Power Developers of South Florida
Florida SunPost - 12-4-04

Art by Bobby Radical 

In Central and North Florida, the cash crop is considered to be oranges. So important is the industry that, when a harmful fungus swept into this Sunshine State, the state embarked on a program of clear cutting trees found to be infected until outraged Floridians halted the program.

In Miami-Dade County, the real cash crop is development. Springing forth from the ground in every shape and size, residential and commercial projects may as well be classified as plants for the concrete vegetation is spreading everywhere. 

And nowhere is the prospect of a jungle more welcome than in the City of Miami where the mantra for prosperity, whether true or not, is upscale development. Miami, unlike other communities, does not shy away from being a Manhattan South,it embraces it. After all, it is Miami-Dade's downtown region, a city in every right, so why not? The new leadership is bound to make itself concurrently on line in traffic and education and services for Miami planner's neo-urbanistic visions.

Right?

But the boom is not restricted to the city limits of the Magic City. Even in built out Miami Beach there are still new projects coming up and the Northeast frontier of Aventura, Sunny Isles and other points is still being probed and exploited.

In front of this effort to build are people called developers. Yes, some passionate controlled-development advocates probably prefer they not be labeled as such, but they are in fact individuals with interesting backgrounds and personalities who are equipped with the knowledge to make it in the real estate world. Virtually every developer worth his or her salt has some kind of powerful trait. If they don't, they get eaten alive. There is a lot of competition out there, after all.

In this Power Developers section, the SunPost attempts to reflect this side based on various sources of information either sent to this publication or researched on the Internet. Consciously, we have stayed out of any controversial htmlects of people's pasts (that we will save for another time) and instead have concentrated on their accomplishments. We should also state that this is, by no means, a comprehensive list. There are a lot of developers out there and they all have their claims to fame. We can only profile so many.

So sit down, have a wine, put on your favorite classical music CD and read about the people who are re-shaping this community. It's harvesting time and the crops are ripe for the picking.

Jorge Perez

Jorge Perez is the chairman and majority owner of the Related Group of Florida and a partner of the Related Companies, a New York-based real estate company with divisions and projects throughout the United States. Born in Argentina and raised in Argentina and Colombia by Cuban-exile parents, Perez has achieved a world-class reputation for cutting-edge work in the construction, syndication and management of many of South Florida's luxury properties. 

Now, he embarks on his latest and perhaps boldest development effort to date: a Miami Beach high-rise condominium building collaboration with Philippe Starck, one of the world's most renowned designers. The result of their partnership: Icon, a two-tiered luxury condominium (located next to Related's past project of Murano Grande) that rises 35 and 40 stories into the sky and offers four interior themes: Classic, Nature, Culture, and Minimal. 

Other innovative projects under Perez's belt include Murano at Portofino, Ocean I and Ocean II at Sunny Isles and Portofino Tower. Next year comes the Boca Grande in Boca Raton; the Ocean III in Sunny Isles; the Slade in Palm Beach and One Miami in downtown Miami. 

To date, The Related Group of Florida and its sister affiliates has built or rehabilitated more than 200 projects in Florida, Texas, California, Georgia and New York comprising upwards of 40,000 residential units. Together with Related Capital Group, the New York affiliate of the Related Companies, Perez's company ranks as the third largest owner of apartments in the United States.

But Perez is more than just about development, he is also a passionate connoisseur of art. Perez is one of the world's major collectors of 20th century Latin American paintings and sculpture. Works by Fernando Botero and Rufino Tamayo, by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, along with many other emerging and established artists, are included in his collection of more than 400 pieces. Perez believes that art is a definition of your living space and wants to share his passion and sentiment, incorporating works of art from major and up and coming artists in each of his projects. Perez has also been involved in the community and has been active with the Miami Downtown Development Authority, the Miami Dade Cultural Affairs Council and the University of Miami Board of Trustees.

Martin Z. Margulies

Developer Martin Z. Margulies approaches each new real estate project as his work of art and he prides himself on working on only one upscale project at a time, allowing him to work on every htmlect of a building with his architects and designers even before the first shovel goes into the ground. Past luxury property credits include Grove Isle in Coconut Grove and Grand Bay Towers in Key Biscayne.

Margulies newest project, Bellini & Bal Harbour on the Ocean, with just 81 luxurious residences, will sell from $1 million to $3 million, with penthouses priced upon request. Margulies, a collector of American and European art, made numerous trips to the stone quarries and factories of Italy and Turkey to personally select the lush marbles, granites and terracotta that will enhance the elegant 24-story boutique condominium's grand lobby, gardens, private residences, and spa areas. With Bellini, Margulies returns to the prestigious Bal Harbour area where twenty-five years ago he created his first luxury residential project, The Kenilworth, on the site of the old Kenilworth Hotel. The 24-story Bellini will be topped out in January 2004 and is scheduled to be completed in Fall of 2004.

Margulies is also active in the Greater Miami community. He recently funded $2.5 million for an 18,000 sq. ft. after-school educational and athletic center for underprivileged children in Overtown.

Tibor Hollo

Over thirty years ago, Tibor Hollo forged a path for the future of Miami by constructing the very first high-rise building on Brickell Avenue. A partner in the powerful Florida East Coast Realty, Hollo's residential, hotel and mixed-use buildings proliferate the Omni/Venetia area and the Brickell corridor such as Bay Parc Plaza, the 2.5 million square foot Venetia/The Grand, the Biscayne Bay Marriott Hotel and Marina, Plaza Venetia, Flamingo Plaza, Vizcaya Towers and Vizcaya North, Center House, Sans Souci Manor, Tropicana East and Tropicana West Apartments, and the Twin Lakes Racquet Club. His projects also include 888 Brickell Avenue, two United States Treasury Buildings and the United States Justice Department Building in Downtown Miami.

