, at 30 floors, is built by Swire on Brickell Key.

“And that put Jorge in the condo business.” When Portofino Tower opened in 1997, “that was Jorge’s first condo.” Kramer then proceeded to unload his South Beach land holdings, Gorson said, and “Jorge ended up buying the rest of the sites from Kramer except the Continuum,” the oceanfront condominium complex that developer Bruce Eichner built on the southern tip of Miami Beach. Related Group followed the 1997 opening of Portofino Tower with the 1999 opening of the 33-story Yacht Club at Portofino nearby. The same year, 1999, Related finished Ocean One, an oceanfront condominium development in Sunny Isles Beach.

LUCIA DOUGHERTY “At the same time in the 90’s, Miami Beach down-zoned everything,” said Lucia Dougherty, Greenberg Traurig shareholder and co-chair of the law firm’s Miami land development and zoning practice. “They down-zoned everything to a maximum [height] of 200 feet on the ocean. That helped the city of Miami develop its downtown core all the way up through Midtown from Coconut Grove and Brickell Avenue. Brickell Avenue actually started to develop in the 90’s with Ugo Colombo, Bristol Tower and the Santa Maria.” Dougherty said the Miami-Dade County government’s establishment of a development boundary at the edge of the Everglades also spurred real estate development in Miami’s urban core by discouraging development in the western extremities of the county.

Two Tequesta Point rises on Brickell Key at 40 floors.






1990’s MAY/JUNE 2015


Lucia Dougherty Dougherty has made her own indirect contribution to the Miami skyline by advising developers who secured municipal and county approvals for major real estate projects. Representing numerous developers of residential, commercial, retail and mixed-use towers in Miami and Miami Beach. Dougherty was named “Empress of the Skyline” by South Florida CEO magazine in recognition of her work as a land use and zoning attorney. She has served as the legal counsel to the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau since 1988. 48


W. ALLEN MORRIS Landmark changes also came in the 1990’s to the skyline of Coral Gables just south of Miami International Airport. Few of the city’s landmarks are bigger or richer than the 174,000-squarefoot Alhambra Towers office building in the central business district of Coral Gables. The award-winning building, which houses the headquarters of its developer, The Allen Morris Company, opened in 2002, “but we started the project, basically on paper, in ‘98,” said the company’s CEO and chairman

W. Allen Morris. His firm took advantage of an engineeringrelated delay during the preconstruction phase of Alhambra Towers “to further refine the building and make it exactly what we wanted it to be ... to make it the best building we ever built.” Market conditions leading up to the 1998 startup of the project had been challenging. “There was a period of time in the mid-90’s when we were just coming out of the recession and we had gone through a big commercial real estate recession. A lot of buildings had

been built when there was no demand for them,” Morris said. But excessive office development had bypassed Coral Gables, Morris said, and he wanted to challenge the presumption that “all the best buildings were on Brickell.” Morris, a licensed pilot who once considered a career as a minister, said the Alhambra Towers project “was in some ways a roll of the platinum dice, because we built it to a quality level way above anything else in the market,” with granite and brass finishes as well as some unusual features for a modern office building. “On top of the building, on the westerly tower, we have a 21st century reinterpretation of the Giralda Tower in the Cathedral of Seville, with a working weather vane,” Morris said. He followed in the footsteps of his late father, a real estate professional raised in Atlanta. His mother, who died at age 97 this past February, was a native of Atlanta, too, but she followed her husband’s career to Miami, where his first job was president of the Keyes Realtors residential brokerage firm. Morris said his father and his mother finally agreed, after Keyes pelted him with recruiting calls, to accept an invitation to spend a weekend in Miami as guests of the firm. Keyes “put them up in the [old] Columbus hotel” in downtown Miami, Morris recounted. “They had dinner at the top of the Columbus, looked out at the moonlight over Biscayne Bay, Bayfront Park, the palm trees, in January, and they said, ‘You know, this really is a beautiful place. Why don’t we try it for a year?’ That was 1947.” His parents stayed and raised their family in Miami. “They got sand in their shoes,” Morris said. His company, however, has completed developments throughout Florida, Georgia and other parts of the Southeast. “We’re getting ready to build a

Photo by Gio Alma


Photo by Gio Alma

W. Allen Morris new project near Georgia Tech,” where he and his father graduated, he said. Morris, a graduate of the Harvard Business School, said creating a special sense of place is his main professional ambition: “Real estate is not just real estate; it’s understanding a broader world.”

STEPHEN OWENS Understanding a broader world helped Steve Owens lead the development of Brickell Key by Swire Properties, a major

contributor to the Miami skyline south of the Miami River. Owens was born and raised in a tiny North Carolina town, and his career path led him to the highrise Hong Kong market, where he worked from 1989 to 1993. Plymouth, North Carolina, population about 2,000, is “the third little town west of Cape Hatteras,” Owens said. “We didn’t have a traffic light. We had a blinking light.” The tallest building in town was the courthouse, three stories including the cupola on top. Owens said most residents never left his hometown; many worked at a

big paper mill or farmed. But Owens left for Greenville, to attend East Carolina University. “I thought I wanted to be a banker, because my mother worked in the local bank, and the most prominent person in town was the bank president,” he said. He graduated with a degree in finance and got his first job handling commercial mortgages. “I didn’t like banking. It was a little too boring, too structured, I suppose,” Owens said. “I found the people that we were lending money to were more interesting than we were.”

So he joined global real estate investment firm Swire Properties in 1977 and spent the next 12 years working in Tampa, then Houston and Miami. He accepted a transfer to Hong Kong to oversee the company’s hotel properties there. The move was a professional and personal challenge. “I had just gotten married a month before we moved over there,” he recalled. And within weeks of their arrival, Chinese authorities infamously cracked down on protesters at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, which deeply depressed the MAY/JUNE 2015


Stephen Owens Hong Kong real estate and stock markets. But working through the Hong Kong market crash “was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Owens said. “You learn 10 times as much in a down market, or a correction, or a recession. A rising market lifts all ships and covers all sins. Mistakes are covered up by a rising market, but in a down market, every mistake is amplified and the challenges are so much greater. So you have to be smarter, and you have to be attuned to what’s happening in the market.” Swire Properties, which bought majority ownership of Brickell Key in 1979, changed the island’s name to promote 50


the company’s development strategy. “We changed the name of this island when we bought it from Claughton Island to Brickell Key because we want to be part of the Brickell district,” Owens said. “We want to be a part of the city. We don’t want to be like Fisher Island, exclusive.” That was the opposite of the advice many consultants were giving Swire Properties after Owens transferred back to Miami in 1993. “The planning mindset of Miami at that time was that what we were doing was not a good thing. They were looking at the Brickell model, which was security, gated, not really embracing the public,” he said in an interview at the U.S.

headquarters of Swire Properties on Brickell Key. “We wanted a hotel here. We already owned two office buildings, which opened in 1985 and 1988 respectively.” The development focus of Swire turned to residential towers from office buildings in the 1990’s as the company made multiple high-rise contributions to the Miami skyline. Along the northeast corner of triangularshaped Brickell Key, Swire opened the 30-story One Tequesta Point in 1995 and 40-story Two Tequesta Point in 1999. The Mandarin Oriental Miami hotel opened in 2000 on the southern tip of Brickell Key. The 46-story Three Tequesta Point, which opened in 2001, is

the personal residence of Owens, who has lived on Brickell Key since 1995. He has achieved the modern nirvana of urban living: Developing a place where he and others can live, work and play without getting into a car. “It’s really about the aftermath, this sort of place-making,” Owens said. “Is it a place that made a positive difference in the lives of people?” Now, Owens is spreading the concept to the south side of the Miami River, the scene of the buildout of Brickell City Centre. It’s literally a “city within a city” with three 40-story-plus towers, a hotel, condos, offices, restaurants, entertainment centers and high-end retail.

Photo by Jorge Parra


Johnny Winton and Manny Diaz

THE 2000’s

FROM BOOM TO BUST TO RECOVERY The new millennium generates excess, remorse and a marketplace revival.