In 1972 he built the first high-rise office building in Brickell, one of his many firsts, Rivergate Plaza, a landmark cornerstone of Miami's premier financial marketplace. Three years later he developed Venetia/Omni, which helped redefine the area.

In 1990 he began the innovative restoration of a 40 year-old office building, One Bayfront Plaza, located at the epicenter of downtown Miami. In 1996 he acquired Colonnade Plaza, an elegant and architecturally significant, an eight-story office building located on the prestigious Brickell Avenue, which will become an anchor for the new luxury high-rise, Brickell Bay Plaza, in 2004.

Hollo also built the first new high-rise apartment building of the millennium, Bay Parc Plaza, which opened in January 2000. This building, part of the Omni/Venetia area, which is financed via an HUD/FHA loan insurance program, provides a significant source of moderate rental housing in Miami.

Although Hollo's business activities are largely devoted to commercial and residential developments and management, he is an active participant in over 40 civic, fraternal and religious organizations. He has served on Florida's Task Force on Housing and Community Affairs as well the Governors Advisory Council on Factory Built Housing. Hollo is a member of the Downtown Advisory Committee and the Committee on Ecology and Beautification, is on the executive board as Trustee of Barry University, is affiliated with the City of Miami Beach's ad hoc committee for Economics Adjustment Strategy, is on the county's Performing Arts Center Strategic Planning Committee and serves on the board of directors of the Latin Builders Association.

Hollo's latest project: The Club at Brickell Bay, a 43-story luxury high-rise that is being billed as Miami's Answer to Park Avenue.

Stephen and Melanie Muss

Stephen Muss's prolific real estate career began in 1946 when he joined his father to establish the Alexander Muss & Sons real estate development firm in New York. He and his family moved permanently to Miami Beach in 1968. He developed condominium projects in Key Biscayne, Miami, and Miami Beach, including five Seacoast Towers, The Towers of Key Biscayne, and The Towers of Quayside. In 1978 Muss acquired the Fontainebleau Hilton Hotel.

When Stephen Muss announced that his daughter would be appointed vice president of development for his famed Miami Beach landmark, continued revitalization of the Fontainebleau Hilton Resort went into high gear. 

Melanie Muss is heading up the resort's $90 million renovation. Bleau View, Fontainebleau's new gourmet restaurant has opened to rave reviews, as did the addition of the indoor playland and outdoor children's water theme park, Cookie's World. Additionally, the hotel's grand lobby is undergoing a major transformation. 

The Musses also have partnered with the Aventura-based mega-developer Turnberry Associates to build Fontainebleau II, a $250 million condominium hotel located at the resort. The project is more than 85 percent sold and construction began earlier this year.

Prior to working for the Fontainebleau, Melanie Muss was a marketing manager for The Estee Lauder Companies, Inc. in New York. She received her Master of Business Administration from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Amherst College. Muss currently resides in Miami Beach.

Stephen Muss, meanwhile, has remained active as a philanthropist. In 1981 he endowed The Alexander Muss High School in Israel, named in memory of his father, to help support Jewish continuity through education. He now serves on the board of this institution. Steve Muss was the chairman of the Renaissance Committee for Temple Emanu-El and was extremely involved in restoring that Miami Beach landmark. He is now the president of the synagogue. His philanthropic interests also include the Jewish Federation of Miami, Mount Sinai Medical Center, and the University of Miami.

Stephen Muss has also been active in shaping the policies of the local community. He has served on the Board of Miami's Fine Arts Museum, on the Board of Governors of Haifa University, and as Chairman of both the Miami Beach Redevelopment Agency and the Dade County Sports Authority. He was very much involved in the expansion of the Miami Beach Convention Center and the creation of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Don and Jeffrey Soffer

Donald Soffer's vision to transform a mosquito-infested swamp in North Dade County Florida into an upscale, planned community began more than 35 years ago when he purchased a 785-acre tract of marshland and sketched his vision on a cocktail napkin. Today, that parcel of land stands in the heart of the City of Aventura, one of Florida's most prestigious locales.

Donald Soffer, son of Harold Soffer, was born and raised in the small, poor steel town of Duquesne, PA. Harold Soffer sold cars and appliances before starting a successful real estate and development business. In 1951, he left home to study and play football at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. After graduating with a degree in Economics, an interesting opportunity arose for Donald when he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers. But his passion was in the real estate development business and he declined a career in professional football.

In 1955, Donald developed and built a two-story, shopping center in Pittsburgh, and 10 years later developed the city's first major indoor shopping mall. From 1969 to 1980, he went on to build five major shopping centers in the Midwest, as well as the Greater Pittsburgh Merchandise Mart & Expo Center, the largest convention center between New York and Chicago. 

As a child, Donald visited his grandparents regularly in Florida and fell in love with South Florida's fantastic year-round climate and proximity to the beaches. Donald also had the foresight to know that Florida had great potential for development, and in 1967, he purchased 785 acres of submerged and undeveloped swamp and marshland facing the Intracoastal Waterway in North Dade County. During the next 35 years, Donald transformed that land into the world-famous Turnberry Isle Resort & Club, The Aventura Mall, thousands of residential units and numerous offices. 

Now following in his father's footsteps is Jeffrey Soffer. Jeffrey Soffer joined the company in 1987 and has concentrated his efforts on the residential real estate division but also continues to play a large role in the company's development of shopping malls, hotels and office buildings throughout the country. For example, it was Jeffrey Soffer who announced he was taking the Aventura lifestyle his father Donald created to Las Vegas. Although some observers thought the move was risky, the sales for Turnberry Place, the developer's luxury high-rise condominium community one block off the famed Strip, are exceeding $450 million. As the press statements from Turnberry Associates put it: it's obvious the gamble is paying off.

Jeffrey Soffer is also concentrating on his latest Las Vegas project, a joint venture with MGM Mirage to build a condo-hotel complex on the MGM Grand property. While at home in South Florida, Jeffrey is overseeing completion of the Aventura upscale development Porto Vita where groundbreaking for the North Tower began in May. Turnberry also recently broke ground at Fontainebleau II, a $200 million condominium hotel the company is creating at the famed Miami Beach resort. In addition, Turnberry assumed the lead role in the construction and sales of Oceania V in Sunny Isles Beach and acquired a majority interest in a neighboring 5.5-acre oceanfront parcel on which the developer plans to build Turnberry Ocean Colony, a luxurious oceanfront community.

Under the direction of father and son, Turnberry Associates is one of the country's leading full-service real estate development and property management firms with residential, retail, hotel and office projects in Las Vegas, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Miami Beach, Orlando, Destin and many others throughout Florida. The company's portfolio includes the development of more than $1.5 billion in commercial and residential property. This includes approximately 20 million square feet of retail space, some 3,000 luxury apartments and condominium units, 1.5 million square feet of class-A office space and in excess of 1,640 hotel and resort rooms.

Gil Dezer, Donald Trump and Michael Dezer

Talk about a power developer alliance: one of the world's most well known developers, Donald Trump, joins forces with the father-and-son team who just happen to own the most oceanfront property in Sunny Isles Beach, Michael and Gil Dezer. The result: the Trump Dezer Company, an entity that will commit $600 million toward constructing three mega high-rises: the Trump Grande Ocean Resort and Residences, a development project that will consist of a 278 unit, 55-story condo tower known as the Trump Palace; another 55-story condo tower with 333-units dubbed the Trump Royale; and the 372-unit condo hotel named the Trump International Beach Resort. 

Why use the name Trump over and over? Because Donald Trump's name is synonymous with the concept of premier real estate. All over the country, Donald Trump has constructed luxury high-rises, hotels and casinos, many of which bear his name: Trump World Tower, Trump Tower, Trump International Hotel & Tower, Trump Palace and Trump Parc.

A veteran of the Israeli Air Force, Michael Dezer immigrated to the United States in 1962. Eight years later he founded Dezer Properties Company that developed commercial real estate in New York City, particularly in the Chelsea area. In 1985 he began to purchase property in Dade County, particular in Sunny Isles where he amassed a territory consisting of 25 oceanfront acres.

His son Gil now holds the title of president of Trump Dezer Development. Once a native New Yorker, Dezer became a full time South Floridian when he went to the University of Miami at the age of 18. He graduated with a degree in international finance and marketing. Soon afterward, Gil became the point man for both his father and Donald Trump's first project in the South Florida area.

R. Donahue Peebles

R. Donahue Peebles is the founder, president and chief executive officer of Peebles Atlantic Development Corporation (PADC), an entrepreneurial real estate development company experienced in various htmlects of upscale property development, ownership and project management. His portfolio includes hotel, residential and commercial developments in South Florida, Washington, D.C., and Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Peebles began his real estate career in 1979 as a real estate appraiser. From 1984 & 1988, Peebles was chairman of the District of Columbia real estate tax appeal board, then known as the Board of Equalization and Review. He later established a highly successful commercial tax assessment appeals firm in Washington, D.C. at the age of 28.

In 1987 he began construction on his first commercial building, a 100,000 square foot building, which was also the first of his public/private ventures. After developing and/or owning over 1,000,000 square feet of commercial properties in Washington, D.C. Peebles took PADC in a new direction seven years ago and moved its headquarters to Miami, Florida. In 1996, Peebles won a City of Miami Beach bid to develop the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza Hotel. This 417-room, four-star, public/private venture opened in May 2002. The company's first hotel project, the 188-room Courtyard by Marriott Convention Center Hotel in Washington, D.C., which included the conversion of a bank building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, opened in July 1999. 

PADC is currently developing the historic Bath Club site into a super luxury condominium enclave. On December 31, 1999, Peebles completed his purchase of the 5.3-acre Bath Club property located directly on the Atlantic Ocean in Miami Beach. Peebles' development plans combine a new 107-unit modern condominium tower, 6 oceanfront villas and the historic Bath Club facilities into Miami Beach's most prestigious residential community. Now under construction, The Residences at the Bath Club will open late 2004. He also developed a 210,000 square foot office complex in South Beach, which includes Class A office, retail, and parking facilities. Construction of this complex was completed in February 2003. In November 2003, the City of Riviera Beach awarded PADC the rights to develop 10+-acre oceanfront site where PADC plans to build a mixed-use project that will include a condo-hotel, conference center and retail promenade. PADC also is contemplating a hotel/casino project on an 18-acre site on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Peebles has also been active in the Miami-Dade community. He chaired the 1995 & 1996 Boarder Baby Project to provide homes for urban babies abandoned by their parents at hospitals. From 1999 & 2000, he served on the board of trustees of Florida International University. Currently, he serves on the board of directors for the Visitors Industry Council, as the second vice chair of the National Black Hotel Owners, Operators and Developers Association, and as chairman of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB). 

Gregg Covin

Gregg Covin was born and raised in Miami and into a family that has been building in South Florida for more than 55 years. His area of expertise focuses on residential and hotel projects, with accessory commercial uses on urban infill sites. He is perhaps best known for developing the Hotel St. Augustine and the Neville Condominium in Miami Beach. Presently, Covin is building the Montclair Lofts at 17th and Meridian and Domicile Lofts at 2129 Washington Ave., both off Lincoln Road in South Beach, as well as Lofts in the Grove on the corner of Bird Road and 27th Ave. in Coconut Grove. 

Up next is Ten Museum Park on Biscayne Blvd. in Downtown Miami. Developed with architect Chad Oppenheim, Ten Museum Park will include Clinique la Prairie and a lounge operated by celebrity club impresario Michael Capponni, who will also serve as director of resident services.

Covin's company, Gregg Covin Real Estate Development, is growing quickly with $6 million in sales last year, $25 million in sales this year, and more than $100 million in sales projected for 2004. 