Photo by Stephen Boxall

By David Lyons On a recent Saturday morning in Miami, a long line of mixer trucks waited their turn on Brickell Avenue to deliver cargo to what was billed as the largest concrete foundation pour in the state of Florida. The project: the 83-story “Panorama Miami” by Florida East Coast Realty, advertised as one of the largest construction projects in Miami history. When finished in 2017, it will be the tallest structure south of New York, promoters say. The project is another in a decades-long series of high-rise developments by the octogenarian builder Tibor Hollo. In the 1970’s, he was in the vanguard of those who introduced residential buildings where owners and renters could live, work and play at the same location. Two weeks after the Panorama pour, the concrete behemoths returned to the neighborhood, this time to lay the foundation for 1010 Brickell, a planned 52-story glass-faced tower with a rooftop pool and other amenities. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Everglades, Miami and Fort Lauderdale are going vertical in a rebound from an economic crash that many thought would not be possible for years. Contrary to popular forecast, the recovery is so aggressive that even when one accounts for the Crash of 2008, more high-rise structures were built between 2000 and the present day than in the previous 40 years, according to calculations by former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz. The ex-mayor, whose book, “Miami Transformed” chronicles his efforts to change the city from an unstable urban area to a worldwide destination of choice, figures there have been 306 high-rises erected in the city through 2010. Developers are happy. And so are the financiers and other professionals who are part of the real estate development food chain. In no small part, South Florida’s rebound boom of the 21st century has been made possible by easier money, as well as a friendlier city government that welcomes most new projects. “We are truly grateful for the cooperation that we have received from the City of Miami and its leaders, in our effort to create this global, iconic landmark and a legacy for the City of Miami and its proud citizens,” Tibor Hollo wrote in an advertising brochure touting his Panorama project. MAY/JUNE 2015


1970’s1980’s1990’s2000’s+ MANNY DIAZ JOHNNY WINTON Diaz, an attorney, and Winton, an investor-developer, entered local government as mayor and city commissioner for essentially the same reason. “We began to look around and say you know, ‘there are a lot of good people with substantial investments looking to make downtown Miami a reasonable place to do business and to create growth,’” Winton recalled. “We all felt strongly that the failure for the city of Miami to grow and develop was laid straight at the door of the politicians,” said Winton, a commissioner from 1999-2007. Diaz said developers felt the city was an inhospitable place. Among other things, the city often withdrew support for projects even after developers spent considerable sums for the necessary approvals. “God awful politics,” he said. Diaz said he entered city government with three “guiding principles:” Instill a sense of public safety, show government can be trusted and show that government can be a partner with the private sector. “If the city is perceived to not be safe no one wants to be here and no one wants to invest here,” he said. As for trust, he said there was “a tremendous downside for someone in the development world to spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions of approval and then at the last minute, have a politician or group of politicians for whatever Mandarin Oriental Miami hotel opens on the southern tip of Brickell Key.

reason … backing down and say, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t approve it.’’ Diaz said he gave developers handshake pledges that his office would back them during the approval process. “When they walked out our offices with a handshake they knew we were going to go to the wall with them.” Once a project moved forward, he said his office would engage in troubleshooting if bureaucratic problems arose. “They for the first time saw elected officials who actually left their office, got in the car and went to the construction site and said, ‘what’s the problem that needs to be resolved?’ So we were hands on.”

GARY SAUL The law firm of Greenberg Traurig has helped bring scores of high rise development to fruition. Miami land use specialist Gary Saul has had a close-up view of the explosive growth that sent the skyline soaring. “If we were to split [the decade] in half, the froth of the 2000’s came from easy money,” he said. “To some extent it was a telltale sign of the problems to come. People were getting 90 percent loans on a regular basis. It was a time where there was very little investment that you had to make. So as product started to go up we had a marketplace of condos becoming a commodity or currency.” “What I think we all learned is that the buyers had no intention of being there at the end,” he recalled. “They were not prepared to pay 100 percent of the purchase price. And they

Tower 101 office building in Fort Lauderdale built to 20 floors.

only had enough money to pay 20 percent of the purchase price. If they could flip it, it was great. They were not planning on closing.” But then the prices stopped appreciating and “flippers couldn’t flip.” “The banks were a little bit frozen,” he added, and not many lenders had experience working out bad loans. Around 2009, “there was probably a full year of nobody doing anything.” The market, though, did not stay frozen for the ten years forecast by media pundits. They did not count on investors who bought units to rent them, or who bought them as second or third or fourth homes. “What happened turned out to be the best thing for South Florida,” Saul said. “Once the units were re-priced and they all got rebought they became that much more affordable for rent.” It was young professionals who became the tenants. “So it created a real downtown because we have residents in the buildings. By putting people in the buildings the need for retail and restaurants was created and once that gets further developed everyone wants to be there.” “It’s a much more cautious time,” he said, and Miami is a much more mature city. “We’re seeing virtually no assignability or flipping at all,” he said. And the city is a place where people come and stay. “It’s become a more sophisticated destination where the world wants to be.”

Bank of America Plaza at Las Olas City Centre in Fort Lauderdale built to 23 floors.

Four Seasons Hotel Miami, 56th tallest building in U.S., built with 64 floors.

SUZANNE AMADUCCI-ADAMS The hotel and retail specialist joined the Miami law firm of Bilzin Sumberg, in 1998. “Miami was definitely maturing,” she recalled. “International money was definitely starting to come. Miami was really in its growth phase. Money was plentiful and lending was not an issue.” The year 2006 was the “peak year” and the condo market was strong. “Then the recession hit and the capital markets completely fell off the face of the earth. Banks weren’t lending anywhere.” Before the plunge, the development profession was a wide open field, she recalled. “Anyone could be a developer, the prices were just going up and it looked like the supply of buyers were endless and people got into the development business who knew nothing about development,” she said. “The designs were poor, too. People were just trying to maximize density and weren’t giving any thought to how they would function.” As the transaction wheels spun, the paperwork also got sloppy. The trend included legal documents and underwriting. And as pressure grew to get deals done, more questionable loans were made to unqualified borrowers. “It was a flipper’s world,” she said. Even a cocktail waitress could buy three or four condos. “The music stopped very suddenly. I think we were short more than one chair.” The snapback came when foreign investors from Brazil and Russia came to town. Developers Las Olas River House becomes Fort Lauderdale’s tallest building, completed with 42 floors.







2000’s 52

Miami River residential development takes hold with gradual start of projects.

and lenders became more cautious, the inventory turned out to be two to three years and not a decade. “We had a lot of buyers from the international market that we haven’t seen before,” she said. “We don’t know who the next someone will be.”

CRAIG STUDNICKY The founding principal of the ISG real estate firm started in South Florida 21 years ago and serves mainly the high end market.

Just inside of the last 12 months he’s seen his client base shift from mainly South American to 50 percent sales from Northeast US buyers and 50 percent South America, with half of that segment from Brazil. “The high-end Brazilian buyer is losing a lot of faith in the government of Brazil and the short term future of Brazil,” he said. “They see the government sliding to the left steadily.” The strong dollar has had the effect of drying up the Russian market, although the dip in

Carbonell Condominium rises to 40 floors on Brickell Key.

interest started with the political “There’s a whole bunch of upheaval in Ukraine, an event factors that have developers that triggered Western sanctions not panicking—the overall against Moscow. macroeconomic conditions are Overall, Studnicky sees more favorable than pre-2008.” today’s local market as having “People keep moving here a stronger foundation than at a ridiculous rate,” he added. before the crash. “If you’re buying a condo on “We don’t have nearly as the Intracoastal, the probability much unsold inventory as we of reselling in 3 to 5 years for a did,” he said. “We have about 8 profit is pretty good.” months of developer supply in Miami. You have 12 months of supply in Fort Lauderdale and 6 Miami 21, Mayor Diaz zoning blueprint months of supply in Palm for a pedestrian-friendly city, passed Beach.” by commission.

The Loft 2, a 35-story residential building with MetroMover pass-through, completed downtown.

Epic Hotel built by developer Ugo Colombo along Miami River at 54 floors.

Marquis Residences, tallest all-residential skyscraper in Southeast at 63 floors, completed. 200 Las Olas Circle in Fort Lauderdale rises to 17 floors.





2000’s 350 Las Olas Centre, a 30-floor condo high-rise, built in Fort Lauderdale.