Pedro and David Martin

Terra International Developments, LLC focuses on the multi-family, high-rise development throughout South Florida. Terra maintains an emphasis on originality and creativity in design, engaging architects and building professionals to help realize the company's vision of excellence. And who leads this company? Answer: the father and son team of Pedro and David Martin.

Pedro Martin is a senior partner and principal shareholder at Greenberg Traurig in real estate who has been representing developers and lending institutions in residential real estate since the 1970s. But in his alter ego as principal of Terra International Developments, Pedro Martin has developed projects such as Nautica in Miami Beach and Metropolis in Dadeland.

Pedro's son, David, has completed his Master's in Business Administration with a real estate concentration, and went on to earn a law degree with a concentration in real estate and land use planning from the University of Florida. David specializes in the identification and procuring of lands representing viable projects, the transformation of the properties into development projects including the construction, and the financing and structuring of joint ventures and investment groups to raise equity. He is currently the project manager for the Nautica Condominium and the Metropolis at Dadeland Condominium project.

Edgardo Defortuna

Market knowledge, construction experience and access to plenty of capital are important ingredients for success in the real estate market. But equally important is reputation and personal charisma, characteristics Edgardo Defortuna, president of Fortune International, has in abundance.

As head of Fortune International, Defortuna's company logged a billion dollars in sales last year. The full-service real estate firm has been a lynchpin of the Brickell/Key Biscayne real estate sales and management scene since 1983, and has successfully expanded its local operation to Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Aventura and Sunny Isles Beach. Fortune International is well known in Latin America, with a presence in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and Mexico.

In 2001, though, Defortuna decided to develop projects himself with Jade Residences at Brickell Bay. A joint venture with Swire Properties, Jade is slated for completion in 2004. He is also presently developing M Resort Residences in Sunny Isles Beach, an oceanfront condo-hotel tower located at 18683 Collins Avenue. More than 80 percent sold, construction on M is under way.

This year, Defortuna announced two new exciting projects in South Florida. Jade Beach, the sister property to the original Jade, the $240 million residential tower will feature 248 condominium residences and will be constructed adjacent to take shape on a gorgeous stretch of 300 feet of direct oceanfront in Sunny Isles Beach. Fortune also recently completed its purchase of 1110 Brickell Avenue, the area's first office/condo building. Located in the heart of Miami's financial district, the building features approximately 60 offices available for purchase.

Lawrence Duprey, Joseph Cook, Daniel Adache and Jerrold Krystoff

Based in Ft. Lauderdale, Colonial Development Group, LLC is one of Florida's leading real estate development companies with more than $1.5 billion in active Central and South Florida projects. The company specializes in the development of hotels and resorts, luxury high-rise residential condominiums, and retail and mixed-use projects, both domestically and internationally. Colonial Development's financial partner, CL Financial Limited, is the largest conglomerate in the Caribbean with over $5 billion in assets.

Four principals head Colonial Development: Chairman Lawrence A. Duprey, who is also executive chairman of CL Financial Limited; Chief Executive Officer Joseph R. Cook, who is also managing partner of Hunt, Cook, Riggs, Gross & Greenberg, P.A.; President Daniel E. Adache, who is also chief executive officer of Adache Associates Architects, P.A.; and Executive Vice President Jerrold R. Krystoff, who is also chairman of Hospitality Development Group, Inc. 

Some of Colonial Development's current South Florida projects include the 52-story Infinity at Brickell, set to be the third tallest building in Miami, which will consist of 433 luxury residential condominium units selling from $189,000 to over $700,000, approximately 42,000 square feet of condominium office space and over 6,000 square feet of retail space. In Broward, Colonial is building the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel & Residence, a mixed-use resort on Fort Lauderdale Beach. The W Fort Lauderdale Hotel & Residences, Florida's first W and only the second W Hotel & Residences in the U.S., will include twin 23-story towers, consisting of 346 hotel rooms in the east tower, 171 luxury resort condominium units in the west tower and a world-class destination health spa. In addition, the company is building Europa by-the-Sea, a 50-unit, luxury oceanfront condominium project offering units ranging from $1 million to more than $3.5 million; Bermuda Yacht Club: a boutique, 12-unit waterfront condominium project, including boat docks for every unit located on the Isles of Venice in the Las Olas Isles in Fort Lauderdale; and Palazzo Las Olas, a mixed-use development on the Intracoastal waterway and Las Olas Blvd. in Ft. Lauderdale.

Lissette Calderon

A graduate of the Wharton School of Business, Lissette Calderon worked as an investment banker in New York before she embarked on her career in real estate. Following her financial career, Calderon worked with such developers such as Manny Medina of Terremark and Jorge Perez of The Related Group.

In 1999 she founded Neo Concepts LLC, a limited company now developing lofts and split residences in Miami. Her first project, Neo Lofts, consists of a 199-unit building on the bank of the Miami River & the first residential loft building in Miami's urban core. She is now embarking on developing Neo Vertika in Brickell Village, a split development featuring two-story living spaces.

Ian Bruce Eichner

Ian Bruce Eichner founded his New York-based real estate company in 1978. During the last two decades, he has developed in excess of four million square feet of luxury residential, office, and retail space in Manhattan totaling more than $1 billion.

Eichner's career in real estate follows almost a decade in the criminal justice system, including terms as an assistant district attorney and program development chief of a gubernatorial agency during Nelson Rockefeller's tenure. Eichner's diverse organizational affiliations include the New York City Partnership, the New York historic Partnership, the New York Historic Committee, and Friends Committee of City Meals-on-Wheels.

In Miami Beach, Eichner is known for being the developer of Continuum, located on the southernmost tip of Miami Beach. The expansive 12.9-acre oceanfront parcel was purchased last year for $45 million. Eichner's plans call for the creation of an exclusive, private seaside estate with two luxury high-rise buildings, a 40-story South and a 37-story North Tower, encompassed by a tropical garden setting of palm groves, natural hammocks, flowing fountains, lagoons, pools, and cabanas designed by noted landscape architect Taft Bradshaw.

Jeff Morr

Jeff Morr is principal and co-founder of Urbana Development, a real estate development company focused on cutting-edge, mixed-use residential & retail/commercial projects in emerging, urban neighborhoods. In launching Urbana with partners Fabien Tremoulet and Jeremy Green, Morr developed the company's strategic vision and business plan, acquired multiple site locations at below market value, and worked closely with project architects on design. The company is currently developing Aria in the Miami Design District, and has two other development sites with a total expected sell-out value of almost $100 million.

Born in Israel and raised in Broward County, Jeff Morr began his career in real estate at Century 21 Prospect Realty in Ft. Lauderdale. After becoming the top producer at the age of 21 and becoming a partner, he relocated to Miami Beach in 1990. He then went on to work as an agent at Remax and Wimbish before launching Majestic Properties in 1995.

As founder and president of Majestic Properties, now a leading real estate force in the Miami and Miami Beach sectors, Morr's primary initiative is developing new business. He also manages approximately 200 agents, 20 employees and more than $300 million in property sales. In 1997, Morr established the Majestic Collection to serve as a luxury sales and marketing division for ultra contemporary condominiums. He represents developers and assists them with site identification and land acquisition, conceptualizes and designs projects, and performs marketing and sales. Through the Majestic Collection, Morr pioneered the loft concept in Miami Beach and then moved on to more fertile grounds in North Beach, North Bay Village and the Biscayne corridor.

Willy A. Bermello

Willy A. Bermello was born in Havana, Cuba and came with his parents to Miami in 1960, when he was ten years old. He attended the University of Florida, obtaining a bachelors degree in architecture and later a masters degrees in architecture and city planning, where he graduated magna cum laude and was an AIA Student Silver Medalist.

Now a Florida registered architect with more than 25 years of experience in international practice, he is president and CEO of Bermello, Ajamil & Partners, Inc., a South Florida architecture and engineering firm. Bermello's career as an architect includes a broad base of public and private projects, spanning over two decades designing airports, seaports, transit stations, schools and commercial and residential projects. Having realized his youthful ambitions, he set his sights on a new dream & to become a developer. Today, as president and chief executive officer of BAP Development, Inc., based in Coral Gables, Bermello is fulfilling that goal.

One of BAP's most recent new projects is Onyx, a 28-story waterfront tower being built in the up-and-coming area of Miami less than one mile north of Downtown Miami. He also recently completed The Aston, a 226-unit project with ground-floor retail. Now under construction is 610 Clematis in downtown West Palm Beach. The Mediterranean-style condominium residence is being developed at the intersection of Clematis Street and Rosemary Aven ue at the northern boundary of CityPlace, in the heart of West Palm Beach's shopping and entertainment district. Another BAP project under construction is the 600-unit Brickell View high-rise at 12th Street and S. Miami Avenue. BAP recently completed the 405-unit luxury Summit Brickell apartment project just west of Brickell Avenue and Douglas Grand in Coral Gables, which encompasses a 44,000 square-foot Publix supermarket, 22,000 square-foot office space and 159 luxury rental apartments.

In professional practice in Miami since 1975, Bermello is an active member of the South Florida community. A past president of the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana and a past president of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, Bermello has been appointed to numerous advisory boards and leadership positions in civic organizations. Currently, he serves as chairman of the City of Miami's Urban Development Review Board; a member of the board of directors of Colonial Bank; and a member of the Orange Bowl committee.

Craig Robins

Craig Robins is the chief executive officer of Dacra and has brought a creative take to real estate development,one that merges urban design, architecture, interior design, and art to build and revitalize communities. For each Dacra project, Robins forms a team of internationally renowned architects and urban planners whose vision to transform urban areas transcends the traditional focus on the construction of single structures. A Miami Beach native, Robins and his projects in South Beach and the Miami Design District have contributed to the projection of the contemporary image of South Florida around the world.

Founded by Robins in 1987, Dacra was one of the earliest and more significant leaders in the rebirth of South Beach and the restoration and preservation of its Art Deco architecture. Over the last six years, Dacra has propelled the redevelopment of the Miami Design District, a formerly derelict area of 1920s and 1930s buildings and abandoned factories. Aqua, Dacra's latest Miami Beach residential venture, will be constructed on 8.5 acres of Allison Island on the former site of St. Francis Hospital (where Craig Robins was born, interestingly enough) and will consist of 151-units comprised of houses and mid-rise buildings.

Robins and his wife, Ivelin, are art collectors, and works from their collection of contemporary art are on public display in Dacra buildings.

Andi Greenwald

Tribeca West at 1500 Michigan Avenue, the latest restoration project spearheaded by the Andi Greenwald Development Project, is set to open in December. 

Developer Andi Greenwald has been honored twice by the Miami Beach Design Preservation League for her excellence in restoration for her work on Coconut at 1018 Meridian and the Cabana at 1551 Lenox Avenue. With each new development project, Greenwald seeks to raise the bar in refinement and detail. Tribeca is the group's fifth South Beach development, following their work on the Santa Monica, Metropolis, Coconut, and Cabana. Located just steps from the bustling action of the cafes and shopping of Lincoln Road, Tribeca offers a luxury hideaway with an intimate, community feel. True to her style, Andi Greenwald has maintained the integrity of the classic deco architecture, gutted the building, and updated and upgraded every htmlect to the highest possible level. 

Despite the accolades, Greenwald is the first to give credit to her team. She collaborates with friend and interior designer, Rory Gershon of the Gershon Group, on all elements of design. For the exterior, her partner Michelle Hill frames the projects with gracious, tropical landscaping. Together they have created a sophisticated and secluded tropical neighborhood in one of America's liveliest urban environments. 