Photo by Gio Alma

Suzanne Amaducci-Adams



1970’s1980’s1990’s2000’s+ ALICIA CERVERA SR ALICIA CERVERA JR JESSE OTTLEY Alicia Cervera Sr started Cervera Real Estate as a onewoman shop more than 45 years ago. Over the decades, the firm has steered its way through a number of downturns and likes today’s growth prospects. Buyer interest, the executives like to say, lies in the maturation of Miami itself. “At some point there was a tipping point you hit where you get a waterfall, if you will,” said Alicia Jr. “Art Basel was a catalyst for sure. It became this cultural hub. You have great access to the city. We have a wonderful airport and seaport. I also say Miami is like a great love affair. You want to spend more time there.” As for the products on the marketplace, the space and the amenities have spiked interest in the international marketplace, said Alicia Sr. “The size of the apartments have increased substantially,” she said. The same qualities are at play in Fort Lauderdale, where the firm is an active player. “Fort Lauderdale is a natural extension of Miami,” Alicia Jr said. “As Miami goes, so goes Fort Lauderdale and the rest of the state.” Jesse Ottley, the president of development sales who joined the firm several years ago, says Miami “is very much a global brand and that’s the quantum shift” from the early 2000’s. He sees the nascent technology movement in Miami providing the area with a new consistent source of economic activity. A native of Australia, he came to Miami after spending time developing a client base in Venezuela and brought it with him. “It’s sort of the gift that keeps giving,” he said. “When things are bad in South America, the money comes to Miami. When things are good in Miami, the money comes to Miami.” 54


CARLOS ROSSO As President of the Condominium Division of The Related Group, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate says South Florida is on the cusp of “huge, huge changes” in the urban landscape and Rosso sees this as a “big change—a big shift that we are not really conscious of yet.” “You’re going to see office and retail developed alongside residential,” said Rosso, a native of Argentina who joined the company in 2002. “All of the sectors are helping to make Brickell and downtown a vibrant community. Living in Brickell is more desirable than it was a couple of years ago because you have more of everything you need to enjoy life including great dining, nightlife and shopping. We also feel there is going to be a big influx of people who already work on Brickell or downtown. Convenience and quality of life is a big plus.” He has good reason to not only hope—but expect—that the shift will become a reality. The Related Group has a huge stake in the city’s Brickell district. Within blocks of each other, the BH02 Brickell Heights project is rising a block south from Swire’s Brickell City Centre. Site preparations are under way at the SLS Lux project across the street from City Centre. Slightly farther to the south, the 42-story 1100 Millecento project was recently completed and keys are being turned over to owners. It’s a vindication for Rosso’s boss, founding chairman and CEO Jorge Pérez, who restructured the company after the 2008 financial crisis. Now, Related employs a diversified strategy that includes luxury high-rise condominiums, multifamily rentals and affordable housing. Related also is involved in the international marketplace with investments in Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Panama and India. Rosso’s condo division has multi-faceted initiatives around South Florida.

Other Miami-Dade projects are in Edgewater, Midtown, Coconut Grove and South Beach. Along the shoreline in Broward County, Rosso said the company is developing high rise condos on the beach that are affordable and at a fraction of the prices found on South Beach. The company has also entered into joint ventures with other developers. “It’s better not to fight—let’s do it together.” Overall, he is guiding 15 condo projects with 4,500 units in South Florida and in international locations.

GIL DEZER The father-son team of Michael and Gil Dezer can’t be matched when it comes to shoreline ownership in Sunny Isles Beach. They started buying hotels in the area in 1995 and proceeded to develop four oceanfront towers. Today, they own more than 27 acres with 2,100 feet of beachfront between 158th and 191st streets along Collins Avenue, according to their company website. The family has a sizable portfolio in New York. “We were always beach buyers,” Gil Dezer said. “On the ocean everything was luxury. The level of luxury done has really evolved into a sophisticated type of unit the customer was looking for.” One of the more exotic proposed family developments is the Porsche Design Tower in Sunny Isles, where well-heeled buyers would be able to lift their automobiles aboard elevators to their condos. Separately, Dezer and The Related Group have teamed with Armani/Casa Interior Design Studio for a 60-story tower called Residence by Armani/Casa in Sunny Isles. It’s the type of branding intended to draw the elite few. Dezer really doesn’t want much to do with buyers who don’t talk in seven figures. “We really went after a different buyer profile than we had ever seen before—very wealthy

buyers,” he said. “The joke in the sales office was if someone walked in and asked what the maintenance [fee] was, they’re not buyers.” Thus, Dezer amenities tend to include wine lockers and cigar lounges as opposed to card rooms “which never got used.” Glib now, he knows the company dodged a bullet in 2009 when no buyers were closing shortly before Lehman Bros. collapsed. “That’s when we started to face the music,” he recalled. Fortunately he was able to extend the company’s bank loans and start selling. “We knew that going forward we had to create projects that were not going to be for the financially finicky,” he said. “We’d have to come up with something that was never done before.” By 2013, he said, “we knew we had a great market. We sold very well for high dollars per square foot, double than what was being sold for.” The Porsches and Armani brand luxe towers are selling well. Armani starts off at $1.5 million and finishes at around $6 million. Porsche starts at $6.5 million and goes up to $32 million. “If anyone walks into this office, you basically can’t let them leave,” he said. “We have the entire gamut of the price range.”

RYAN SHEAR A Miami native, Shear runs Florida for Property Management Group, a company that calls New York its hometown. Among a half dozen projects in the region, the developer is building The Muse, a 47-story luxury tower on Collins Avenue in Sunny lsles Beach. Others are Echo Brickell, Echo Avenutra and Sage Beach in Hollywood. “We’ve been in South Florida about 15 years,” Shear said. “We felt we had a good point of entry—we liked what was going on. It’s a cheap market to enter. There is a connection between

Photo by Isaac Zapata

Masoud Shojaee

Manhattan and South Florida.” The clientele is almost all international, he said. “They’re mostly South American,” he said. “That’s the lion’s share.” Their motives for coming: investment and a little bit of asset protection. The dollar’s strong push to the upside is hurting a lot of foreign customers, particularly the Russians. “The strength of the dollar is crushing us right now,” he said. “That’s the toughest part to deal with. Condos that were costing $1 million re now costing $2 million.That’s a damper on their day.” Despite the difficulties faced by some client groups, the firm

is forging ahead with its projects as sales remain good. And recently, an affiliate bought two acres in downtown Miami for $80 million.

MASOUD SHOJAEE To the eye of the promoter, the city of Doral is Miss Universe and celebrity developer Donald Trump and his championship golf course. To the more discerning eye, there are many parts that are “aesthetically displeasing,” such as the “ugly collection of retail and never-ending strip malls.” That’s according to condo developer Jorge Pérez of The

Related Group. He has teamed with Masoud Shojaee and Shoma Homes to build CityPlace Doral. It’s another “city-within-a-city” concept designed to provide urban outliers with the opportunity to affordably “live, work and play” without leaving the confines of their community. The plan is for 5,600 residences and an array of restaurants, shops, offices and a park to cover 55 acres. “We are taking this city to another level,” Shojaee said in an interview. “There is now a lot of attention coming to the City of Doral. You’re going to see a lot of mid-rises. That’s

been one of our successes since 1985.” Actually, there was no city called Doral in the 1980’s. Ryder System maintained its headquarters there until it moved to another location. Shoma acquired the property, demolished the building and built the Park Square Doral development. Shojaee came here in 1978 and earned a Master’s Degree from the University of Miami. In 1985 he was studying for his PhD, when he decided to enter real estate. “Time flies so fast,” he said. “We did 12,000 units within 30 years from DadeCounty to Palm Beach County. We have seen it all in different markets.” MAY/JUNE 2015


Photo by Candace West


Joseph Kavana

JOSEPH KAVANA For Joseph Kavana, Metropica, a $1 billion luxury residential-commercial enclave in Sunrise, has been ten years in the making. The CEO of K Group Holdings envisions eight condo towers of between 22 and 28 stories. Together, they will contain 2,800 residential units. The development, which is expected to be completed in 2017, effectively will give Sunrise, a solid half hour by car to the west of downtown Fort Lauderdale, its own unique skyline. It will even contain its own central park. “It’s a wave of the future,” he said. “People do not want to spend hours in their cars. They want to have everything right 56


there. It’s different than Brickell City Centre. You’re dealing with 50 acres. It gives us a chance to develop a beautiful park.” He said the residential area will be an entity unto itself, with the retail and office component separated from where people live. “It’s a very relaxed place to be,” he said. “It’s like an urban oasis.” Born in Uruguay, Kavana came to the U.S. in 1975 and lived in New York before moving to Florida in 1980. As a longtime resident, he is among those who have seen traffic issues grow worse, not better over the years. “We understand that the growth is coming north and where Metropica is being built is a very, very strategically located place,” he said.

HENRY TORRES Torres, the CEO of the Astor Companies, came from Cuba with his parents in 1959, lived a few years in New Jersey and came to Miami in 1968. Little Havana became his passion. His idea—through his InTown highrise that started construction in February—is to help make the long-time Cuban neighborhood a place where young people can afford to live and have fun. His 14-story residential tower is located about 2.5 miles west of Brickell City Centre. “Everything on Brickell is not within everybody’s [financial] reach,” he said. Torres was originally in the seafood business but “development was always

something in the back of my mind.” His company has built a number of mid-rise residential structures in Miami-Dade, including Brickell Vista in Little Havana. “They need to have something more reasonably priced, and that’s why we developed InTown,” he said of local residents. “We can cater to the masses, not just the few. I think Little Havana is definitely the up and coming neighborhood of the future. You see how people flock there on the weekend.” As with the developers of skyscrapers, Torres says he, too, has felt the support of politicians and local government who want to see Little Havana grow into an affordable but more prosperous place to live.

“Ever since 2002, I‘ve been looking at how it’s transformed,” he said. “It’s gone from a very low income area to a lot of middle class people moving into the area. There’s a lot of new businesses coming up, a lot of great activity going on, a lot of clubs, a lot of entertainment.” He says Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and the former mayor, Manny Diaz, have been supportive, as well as city commissioners Frank Carollo, Francis Suarez and Willie Gort. “They all want to see SW 8th Street improve,” he said. “They’ve talked about the upzoning on I-95. I think that will bring developers into the area to do something.”