Scott Greenwald

Born in Miami and the brother of Andi Greenwald, Scott Greenwald understands the flow of the local real estate market. He develops with a commitment to quality and a desire to improve the surrounding community.

Growing up in a real estate family, Greenwald jumped into that industry soon after earning his graduate degree from the Real Estate Institute of New York University, starting with his acquirement of shopping centers such as Suniland in South Dade. After early involvement in the South Beach resurgence through deals like the financing of the 11th Street Diner, Greenwald developed Ocean Place, a modern Art Deco-style condominium designed by Arquitectonica. He transformed a synagogue at 1545 Jefferson Avenue into Lunamar, consisting of eight two-story loft units. His latest South Beach project is Industry, on Lenox Avenue just south of Lincoln Road, where Greenwald is converting the vintage Bell South building into 17 authentic live/work lofts.

Greenwald is also redeveloping an aging shopping center in North Bay Village into The Lexi, a mixed-use condominium complex. The Lexi will include luxury condominiums with 10' ceilings and spectacular bay views at affordable prices with the convenience of retail services right in the building.

Michael Samuel

Michael Samuel of Samuel & Co. recently relocated from New York to Miami to take advantage of Miami's real estate boom. Among his major moves: putting down $34 million to buy up 56-acres of the Buena Vista Rail Yard, a chunk of land the City of Miami is seeking to re-zone to allow the construction of a mini-city: complete with residential and commercial properties of nearly every form. 

Samuel also teamed up with Joseph Cayre, a former movie distributor who made millions off of selling tapes to Wal-Mart turned founder of the New York-based real estate firm Midtown Equities. Thanks to the partnership, Samuel not only had the funds to become the rail yard master (he intends to sell off parcels to other developers once the zoning changes are completed) but he enhanced his ability to expand his empire to the former Banyan Bay Apartments, where both he and Cayre plan to build Nirvana.

Ralph Conti

As vice president and director of development for Developers Diversified, Ralph Conti will lead that company's efforts to build a 580,000 square foot shopping center called The Shops at Midtown on 26 acres of land between N.E. 28th and 36th Streets along North Miami Avenue, a component many real estate people say could change the face of that part of Miami.

Prior to joining Developers Diversified, Conti worked in the Pittsburgh, PA office of the Glimcher Group where he served as senior vice president of development. Before that, he was director of development services for the Homart Development Company. Conti is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers, American Society of Civil Engineers, and is on the program committee for the ICSC centerbuild conference.

Eric Sheppard and Philip Wolman

Combined, Eric Sheppard and Philip Wolman have more than 40 years of experience in development and corporate management.

WSG Development Company was born in 1995 when Wolman and Sheppard joined forces. Specializing in acquisition, development and construction of commercial and residential real estate, WSG has entered the real estate market of 15 states. By the end of 2003, WSG and its partners will have completed 42 real estate developments which include residential condominiums, single-family homes, Class A office buildings, warehouse/manufacturing plants and retail shopping centers. 

Most recently, WSG Development completed the purchase of the legendary Carillon Hotel. According to WSG, this $450 million development project will be mixed use and includes 467 luxury condominium residences a 60,000 square foot spa, a 300-seat oceanfront restaurant and the renovation of the original Carillon Hotel, which will house 151 unit luxury boutique hotel suites. The entire property will be managed by Canyon Ranch, a destination resort and spa company.

Paul Drummond

The regional president of East Coast Towers Division for WCI Communities, Inc., Paul Drummond is helping to shape Florida's skyline as he leads the teams responsible for designing, marketing and constructing WCI's premier residential towers along Florida's East Coast. There are now 19 towers from Coral Gables up to Jacksonville under his management since he was promoted in 2002. WCI's South Florida projects include BellaMaré at Williams Island, Aventura, and the luxurious, oceanfront One Bal Harbour residential and hotel condominium planned in the Village of Bal Harbour.

It's not by chance that WCI, the state's leading builder and developer of [luxurious] communities over the past 50 years, has become the industry leader in developing residential luxury towers, says Drummond who, according to his bio, begins his day at the office at 5:30 a.m. and works late into the evening.

WCI has completed 34 residential towers over the past 14 years on both coasts. An additional 10 towers are currently under construction; 10 in design, and several yet unannounced projects throughout the state that are in schematic design as possible acquisitions.

John Conroy and Jonathan Breene

John P. Conroy, Jr. and Jonathan J. Breene are the founding partners of The Setai Group, a New York-based development company specializing in luxury residential and five-star boutique hotel properties in select markets around the world. 

Conroy, who currently oversees development on The Vendome, a 119-unit luxury condominium residence on Turtle Creek Boulevard in Dallas, Texas, graduated magna cum laude from Manhattan College with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and a Masters in Business Administration in finance from Pace University. A certified accountant, Conroy was controller at General Atlantic Realty, a financial analyst at Fosterlane Management Company and held various positions at American Express. Conroy served as chief financial officer of development at Millennium Partners, a New York-based development company focusing on high-end luxury condominium and mixed-use projects. Conroy was instrumental in the Millennium's growth and completed more than $600 million of mixed-used residential and retail urban entertainment development projects, was also responsible for the day-to-day financial operations of the company and oversaw construction loan financing and investment activities. It was at Millennium that he met his future partner, Jonathan Breene.

A graduate of Columbia University where he earned a Master of Science in Real Estate Development, Breene was a partner with Samut & Co., a real estate advisory and brokerage firm in Australia. He later worked for a consortium lead by Zechendorf Realty developing the Queens West waterfront project in Queens, New York. He was later an executive at Millennium Partners, a New York-based developer of luxury condominium and mixed-use projects. While there, Breene was responsible for new development and acquisition opportunities in urban cities, including New York City, Miami, Chicago and London. He was involved in the development of The Four Seasons Hotel & Tower in Miami, an 80-story mixed-use project featuring a Four Seasons Hotel, Four Seasons Club, Class A office component, sports club and luxury condominiums.

Breene currently oversees development of The Setai Resort & Residences, a 40-story luxury oceanfront condominium tower and five-star resort hotel in Miami Beach. 

Silvia Sabates Coltrane

Arriving in the United States as a child through the Peter Pan program, the Cuban-American Silvia Sabates Coltrane started out as an educator in the Atlanta and Broward county school systems. Then, in 1980, Coltrane obtained her real estate license and founded Real Estate Transactions, Inc. with her husband Thomas Coltrane. Her projects as a developer include Azure in Surfside and Parc Plaza condominium. In addition to being a developer, Coltrane is also quite the marketing and promotions agent. Besides handling her own marketing for Azure, Coltrane also represents the projects of other developers such as The Parc at Turnberry Isle, Solimar, Villa di Mare, Nautica,a total of more than 18 residential condominiums.

Coltrane says she only backs quality projects in key locations and then assembles a team of professionals to promote and sell the residences. People trust my name and what I stand for, she said. They know I deliver.

Ricardo Dunin

The developer of the Mutiny Hotel, Ricardo Dunin's claim to developer fame was building the first condo-hotel in South Florida. Due to the success of The Mutiny project, Dunin took on the development of an adjacent site and re-christened it the Condominium Residences at Sonestra Hotel & Suites Coconut Grove featuring 211 condo residences in a 21-block tower in the heart of Coconut Grove.

Right now Dunin and his company Flagler Holding Group is constructing The Meridian, a contemporary loft project on the triangular site where Dade Boulevard intersects with Meridian Avenue in Miami Beach. The Meridian will offer 99 residences selling from $250,000 to more than $800,000. He is also developing the Sereno Beach Hotel in St. Barths near the island of St. Maarten.

Michael J. Mulhall

Michael J. Mulhall is director for GDC Premier Communities, a fully integrated real estate investment and development company based in Orlando. Mulhall is responsible for site selection and acquisition, feasibility analysis, design, financing and development of both Class A apartment communities and new condominiums throughout the southeast United States. To date, the company's portfolio represents nearly $100 million in multifamily development.

A graduate of Virginia Tech with a degree in urban development, Mulhall has experience in developing apartments, office space and condominiums in North Florida, Central Florida, Virginia and the District of Columbia. While at GDC, Mulhall spearheaded development of a 209-unit community near Disney World.

Now both GDC and Mulhall have turned their eyes southward to Miami-Dade County. Their first project: Alaqua, a luxury condominium in Aventura with a sellout value of $66 million.

Al Piazza and Mike Neal

Coscan Homes has a reputation stretching back 25 years. Since 1977, starting in Aventura's Waterways area, Coscan has built more than 5,000 homes in more than 20 Florida communities.

A new chapter for the company began in January 2003 when Al Piazza and Mike Neal bought out the management of the company from the Toronto-based Brookfield Homes. The deal gave Piazza and Neal more flexibility. The result: Coscan Homes now also has Coscan Construction, a construction contractor arm to help other developers build their property. Already the Trump Dezer group hired Piazza and Neal's new company to build the Sunny Isles high-rises Trump Palace and Trump Royale.

Past developer credits of the Coscon include Presidential Estates in North Miami Beach, Ocean Point in Sunny Isles Beach, the Metropolitan in Miami's Brickell Avenue and the South Tower of The Point at Aventura. Atlantic One, another Aventura Coscan project, is now under construction.

Gilbert Benhamou and Claudio Stivelman

The two developers of Uptown Marina Lofts, soon to be constructed in Aventura's former Thunder Alley behind Loehmann's Plaza, Gilbert Benhamou and Claudio Stivelman, each have interesting real estate portfolios in their own right.

Gilbert Benhamou has more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur in France and the United States, first with a company that designed and distributed women's knitwear, then as one of the first people to manufacture car phones in France, then performing condo conversions in Manhattan and, finally, buying property in South Florida. He developed the Grand Venetian in Belle Isle, Miami Beach and is in investing in projects soon-to-be underway in Sunny Isles and Palm Beach.

Claudio Stivelman trained under a Rio de Janeiro branch of an American development company known as Morrison Knudsen prior to moving on to the family-owned Banco Cedula where he attained the rank of chief financial officer. In 1981 he started a construction company that built 15 luxury buildings in Rio and, later, headed various influential Brazilian business associations. When he moved to Miami in 1991, Stivelman soon stared investing in real estate and embarked in a joint venture with Coscon Homes to build the Ocean Point Resort and Beach Club in Sunny Isles. In 2002 he bought two acres of land in Thunder Alley and, on a 4.66-acre site, joined forces with Benhamou to develop Uptown Marina Lofts.

Elliot Sharaby

The CEO of The Fallstaff Group, Elliott J. Sharaby's specialty is condominium and resort conversions. Through his efforts the Baltimore-based company has restored many National Historic Landmarks across the country to their original grandeur.

Sharaby is no stranger to Miami-Dade. Ten years ago he was responsible for converting North Miami General Hospital into Johnson & Wales Culinary Institute. A year ago Sharaby purchased the luxury waterfront Island Pointe condominium residences in Bay Harbor Islands and invested millions restoring the 11-story waterfront building, transforming it into a gated condominium that offers panoramic views for spacious residences that sell for between the $200,000s and $500,000s.

Sharaby's modus operandi is doing extensive market research and then selecting the right project at the right time. He also personally oversees every htmlect of a project's renovation and has assembled a professional staff of managers and project directors who travel with him from project to project. This strategy has paid off with Island Pointe where more than 75% of the units have been sold.

Ron Bloomberg, Ronald Gaines, Charles Sieger, Jose Suarez

The concepts and designs created by the architectural firm known as the Sieger Suarez Architectural Partnership are renowned by the local development community since they pioneered the floor through/see through plan in the late 1970s. Past architectural credits include Portofino Tower, the Pinnacle, Murano Grande, Mystic Pointe, etc. But being sought by developers for their award-winning high-rise designs wasn't enough for architects Charles Sieger and Jose Suarez: they wanted to become developers themselves.