Photo by Jorge Parra

LOUIS WOLFSON III Wolfson is a partner in Pinnacle Housing Group. He is a grandson of the late Miami media mogul Col. Mitchell Wolfson, whose conglomerate, Wometco, was a television pioneer in Miami that also maintained cable, radio and movie theater operations as well as the Miami Seaquarium. While Louis Wolfson III spent time in the family business, he has spent the bulk of his career in the affordable housing space. Between 1988 and 1996, he chaired the board of Greater Miami Neighborhoods, the largest nonprofit developer of affordable housing in South Florida. In 1997, he and four partners founded Miami-based Pinnacle to not only construct buildings but to redevelop blighted areas. Pinnacle develops, leases and owns affordably-priced, luxurystyled apartment homes. Its portfolio exceeds 6,000 units in Florida and elsewhere in the Southeast. “Col. Mitchell Wolfson, my grandfather said, ‘you can’t grow a town or community from the top down. You’ve got to grow a community from the bottom up. You need a strong foundation and upon that foundation we will all grow stronger together. But with a weak foundation we’ll all fall together.’”

Louis Wolfson III Louis Wolfson said the company has paid professional street artists and kids to paint murals in the neighborhoods. “These sort of things help you grow a community of over 50 years—how these blighted areas become more productive and more aware of home.” One example: The Pinnacle Park high-rise is a mixed income

development in the Liberty City neighborhood in Miami. Its mosaic tile image of iconic blues legend Muddy Waters faces southbound I-95. “Art is not just for the upper and middle classes but for everyone,” he said. “We’re dealing with the middle class and up and coming millennials,” Wolfson added. “We think that is a great

opportunity and direction in affordable housing.” Next up in Miami: Brickell View Terrace west of Mary Brickell Village, scheduled for completion in the fall of this year. “We have a 16-story parking garage next to a 26-story tower,” he said. “It’s going to be stunningly beautiful.” MAY/JUNE 2015



Brickell City Centre


WILL THE BOOM DELIVER A SILVER LINING? The growth in development creates a demand for new cultural projects and new infrastructure. By Susan R. Miller

From All Aboard Florida’s Grand Central Station inspired transportation hub with its 3-million-square-feet of mixed-use real estate, to Swire Properties’ Brickell City Centre, a $1.05 billion mixed-use development under construction in Miami’s financial district, South Florida is experiencing unprecedented growth both in the number of new projects as well as increasingly greater heights. Many of those responsible for the region’s real estate rebirth are long-time players in the market, while others are relatively new to the area’s burgeoning urbanism. But all have one thing in common: The desire to play a role in South Florida’s latest building boom and beyond. 58


People in the construction business like what they see. The boom in residential projects is creating a demand for new and improved infrastructure, they say, whether it is transportation projects to relieve South Florida’s terrible traffic problems or new museums and other cultural projects that are making the Miami area an attractive place for visitors and new residents. Whether it’s pedestrian-friendly mixed-use developments, or residential condos being built in previously untapped markets, those with their head—and their wallets—in the game see plenty of opportunity in the Magic City today and well into the future.



As the managing partner of Akerman’s Miami office, Kasdin is one of the long-time players in South Florida’s real estate market. The former Miami Beach mayor has been instrumental in the area’s revitalization, growth and development. An attorney who focuses his practice in land use and zoning, public-private partnerships, local government law, and procurement, Kasdin has guided countless clients in their efforts to transform Miami from a place where people once came to retire, to a vibrant global city. Where once Miami was a hub for Latin American investment, “Now what we are seeing is a high level of investment from around the world,” said Kasdin. “We are seeing that the equity and sponsors of these projects are global and are of the highest caliber. Against that backdrop, you have these marquis projects that are helping to change the identity of the region.” And he doesn’t see the growth stopping with Miami proper. “The next wave of what we will see in the evolution of the urban core is the satellite neighborhoods that surround downtown, or are approximate to downtown. The Biscayne Boulevard Corridor, Edgewater, Wynwood, the Design District, Midtown, even potentially east Little Havana,” said Kasdin. “All of these have long-term great upside potential in terms of development. I think it will foster more commercial in those areas.”

A partner with Akerman’s Real Estate Practice Group, T. Spencer Crowley III also has played a role in some of the larger projects getting done today. He has a slightly different perspective given his background. Crowley earned his master’s degree from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, and later went on to earn his law degree from the University of Florida. When it comes to growth and preservation Crowley said there is a constant struggle for balance. “In the work we do in the downtown area of Miami— whatever could have been preserved has been preserved and whatever has been developed in the past, can be redeveloped more efficiently and better for the environment in the future,” he said. Crowley has been involved with the Brickell City Centre project since late 2009 when Swire Properties approached Akerman with property it had assembled and wanted to move forward with a “special area plan” under the Miami 21 zoning code. SAPs, as they have come to be known, allow developers with nine acres or more to submit a detailed master plan up front. Crowley was a pioneer of the SAP, taking both Brickell City Centre and the Design District through the process. Crowley believes that revitalization of older properties and new construction can have a positive impact on South Florida’s environment. “I see the development patterns of the past as being

inefficient and undesirable and not optimized,” he said. Looking ahead: “The challenges we will face will be related to more people and congestion and that’s one thing we will have to overcome and find an answer to.”

P. MICHAEL REININGER Finding an answer to South Florida’s traffic congestion problem is part of P. Michael Reininger’s focus. The president and chief development officer of All Aboard Florida is tasked with delivering the project, which includes the rail infrastructure, stations and transit-oriented real estate development. His resume includes 12 years of work for subsidiaries of The Walt Disney Company, including Disney Vacation Club, Disneyland Paris and Disney Cruise Line. While his experience laid the groundwork for his latest role, he concedes: “There isn’t a big body of work that has gone before us that we can use as a point of departure. We are solving challenges and problems that haven’t been tackled before, so we have to manage our way through that situation every day.” All Aboard has numerous moving parts—from construction of rail stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando—to the creation of the mixed-use real estate component consisting of residential, retail and commercial that will accompany those stations. “At its core, what we are doing is infusing a very important piece of civic and transportation infrastructure into the heart of downtown Miami,” said Reininger, who expects to launch service in early 2017.

Brickell City Centre, Swire’s multi-tower, mixed-use project starts construction.

Wells Fargo Center, JW Marriott Marquis, both 42 floors in downtown Miami, joined at the hip.

Public transportation may not be the most top-of-mind thing when people think of South Florida, but Reininger believes there is a “robust set of systems” that already exists—from Metrorail to Metromover to Tri-Rail to the bus system. Still, he acknowledges the region has a long way to go. “If you look at those individually and in the aggregate … millions of people are using those services every day, every week, every month; it’s just they are not as fully integrated and therefore not as efficient as they otherwise might be,” he said.

NITIN MOTWANI Nitin Motwani sees his proposed project—Miami Worldcenter—playing a key role in the transformation of Miami into a world-class global city. The managing principal of Miami Worldcenter Associates has seen his company’s project grow to encompass 27 acres. He thinks the retail portion alone—a 120,000square-foot Bloomingdales and a 195,000-square-foot Macy’s—will transform the area from one filled with small mom-and-pop electronics and luggage stores to a luxury retail destination for tourists and residents. Construction preparation is set for the second quarter of 2015. “It’s been both exciting and challenging,” said Motwani. “If you had talked to me in 2009 and 2010, I would have said our greatest challenge was convincing people it was worth investing in Miami. Today, we are fortunate to have found people who have bought into our vision.”

Met 3 rises in middle of downtown. Whole Foods opens, construction continues for 41 floors of rentals.






2010’s MAY/JUNE 2015


1970’s1980’s1990’s2000’s+ “Florida has continued to see a positive and continuous population growth over the past several years. The people who are coming here today are more educated and have a higher earnings per capita than in decades before,” Karp said. “This will help to sustain the future growth of the only subtropical state in the lower 48.”

Carlos Melo, Martin Melo and Jose Luis Melo

MARTIN MELO As a third generation of builders and developers, Melo and his family came to Miami in 2001 to escape the economic and social crisis taking place in his homeland of Argentina. They liked the cultural mix; the mild weather and the sense of security the city gave them. Not long after, however, the real estate boom went bust. Without banks to finance construction, the Melo’s turned to a tried and true financing model they brought with them from Argentina. By collecting a 50 percent cash deposit upfront from pre-construction buyers, they were able to finance the sale of the 23 Biscayne Bay condo towers in Edgewater. “At that time there were no banks financing construction. We finished and sold everything in less than eight months. It was a success. That created a whole 60


new model in Miami and now it’s the model most used in Miami to build,” Melo said. Since then, the Melo Group has gone on to complete several other rental and condo towers in Edgewater including 22 Skyview, Bay House and the upcoming Aria on the Bay. The area, Melo said, has gone from depressed and overlooked to incredibly desirable. Next on their radar is the Omni district. Tentatively dubbed 14 Plaza, their new project will be a mixed-use development that includes multifamily residential and ground floor retail. With Metromover directly in front of the property, residents will have direct access to mass transit. “Omni is an area that needs help from the city, from developers and from the people who want to live there,” Melo said. “We need to develop nice places for people who already live here. That is our next challenge.”

KOBI KARP “Because the people who buy their homes today are doing so to live in, and not flip them for profit, there is a lot less speculation and more focus on design,” said noted award-winning architect and design expert Kobi Karp, founder and principal of Kobi Karp Architecture and Interior Design in Miami. “The market is still firm and I see it continuing to be that way,” Karp said. Speculation is low. People care about design and architecture now more so than ever before because they will be living in our projects. From the 49-story Paramount Bay, a 407-unit residential tower near Miami’s Museum Park, to the planned District 36, a mixed-use project in the Design District, Karp’s firm has its hand in a variety of projects these these days. He doesn’t see things slowing down soon.

When it comes to architectural design, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Cardello, Director of ADD Inc’s Miami office, believes Miami has been “more innovative and adventurous than most cities.” Still, he said he thinks there is a “usability and comfortable intimacy” in the design that makes it work. His firm’s projects range from those just coming out of the ground, such as River Landing, a mixed-use project in the Civic Center area of Miami near Jackson Memorial Hospital, to huge renovations including the former INS Building on Biscayne Boulevard and 79th Street, which is being transformed into the Triton Center, a 722,000square-foot, mixed-use development. Like many of the great skylines of the world, Miami’s is becoming increasingly diverse. The diversity, space and form are good,” Cardello said. “You may not like some of the buildings, but we are better off having the diversity of liking and not liking some of them. That’s what society is all about—having an opinion and being able to voice it.” Cardello believes the city has evolved quickly over a short period of time. He cites the increasing numbers of people moving into the urban core, the addition of many new restaurants and retail outlets, as well as cultural and entertainment venues. “We just need to continue to push it to the next level with public transportation, additional cultural activities and creating good jobs,” he said.

Photo by Courtesy of Melo Group


Photo by Jorge Parra

Jonathan Cardello

TIMOTHY MARTORELLA Miami dealmaker Tim Martorella of Madison Capital Group is a long-time advocate of building in the urban core. “I’m a proponent of urban development and bringing people back to the cities,” he said. Since arriving in South Florida in 1998, Madison, of which he is the founding principal, has engaged in equity and construction financing, identifying the best investors from the ranks of institutions, private equity sources and insurance and financial companies. Martorella previously was a partner at Boston Financial, a $6 billion asset real estate investment firm. Madison’s more notable high-rise and mid–rise deals in Miami-Dade County include Paramount Bay in the Omni area, Blue on Biscayne Bay

Miami; Bentley Bay on South Beach; Space 01 in North Bay Village; Peninsula and Hamptons South in Aventura and Sole in Sunny Isles. In Broward, Madison worked deals for the New River Village, Nu River Landing and Esplanade on the New River in Fort Lauderdale; the Renaissance on the Ocean in Dania Beach and Midtown 24 in Plantation. Going forward, Martorella believes investors will retain their appetites for backing big projects in South Florida, but with a close eye on the size of the inventory. “I think financial backers will cautiously continue to support large projects but will increase that caution as the number of projects in the pipeline increases and we move further along in the cycle,” he said. “I think investors are very bullish and confident about the long term ‘sustainability’ and growth of the

Miami market. It is primarily a question of supply and when is it too much, and when will prices flatten or decrease and absorption decrease.”

ANDY ALLEN Allen is Project Director in South Florida for Skanska USA, which employs more than 300 people in Florida and generates $500 million in revenue a year nationally. The company’s mainstays: Higher education and hospital projects, as well as road and airport building. “Miami has been a magnet for people from all around the world,” he said. “The city’s expressing itself as a cultural center and the museums are byproducts of that.” In turn, Skanska is getting a piece of the action. The company is currently working on the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science downtown

and the renovation of hospitals around the region. “There are four or five museum projects on the books and that’s a big difference in the South Florida economy today we haven’t seen,” Allen said. Allen has worked with Skanska for 20 years and has observed the peaks and valleys in development all around Florida. “There is a certain amount of health care infrastructure that follows the market,” he said. “Health care has been more stable.” Hospitals have re-evaluated their growth plans in the wake of the Affordable Care Act. In turn, he has seen demand from hospitals growing mainly in the form of upgrades of diagnostic centers and a move toward bed space for outpatients. “The higher education work is pretty steady,” he added. The company just completed a lab building at Florida International University and a classroom and practice facility at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music. “In South Florida in particular, there is a lot of creativity and ingenuity here and it’s going to be exciting to see the trend over the next 5 to 10 years.”

TOM MURPHY JR. Murphy, longtime chairman and CEO of Miami-based Coastal Construction Group, has five commercial projects worth $2.5 billion on the books. Probably not too far off into the future, he concedes, the madcap pace of construction in South Florida will taper off a bit. But he’s not worried. “No place continues forever— hopefully it’s followed by a natural slowing,” he said. “It would be good for the market.” Yet, he’s confident that “serious long-term developers” won’t allow a market downturn such as the one that embodied the Crash of 2008. “Most developers—the solid ones who do this for a living year in and year out—for the MAY/JUNE 2015


1970’s1980’s1990’s2000’s+ most part avoid that kind of thing. It’s much better to have a steady stable market,” he said. “I think there’s going to be a slowing. I don’t believe there’s a crash coming. The market is very deep here. It’s deeper now than it’s ever been.” “Hospitality,” he said, “is as hot as it’s ever been in this town. I’ve never seen so many hotels coming at one time. Retail is all over the place.” Murphy has toiled as a contractor in the South Florida marketplace for 45 years. “We never leave Florida and we rarely leave South Florida,” he said. Coastal’s book of business is robust – three times as much as before the crash. “We are working with five projects where each one is over a half a billion dollars,” he said. “Maybe all five go. At least three will go. My point is that there are five that have designs and the developer has a whole bunch of money. They’re drawing plans and so forth. All of the guys working with it are spending serious time and money. They’ll go in this cycle—they’ll go this year.” He’s not worried about infrastructure such as roads, transit and sewer systems catching up to the demand. “I can’t think of another city where infrastructure is put in way ahead of the structures.” “All of that stuff has got to come in,” he added. “The next thing you know you’ve got to get a study done and get the money and designs and build it. That’s the way the world in my lifetime works.” And so, the big projects will keep coming, he predicts. “The Miami World Center is probably getting ready to start pretty soon,” he added. “Their build-out is 7- 8 million feet. I think it’s two times the size of City Centre. That will draw all kinds of development around it and behind it. “I’m very optimistic about the future,” Murphy said. “I’m more bullish on Miami right now than I have ever been.” E 62




Alan Becker, Becker & Poliakoff Gary Cohen, Prive Developers Bradley Deckelbaum, Premier Developers Gordon Deckelbaum, Premier Developers Lewis Goodkin, Goodkin Consulting Jerome Hollo, Florida East Coast Realty Wayne Hollo, Florida East Coast Realty Joseph Milton, J Milton and Associates Donald Soffer, Turnberry Associates

1980’s /1990’s

Ugo Colombo, CMC Group Miami Lucia Dougherty, Greenberg Traurig Douglas Eagon, Stiles Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Arquitectonica Matthew Gorson, Greenberg Traurig Ezra Katz, Aztec Group W. Allen Morris, Allen Morris Company Stephen Owens, Swire Properties Inc. Atlantis, Brickell


Suzanne Amaducci-Adams, Bilzin Sumberg Alicia Cervera Sr, Cervera Real Estate Alicia Cervera Jr, Cervera Real Estate Edgardo DeFortuna, Fortune International Group Gil Dezer, Dezer Development Manny Diaz, Lydecker Diaz (former City of Miami mayor). Gary Saul, Greenberg Traurig Ryan Shear, Property Markets Group Masoud Shojaee, Shoma Group Carlos Rosso, The Related Group Jean Francois Roy, Ocean Land Investments Jesse Ottley, Cervera Real Estate Craig Studnicky, ISG Henry Torres, Astor Development Johnny Winton, former City of Miami commissioner Louis Wolfson III, Pinnacle Housing Group

Icon South Beach


Andy Allen, Skanska USA Jonathan Cardello, ADD Inc./Stantec T. Spencer Crowley, Akerman Neisen Kasdin, Akerman Kobi Karp, Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design Joseph Kavana, K Group Holdings Timothy Martorella, Madison Capital Group Tom Murphy Jr., Coastal Construction Group Martin Melo, Melo Group Nitin Motwani, Miami Worldcenter


People Matter Cervera Congratulates Their Top Producer Circle Members CERVERA ELITE

Luciana P. Q. Barreto

Perla Machaen


Orloff Int’l Group

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Care And Compassion Cancer Treatment Centers of America builds a new home in Boca Raton and introduces its “whole-person� model of medicine to South Florida.