So, in order to expedite this goal, Sieger and Suarez took on a few partners.

First came Ronald Gaines of GS2 Corporation, a general contracting and construction management company. Back in 1990 GS2 became a Sieger Suarez affiliate.

And recently, around two years ago, Ronald Bloomberg became a partner. A developer in his own right, Bloomberg has been involved in the real estate industry since 1983 and was affiliated with Turnberry Associates. Bloomberg constructed an office building near Collins Park in Miami Beach and intends to redevelop the former police museum in Miami.

The first result of the four partners: the future Terra Beachside Villas at 6000 Indian Creek where each unit is between 1,011 and 2,049 square feet and where plans call for the penthouse units to each have a grand roof terrace of 1,000 square feet each.

William Ross

As president of Estoril, Inc., Bill Ross has directed the planning and construction of Espirito Santo Plaza, a $180 million, 36-story office/condominium/hotel/retail center that seeks to redefines Miami's skyline as the nation's gateway city to Latin American and the Caribbean.

Associated with Group Espirito Santo since 1991, Ross seeks out new real estate investment opportunities in Florida for the Portugal-based banking group. A third-generation builder/developer, Ross began his career in real estate in 1976 as manager of some of Arvida's projects. Between 1984 and 1987, Ross was a partner with Adler-Ross Associates and president of its Central Florida Division where he helped develop a $22 million, 277-unit townhouse condo community in Orlando. In 1987 and 1988 he was an associate for the Coral Gables consulting firm of Laventhol & Horwath. He later became executive vice president and chief operating officer of Five Star Homes and during his tenure the company's profits skyrocketed from under $600,000 in 1988 to $2.4 million in 1989.

Sami Shiro, Enrique Feldman and Paul Hariton

VenAventura LLC, the company building The Atrium in Aventura, is led by three members of the development industry who have come together to create the new luxury condominium residence being built directly on the water in the City of Excellence. Three experienced luxury high-rise developers and longtime friends, architects Enrique Feldman and Paul Hariton and engineer Sami Shiro, formed a partnership to pursue their first collaborative project in Dade County.

While new to the area, VenAventura's experience in real estate design, development and management is quite extensive. Before collaborating with Shiro, Feldman and Hariton were partners for 10 years in Hariton & Poplicher Asociados, a renowned architecture, engineering and development firm in Venezuela. Feldman and Hariton are credited with designing and developing numerous residential and commercial projects in Caracas. Sami Shiro brings his expertise in management and consulting to the project. 

Once completed in early 2005, the Atrium will offer two and three-bedroom units priced from the $300,000's to over $600,000.

Michael Swerdlow

Perfecting the art of bankruptcy liquidations in the 1970s, Michael Swerdlow soon gained a reputation for turning the leaseholds of bankrupt tenants into valuable assets. According to his bio, Swerdlow restructured, marketed and sold over 30 million square feet of leases between 1977 and 1984. Thereafter, Swerdlow became a developer: building two million square feet of retail and office space in Northern Virginia, Connecticut and Illinois from 1985 to 1987. 

From there, Swerdlow turned his attention southward to Hollywood, Florida and led a group of investors in the take over of Hollywood, Inc. in 1988, giving him access to $400 million worth of 3,000 acres of vacant land and two million square feet of functioning properties. 

Recently Swerdlow went on to develop such projects as Dolphin Mall, Las Olas Riverfront, West Lake Village, Oakridge and Oakwood Plaza. He is now in a joint venture with Boca Developers to construct Biscayne Landings on North Miami's Interama site.

Yosi Gil

As executive vice president and partner of J. Milton & Associates, Yosi Gil serves as the lead principal and face for all new developments. In this role, he determines the feasibility of future acquisitions, seeks out new development opportunities in prime locations, researches market conditions and develops a financial strategy that ensures company profitability. He also designs relevant marketing campaigns and oversees the sales force of each development. Gil is currently involved in implementing strategic planning for the company's newest Sunny Isles Beach residential properties, Sayan and King David.

After graduating from Tel Aviv University with a degree in marketing, Gil set off for the United States to fulfill his dream of becoming a real estate professional. Gil moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to join Crescent Heights, the nation's largest condominium converter. He acquired a feel for American policies and tactics and quickly rose in the ranks, becoming directly responsible for all of the company's marketing, advertising, and in-house financing. As a result of his comprehensive efforts, Gil marketed and sold 1,200 oceanfront condominiums, representing a sellout value of $150 million from 1989 to 1991. He moved to Miami in 1991, and was recruited by Pacific International Equities to serve as sales and marketing director for several high-profile developments. At Sunset Harbour and The Courts at South Beach, he was responsible for over $300 million in sales.

Gil then joined J. Milton and Associates in 1998 as executive vice president and principal for the Pinnacle, a 246-unit luxury high-rise on the ocean in Sunny Isles Beach. Under his direction, the developers achieved a sellout of over $140 million.

Timothy Weller

As vice president of development at MDM Development Group, Timothy Weller has been responsible for the development of the JW Marriott and the Mellon Financial Center, both on Brickell Avenue. Currently, he is overseeing the development of Metropolitan Miami, a $600 million, mixed-use development in the heart of downtown Miami.

Prior to joining MDM Development Group, Weller was a hotel industry executive for twenty years and served as general manager of several four-star hotels. He joined MDM Hotels Inc. as general manager of the Dadeland Marriott in 1989 and transitioned into MDM Development Group when it was formed in 1997.

As vice president of development for MDM Development Group, Weller serves as direct liaison between the owners, contractors, financial institutions and design teams. He is charged with expediting zoning, permitting and construction processes to assure that projects are completed on schedule.

A graduate of Ohio State University, Weller is fluent in Chinese and is certified in hotel administration. 

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David Koster
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