By Jeff Zbar | Photography by Peter Cross

LEFT TO RIGHT: Steve Mackin, Chief Operating Officer Gerard van Grinsven, President and CEO Devin Carty, Chief Talent and Strategy Officer Maurie Markman, M.D., President, Medicine and Science MAY/JUNE 2015


Care And Compassion

If you don’t have relationships with patients and families, how can you do right for the community?

— Gerard van Grinsven

Gerard van Grinsven, President and CEO 66



quick scan of the executive roster at Cancer Treatment Centers of America gives a hint that this isn’t just another healthcare provider. Before becoming a hospital executive, CEO Gerard van Grinsven spent 20 years in hospitality, opening 20 hotels and 72 restaurants for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and working with The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok Hotel. Chief Talent and Strategy Officer Devin Carty has been, in no particular order, an executive with PRNewswire, a NASA scientist, and the “Chief Experience Officer” with a $6.5 billion hospital company. President of Medicine and Science, Dr. Maurie Markman, formerly was with noted cancer centers Memorial Sloan-Kettering, MD Anderson and Cleveland Clinic before joining CTCA, as it is known, in 2010. He came to join a provider focused “on the patient, not the academic or slowed by bureaucracy.” The three are on the team that now leads CTCA, which owns five hospitals in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa. The chain treats patients fighting complex or advanced-stage cancer with an integrative care model combining conventional medicine— surgery, radiation and chemotherapy—with the innovative, including immunotherapy, nutritional counseling, naturopathic medicine, mind-body therapy, and spiritual support. They call this “whole-person” model of patient empowerment medicine the “Mother

Standard.” It’s named for Mary Brown Stephenson, the mother of company chairman Richard J Stephenson. He founded CTCA in 1988 following her death from the disease. Before her passing, the family lamented being unable to find innovative treatment in a caring environment. He set out to create that environment. Hired in 2013, van Grinsven seems the right man to carry the torch. His father died from cancer in 2013 after a five-year struggle during which his family, too, found no suitable care. “He didn’t get the care he deserved and he gave up hope,” said van Grinsven. “We want to give people hope.” By coincidence, Stephenson called two weeks after the elder van Grinsven’s passing to ask Gerard to apply for the CEO post at CTCA. For van Grinsven, the company combined the patient care his father lacked with the award-winning customer service he’d spent his career perfecting. After his career in hospitality, he joined West Bloomfield Hospital in Michigan as president and CEO. There, his customer service ethos won van Grinsven his third Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. The first two came while he was with Ritz-Carlton. Soon after his arrival, van Grinsven made his first big corporate move—literally. In 2014, the company relocated from Schaumberg, Illinois, to Boca Raton. It’s no secret why northerners migrate south. But the company’s relocation was about more than adjusting the home thermostat. Van Grinsven recited the litany of reasons that economic development specialists presented to him during a months-long courtship: higher quality of life, good schools and higher education, and lower cost of living. Some $2.4 million in

state and local incentives helped close the deal, as did Florida’s lack of a state personal income tax. “We call our employees—stakeholders and when you can tell them that they’re moving to warmer climate, but they’re going to see a significant savings in their own pocket, that’s extremely healthy,” said Carty, who relocated from Tennessee, another state with no personal income tax. “This presents a great opportunity to pick up a lot more talent.” As he surveys the landscape for expansion markets, van Grinsven can’t help but be buoyed by the three international airports that could—one day—open Latin America and other foreign locations. “Cancer has no borders,” he said, “and overseas, the American healthcare system is highly regarded in terms of quality and outcomes.” They also found a burgeoning healthcare community. In recent years, Boca Raton has showcased its growing, interwoven cluster of medicine, education and technology. Though a local CTCA hospital is not currently in the company’s plans—some question whether state regulators would issue a Certificate of Need, given the prevalence of existing hospitals in the area. “Nonetheless, the company is an ideal fit for the existing matrix,” said Troy McLellan, president/CEO of The Boca Chamber, who assisted the city’s campaign to successfully recruit CTCA. “They fit into the MedUTech concept,” said McLellan, speaking of a South Florida Business Journal annual conference focused on the topic. “They add to the momentum we have in Boca and beyond in that healthcare cluster.” Dan Cane works amid that cluster, and was part of the “A-team” that economic developers at the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County solicited to help win over CTCA. MAY/JUNE 2015


Care And Compassion

As CEO of Modernizing Medicine, Cane knows well what the arrival of a hospital company can mean to the area’s healthcare environment. “It presents the chance to collaborate with a neighbor focused on cutting-edge healthcare, technology and the patient experience,” said Cane. “Our missions are quite aligned.” Kelly Smallridge also knows the importance of collaborating to achieve and expand local synergies, especially between healthcare and education. Though Florida Atlantic University and Lynn University are nearby, encouraging their healthcare graduates to remain in South Florida can be a challenge. Having another top-tier employer that’s willing to become part of the local fabric will help, said Smallridge, president and CEO of the Palm Beach County Business Development Board. Beyond its culture, CTCA brings more, including a willingness to participate in the community, and a promise of 225 jobs averaging $100,000 a year, she said. And it’s more than the arrival of Vicinitas Cancer Care, the sister company to CTCA that’s now in Boca Raton. They’ve proven themselves “big community leaders.” “If you study CTCA, they’re a family. They’re not one of those corporate headquarters that come in, fly low and keep to themselves.

Devin Carty, Chief Talent & Strategy Officer

Maurie Markman, M.D., President, Medicine & Science

They’re making an active effort to be super engaged in this community.” Markman is intrigued at the possibilities, and like his fellow CTCA execs, he’s worked to meet others in the South Florida market. Though he’ll remain based in CTCA’s Philadelphia location overseeing the hospital’s efforts in precision and molecular medicine, Markman has wasted no time introducing himself to and speaking with the local community. His goal, in part, is to tell healthcare executives about his push to accelerate the fight against cancer. “After 30 years of being in institutions as dedicated as anywhere in the world,” he said, “I realized we have to move a lot faster.” Regardless of whether results come faster, pondering his pedigree in hospitality and healthcare, van Grinsven asserts that his passion for customer service and patient caring will drive continued results. “I tell my stakeholders, ‘We’re not in the business of healthcare, we’re in the business of relationships,’” he said. “If you don’t have relationships with patients and families, how can you do right for the community? So we’re going out, breaking bread with the people, and learning what they value most. We believe that’s quality healthcare.” E

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FINE-TUNING CLIENT SERVICES “Different” Means Using All Your Resources.

From alternate fee arrangements to quicker response times, law firms are working harder to give their clients a bigger bang for the buck. Increasingly, lawyers find no qualms about answering client emails at midnight. They’re also looking for ways to cut overhead and deploy better technology as a means for reducing fees. One South Florida law firm, Roig Lawyers, is placing a greater emphasis on paying more attention to the people they serve. Internally, a greater sense of camaraderie among the lawyers and support staff is yielding stability and better productivity. The Deerfield Beach-based law firm, which serves six Florida cities, offers a snapshot of how it is expanding its practice base while growing its brand around the state. Photography by Candace West




LEFT TO RIGHT BEHIND: Nelson C. Bellido, Fernando L. Roig, Michael A. Rosenberg and Drew A. Stoller • FRONT: Jeffrey B. Tutan and Jessica Z. Martin

“ 70

Our philosophy and core values resonate with my personal beliefs and work ethic. Loyalty, Integrity, Diversity and Teamwork is who we are.

— Nelson C. Bellido, Miami Office Managing Partner, Roig Lawyers EXECUTIVE SOUTH FLORIDA


or Fernando Roig, a veteran South Florida attorney and founder of Roig Lawyers, the feelings are mutual. The culture he continues to foster at the fast-growing, minority-owned law firm, he said, is oriented more towards people than the mighty dollar. “We are people first, not only at the employee level, but at the client level,” he said. Roig’s preferred approach for doing business: “Let [people] take your pulse. Let them know the way you speak to them is the way you would speak to your mother, father, brother or friend. I consider myself a very good lawyer. I make people feel very comfortable. Unfortunately, because of what you read on billboards and what you see on TV, there’s this perception that you’ve got to be the bulldog—the aggressive lawyer. I catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I can rip your heart out in court … but I have no enemies out there. I want to show you don’t have to be this acrimonious, bitter, aggressive, bull-in-a-China shop to be a successful lawyer.” With more than 100 attorneys in six Florida cities, Roig Lawyers is a multipractice litigation firm on the rise. The practice areas include commercial litigation, construction, corporate law, real estate, banking and finance, labor and employment and all phases of insurance defense litigation. Founded in 2000, Roig Lawyers is headquartered in Deerfield Beach and maintains offices in Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee, Tampa and West Palm Beach. The firm is on a fast-track for growth. This year, it intends to open an office in Jacksonville. “We are not solely insurance defense—that was our genesis,” Roig said. “We migrated to commercial litigation representing both individual clients and corporations.”

DIVERSITY AND COMMUNITY SERVICE ARE PRIORITIES Roig Lawyers recently ranked second out of 25 firms in a Daily Business Review survey of law firm diversity in South Florida. The firm also captured a Top 5 ranking with the most women attorneys in South Florida and placed fifth among firms with the most African-American attorneys. It placed No. 13 on the “Most Hispanic Attorneys” list. The results clearly reflect the firm’s core values: Loyalty, Integrity, Diversity and Teamwork. For Bellido, who has practiced law for 22 years, those values are a throwback to his days as an assistant state attorney in Dade County. He was hired by then-state attorney, Janet Reno. “The woman had an incredible memory,” he recalled. “I was so impressed with her and her ability to know all of her employees by name. She managed a great office with a great aura about it.” Bellido joined Roig Lawyers less than a year ago and is the managing partner of the Miami office. He has led a successful career with a diverse practice representing Fortune 100 companies as well as small local businesses in complex commercial litigation and products liability matters. His commitment not only extends to the legal profession but to the community where he holds a wide range of leadership roles and is involved in various charitable organizations including the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair where he serves on the Executive Committee as the Treasurer and has served on the Board of Directors since 2006. He also serves as chairman of the Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust, which investigates complaints arising from the conduct of local public officials. “I think it’s important for members of our firm to get involved in the community,” he said. “Is there a residual benefit to it? Absolutely.” Among other things, quality lawyers who see Roig attorneys donating time to the public might well consider the firm as their next landing spot. Holding to custom, the firm holds its doors wide open to lawyers of all backgrounds. “What impresses me about Roig Lawyers is that we have individuals from all races and nationalities and we all get along great,” Bellido said. “I make it a point to make sure when it comes to assignments and senior promotions that

we have a diverse group of attorneys. I love to think that we live in a society that is color blind. Our society is not color blind and you need to make efforts to diversify.” Roig said the firm’s culture works. “We have 100-plus lawyers and from 2010 to the present, our turnover is minimal.” he said. “I attribute that to the way we are people first, family first. And that’s what our clients feel, too. It resonates with them.” Michael Rosenberg, the firm’s statewide managing partner, says the firm’s diversity efforts weren’t by design. “Fernando is of Cuban descent and we are minority owned,” he said. “And as we continue to grow we are looking for the best qualified applicants. It just so happened that by the nature of where we live—South Florida—we continue to foster [diversity] by supporting organizations and developing our attorneys. That’s an important part of us—giving back.” He said the firm is so involved in community service that it formed a formal pro bono department to keep track of its attorneys’ pro bono cases and other community outreach efforts.

IN ALL CASES, THE FIRM KEEPS IN CLOSE TOUCH WITH CLIENTS Rosenberg said that regardless of whether a case is generating billable hours or is pro bono, the firm strongly believes in maintaining strong communications with all of its clients. “The clients want to know what’s going on in their cases,” he said.“They want to be up to date. They want to make sure they are being properly represented.” For example, the firm’s lawyers respond to e-mails and phone calls late into the night and on weekends. He said the firm also made a calculated decision to locate its Miami office across the street from the Dade County Courthouse in the belief that the close proximity will save valuable time and, in turn, money. “It’s important that we have that connectivity,” Rosenberg said. “If you’re willing to go the extra mile, the client recognizes that and really appreciates that. That is what has really distinguished us and sets us apart from other law firms.” The same close attention applies to pro bono cases. “We make sure that cases are progressing the way they should be much like any other litigation file,” he said. “That’s part of our giving back and part of our continued growth.”

DATA ANALYTICS IS AN IMPORTANT TOOL FOR CLIENTS One unique aspect that distinguishes the firm from others is its use of analytics to help shield insurance company clients from unwarranted claims. Rosenberg said Roig Lawyers relies heavily on the analysis of medical billing records. The process allows the firm to detect patterns that might show signs of fraud. “We joke that we are the Google of the legal business,” he said. “We spend a lot of time looking at the data and finding trends, if something did occur or didn’t occur. We focus a lot on medical fraud so we’re looking at billings, and numbers of patients.”

UNCOMMON CHARACTER AND FRESH APPROACH MEANS CLIENT SUCCESS Looking ahead, Roig sees the firm expanding its litigation services while engaging clients at prices that are more reasonable than many law firms charge today. “We are a multi-faceted trial lawyer firm foundationally with insurance defense fraud litigation that has expanded to commercial litigation,” Roig said. “The quick vision for the future is that I frankly believe there is a middle ground for attorneys. Society is getting tired of paying lawyers $800 an hour for big silk stocking firms to have mahogany and brass fixtures in their offices, which has been the norm for a long time.” E MAY/JUNE 2015


Michael Schreiner’s “Icarus Flew Yin, Dissed Yang but at least he Knew” dominates a wall outside a 33rd floor conference room

RAISING THE BAR As the venerable law firm of Holland & Knight looks back on a record financial performance, management can give some credit to a strategy of streamlining its office spaces in Miami and elsewhere.

By David Lyons | Photography by Jorge Parra

Raising the Bar

Steven Sonberg, Holland & Knight Managing Partner, and Kelly-Ann Cartwright, Executive Partner, Miami Office 74



he office walls boast images of Cuban jetties by photographer Jock McDonald, textiles by fabric designer Kazumi Yoshida and dizzying geometric abstracts from the late-bloomer Canadian artist, Michael Schreiner. The floors are made of recycled materials; the blue tops of bar tables in the common areas are composed of 100 percent recycled beer bottles. Upon entering the newly refurbished Miami offices of Holland & Knight, visitors can easily conjure up the impression that they’ve entered an art gallery—many of the works did come from Art Basel—until they check out the intense-looking group of people in a soundproof deposition room, or the massive conference room that can easily handle a board meeting of a Fortune 500 company. In fact, industry groups and civic organizations do try to book the big conference room on the 33rd floor of the venerable law firm’s high-rise digs at 701 Brickell Ave. Under a redesign led by veteran Coral Gables designer David M. Chason, the offices now offer its workers commanding views of Biscayne Bay which had been previously

obscured, major upgrades in technology and wider open spaces. Gone are the corner offices, the mahogany walls and most of the law library—save for a few local Miami codes and some classic bound volumes for nostalgia buffs. As with everywhere else in the legal community, research is done online. The redesign project has helped boost productivity, management says, while making employees feel more comfortable in their work environment. With more than 1,000 lawyers, Holland & Knight is one of the nation’s largest law firms. Among the 23 offices now in operation, eight are in Florida. To serve Latin clients, the firm maintains an office in Mexico City and another in Bogota. In Miami, considered by the business community to be a gateway to Latin America, the firm’s lawyers counsel clients in the fields of banking, real estate, construction, telecommunications, transportation and healthcare. The firm also serves clients seeking advice on cross border corporate structuring, securities law, wealth planning and preservation, project finance, labor and employment and white collar crime. The firm’s decision to remain at the offices it has occupied since 1993 bucks a trend fueled by other large firms with Miami operations such as Akerman, Gunster, Greenberg Traurig

Designer David Chason looks south from a conference room bearing artwork from Kazumi Yoshida’s “Earth” series

and GrayRobinson. All have moved or announced that they intend to move to newly constructed high-rises in the city. Why did Holland & Knight elect to stay put? “Number one, you cannot deny that we have the best views in Miami,” said Kelly-Ann Cartwright, the office’s executive partner. “Most buildings now have obstructed views. We don’t. We work well with this landlord and we were able to negotiate a good lease and we’re comfortable here. People liked the building. They like its location—even the parking garage has more than one exit. All of those little things really lent themselves to our decision to stay here.” In 2012, the firm renewed its lease in the 34-story skyscraper for seven years with a six-year option, according to published reports. The firm has 98,000 square feet on five upper floors. It is the building’s second largest tenant after Bank of America. The overhaul is part of a firm-wide effort to achieve uniformity in design among all of Holland & Knight’s offices. Cartwright and managing partner Steve Sonberg say they have seen upticks in productivity as a result. Technology upgrades have improved inter-office communication and Holland & Knight clients who do business in multiple cities are at ease with the familiarity of each location when they visit.

Raising the Bar “We have gone through renovations with the other offices as well, Cartwright said. “Even though each office has a different design, you do have a feel that you are in a Holland & Knight office.” Abbe Mald Bunt, a prominent South Florida legal recruiter, agrees that the firm took a big step forward when it implemented its plan to upgrade all of its offices and create a uniform feel for employees and clients. “If you’re in a city and you want to have a business lunch, you know you can always count on certain restaurants because you know you can find certain things,” she said. “There’s a comfort level in being able to say, ‘I know I have this.’” Cartwright said another key area of improvement is in the law firm’s technology, an area where the legal industry as a whole was slow to act until recent years. “We had such an update in technology for our conference rooms, our computer systems, our video conferencing, even the room we’re sitting in right now,” Cartwright said of a room with a commanding southeastern view of Biscayne Bay. “The ability to plug in our

Steven Sonberg and Kelly-Ann Cartwright in a 33rd floor conference room overlooking Biscayne Bay

Briggs Solomon’s “Rock & Roll” greets visitors to the 33rd floor lobby



RIGHT: David M. Chason, Designer

Financial Services Practice Group head Jose Sirven conducts attorney evaluations in a video-conference room computers—having our Internet work throughout the building—it’s just amazing. Even the electric shades on the windows and the temperature controls for the room— everything has been updated.” Sonberg added that he thinks “the whole project has improved morale. It’s much brighter. It’s much airier.” While Holland & Knight has not drawn a precise correlation between its rising financial numbers and the redesign of many of its offices, the firm posted record financial numbers for last year. Firm-wide revenues rose to $688 million, up from the $627 million recorded in 2013. Profits per equity partner last year surpassed $1.3 million, up from just over $1 million the year before. In both revenue and profit categories, the firm has registered year-overyear improvements since 2011. And the firm did it with fewer lawyers. Across 23 U.S. and foreign offices, the lawyer head count stands at just over 1,000. Prior to the recession, there were more than 1,300. In Miami, the head count stands at 187 employees – 112 lawyers and 75 staff. Management is happy with their work. “We’re very pleased with the firm’s performance since the recession,” Sonberg said. “In a tough environment for our profession, we have had unprecedented success throughout the firm. We have enjoyed particular success in our South Florida markets. We entered 2015 in the strongest financial position in our history. All of our partners are excited about

the future as we continue our growth in areas that will help us better serve our clients.” David Chason, the man who orchestrated the Miami redesign and who is overseeing the others, said he achieved cost savings through measurers such as the installation of LED lighting and trash bins that include recycling. “In a space like this, when you look at the LED lighting we shouldn’t have to touch things or change the bulbs for two years,” said Chason, who also led the way in the redesign of the firm’s lobbying shop in Washington, D.C. Privacy was another key feature valued by clients and lawyers alike. “We used a sound expert out of Washington who helped with the details of how the walls were constructed, plus a white noise system,” he said. “There’s voice privacy in every conference center.” When depositions are taken in any of the conference rooms, sound-proofing shields participants from noise from the outside, and passers-by can’t hear what’s being said on the inside. And if the light gets too bright at sunrise or sunset, automatic window shades and the lighting levels can be adjusted via iPads. Chason and Cartwright said the firm surveyed the environmental preferences of everyone who works in the office. Chason conducted one-on-one meetings with each person. “What was the Miami office?” Cartwright said of what the firm wanted to know from the

rank-and-file. “What do we have a feel for? It’s surprising that most everyone came out the same way. We wanted to be modern—but not ultra-modern. Across the board, the staff, the attorneys, everyone said they wanted a common look. And I think that David was able to create what we wanted.” So on the 30th floor, a bright, expansive lunchroom contains a pair of big screen TVs and plenty of space for groups and individual employees to meet informally. New artwork Chason gathered from exhibits such as Art Basel and existing works already in the firm’s possession were mounted throughout the firm’s offices. Besides the works of McDonald, Yoshida and Schreiner (Icarus Flew Yin, Dismissed Yang But at Least He Knew”), pieces by Renato Freitas (“Faith”) and the late New York-based artist and teacher Stuart Shedletsky (Maritmine I, II and III), grace the walls. There are also works from several Florida and Latin American artists, as well as work from an in-house source: photographs from the worldwide travels of Holland & Knight’s mergers and acquisitions specialist Bruce Jay Colan. It all adds up to a work space that helps not only productivity, but gives a lift to recruitment and retention as well, Cartwright and Chason say. “People are actually happier to come to work when you have a space that’s lighter and brighter and inviting,” Cartwright said. “It really has an effect on your mood.” E MAY/JUNE 2015



Robert McKinzie, Commissioner, Fort Lauderdale; Bradley Deckelbaum and Jack Seiler, Mayor of Fort Lauderdale

Daniel de la Vega; Gordon Deckelbaum and Alex Smith, Jr.

Riva’s Construction Launch Guests celebrated the construction launch of Riva—Fort Lauderdale’s first major luxury condominium residence along the Middle River area. Distinguished by its modern, curvi-linear architecture, spacious residences and expansive terraces with panoramic views of the ocean and downtown Fort Lauderdale, completion is scheduled for fall 2016.

Lilly Jepperssen and Gustavo Zingg

Fernando de Nuñez y Lugones; Jennifer Santana; Daniel de la Vega; Bradley Deckelbaum; Marijke White and Kayla Barrera

Grant Lundberg and Deborah Steiner

Roman Rotges; Gaby Kloekke; Grant Lundberg; Marijke White; Maria Borg and Bjarne Borg MAY/JUNE 2015



The Related Groups Executive Team; Matthew Allen, Carlos Rosso, Jorge Pérez, Alberto Milo Jr, Steve Patterson

The Related Group’s Carlos Rosso and Sonia Figueroa; Adolfo Henriques, Gibraltar Bank

EXECUTIVE South Florida Publication Reception To celebrate the publication of the recent cover story, The Related Group hosted an exclusive reception at the Paraiso Bayviews sales center in Edgewater. Over 200 guests enjoyed beautiful views and Chef Michael Schwartz’ preview menu of his new restaurant at the waterfront development.

Matthew Allen addresses the crowd

Howard Wolkowitz, Eric Kalis, Ron Mann, Publisher, EXECUTIVE South Florida 80


Cover Subjects: Carlos Rosso, Jorge Pérez and Matthew Allen

Carlos Rosso, Sonia Figueroa, Ron Mann, Jorge PĂŠrez

Reed V.Horth, Kat Barrow; Ary Velasco

Jonathan Tsao and Jason Hagopian

Mike Moore, Raquel Patterson, Adolfo Henriques

Giovanni Serrano, Sonja Bogensperger

Ron Mann, Mirielle Enlow, Mike Kiely, Andrea Blade MAY/JUNE 2015





rom his penthouse office in Coconut Grove, Miami trial lawyer Andrew C. Hall, the managing partner of Hall, Lamb and Hall, can watch over his yacht in the Grove Marina through a telescope. But before visitors can become riveted by the stunning view of Biscayne Bay, they cannot help but notice a small-scale replica of the outstretched arm which is the centerpiece of the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach. Hall is a Holocaust survivor. He was born in 1944, one year before the German Third Reich collapsed. The struggles his family endured during his childhood help lay the foundation of a legal career that has seen him take center stage in a number of high profile cases. As a young lawyer in the 1970s, Hall helped defend John Ehrlichman, a senior adviser to President Richard M. Nixon, in the



Watergate and “Plumbers” trials in Washington. Courtroom drawings of the proceedings line a corridor leading to Hall’s office. More recently, while representing 57 relatives of U.S. sailors who died in the terrorist bombing of the USS Cole, he helped secure a $48 million award against the Government of Sudan for its support of the attack. “My office environment is suited to my personality,” said Hall, who is chair of the local Holocaust Memorial. “The ‘Arm’ reminds me of how I was born and the struggles of my early life. The Watergate photos remind me that no one is above the law. They circle my value system.” “The telescope and view remind me to take a moment for myself and enjoy life,” he said. E

Photo by Jorge Parra

Managing Partner, Hall, Lamb and Hall P.A.

“If everyone is thinking alike then someone isn’t thinking” – George S. Patton

For Independent Commercial Real Estate advice please call

William H. Holly President


DAYS TO CLOSE Local Mortgage Decisions Made Daily. Property is moving quickly in South Florida. If you are looking to finance, FirstBank Florida can move you fast. With the resources of a large institution and the power of local knowledge, we provide residential mortgages for all property types across South Florida. Decisions are made daily at our Waterford Center Office in Miami. Visit or call 305.917.9000 to schedule your appointment with one of our experienced loan officers. FirstBank Florida is a Division of FirstBank Puerto Rico. Member FDIC. All mortgages, loans, and lines of credit are subject to approval. Credit limit varies based on LTV and other criteria established by FirstBank Florida. FirstBank Florida cannot be held responsible for delays in closing caused by third parties providing services in conjunction with mortgage applications. Individual experiences may vary.

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Executive South Florida Magazine . May/June 2015  

Covering the dealmakers, innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders in the business community.