Jorge Pérez on the Makings of a Great City—and Not Just for Tourists
Related Group CEO Jorge Pérez continues to change the skylines of cities from Miami to Cancún with his signature luxury residences. Now, he’s getting a little help from sons Jon Paul and Nick
October 1, 2022
An expansive view of the azure Atlantic Ocean spreads out dramatically from the penthouse of the towering residential building, whose high windows reflect the golden rays of the sun. Leather Gucci shoes glide over the cool marble flooring, as keys to a fiery red Ferrari parked in the downstairs driveway are tossed nonchalantly into a Prada bag. A private elevator awaits to make the smooth trip to the lobby, which was designed by a high-profile architect along with the rest of the property, situated in one of the most desirable neighborhoods of the seaside city.
The quintessential aesthetics behind luxury condo living may not have been born in Miami, but the concept was certainly perfected there. Well before West Coast tech bros and affluent Northerners flocked to South Florida’s sunny shores searching for better living via lower property taxes, renowned development enterprise Related Group had been meticulously expanding Miami’s glittering skyline, one lavish project at a time. Founded on the ethos of enriching the lives of its residents as well as the communities in which its structures are built, the company is an influential force behind Miami’s elaborate image.
Spearheading those projects since the beginning has been Related Group founder Jorge Pérez, a figure many consider synonymous with the city’s transition from colorful, tourist-friendly, art deco-laden subtropical town to today’s full-fledged cosmopolitan oasis, brimming with top-tier nightlife and restaurants, a vibrant art scene and coveted real estate. The latter is currently in limited supply because of astonishingly high demand due to the rush of out-of-towners to relocate—a phenomenon intensified by the pandemic. “When I first came to Miami in 1968, it was pretty much a small town,” says Pérez, “New Yorkers would come here during the winter to the Beach where, at the time, hotels brought great singers like Frank Sinatra to perform. Then it pretty much became a wasteland.
“There was very little culture,” he continues. “There were no museums, and the downtown area was generally empty at 5 o’clock. So, at this point, I’ve seen the tremendous evolution of Miami, and always felt that for a city to be a great city—not just a city for tourists—both real estate and culture had to play very important roles.”
After years spent working as a city planner for Miami, Pérez launched Related Group in 1979, developing affordable housing in places such as Miami’s Little Havana and Homestead. After growing up in Latin America and witnessing wealth disparity firsthand, Pérez knew all too well the importance of tackling these types of urban challenges. As the city grew, so did Pérez’s commitment to redefining urban landscapes. He added luxury high-rise condominiums to Related Group’s portfolio, eventually expanding the company to become Florida’s top development firm and one of the country’s largest Hispanic-owned businesses.
In October 2020, Pérez, who is now Related Group’s chairman and CEO, named his elder son, Jon Paul Pérez, president of the company. The move finds Jon Paul flexing his innate business skills by overseeing more than $13 billion worth of projects that are currently in the development phase in more than 20 American cities as well as Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, all part of an empire that brought in approximately $1.7 billion in revenue in 2021. Younger brother Nick serves as senior vice president, heading up nine condominium jobs including the NoMad, a mixed-use property in the Wynwood neighborhood, arguably the heart of Miami’s art scene.
“This transition goes back more than 20 years, when Nick and Jon Paul were in high school and they would get in the car with me and go look at job sites,” says Pérez. “They learned early about how I react to both the good and bad things in the construction process from beginning to end.”
Rather than simply selling a space, Related Group sees its mission as promoting a lifestyle, and branding and marketing have been essential tools in this effort. “We travel around the world and research branding,” says Pérez. “The question we ask ourselves is why people pay $3,000 for a branded suit when you can easily get a similar one that isn’t branded for much less. The answer is trust.” The company’s portfolio includes rental properties that fall into four sub-brands: Gallery, accessibly priced, high-quality workforce housing across Florida; Town, garden-style residences that cater to local young professionals and those leaving dense urban hubs in favor of emerging suburban markets; Manor, located in up-and-coming neighborhoods and featuring buildings with a maximum of eight floors, for a comfortable feel; and Icon, luxury, condo-level rental towers located in urban areas, geared toward the “renter by choice” demographic. “Our buyers know what a Related Group product consists of, whether it’s top luxury or an affordable housing project like Liberty Square in Miami’s underdeveloped Liberty City. They know what they are getting,”
Whether in Miami or beyond, each project and potential buyer is also intricately studied. “Three things separate us from competitors: knowledge, creativity and execution,” says Pérez. “We have incredible market knowledge because of our teams who study each city and neighborhood we build in. What are the areas that are moving up? Where are employers moving? Where are the best contractors and subcontractors? These answers allow us to understand the markets that we are in.” Another element that keeps the firm ahead of the game is the leadership’s ability to remain modern and progressive through collaborative projects with top names in fashion and lifestyle. Now prominent in Miami’s downtown and financial districts, the trend began with one of Related Group’s most successful developments: fashion designer Giorgio Armani’s first residential project.
“Related Group has always been very good at pushing the boundaries of what can be built and how we connect with the brands we collaborate with,” says Jon Paul, who took the lead on the high-profile Armani/Casa endeavor. “Along with innovative projects like District 225, our first partnership with Airbnb, the company currently has projects with names like SLS, Ritz-Carlton and Baccarat.”
Baccarat Residences Miami, the first Related Group collaboration with the prestigious house, will consist of a 75-story high-rise designed by award-winning architecture firm Arquitectonica. The 360 available residences, penthouses and riverside villas range in price from $1.4 million to $4.7 million. “The average size of a unit at Baccarat is 2,000 square feet, and we’re selling it at over $1,000 a square foot. That’s over $2 million,” says Jon Paul. “Buyers are predominantly New Yorkers who have relocated and are now working here, young families or even older buyers whose kids have moved out and they just want a condo.”
A similar audience is targeted for The St. Regis Residences Miami. Extravagant even by Miami standards, the ultra-lavish property reflects a stellar creative marriage between Related Group, developer Integra Investments and design partners Robert A.M. Stern Architects and Rockwell Group. The most expensive condominium in Related’s 40-year history, the project has locked in $400 million in sales at press time. “The St. Regis is averaging a little higher compared to the Baccarat,” says Jon Paul. “It’s selling anywhere from $1,400 to $2,000 per square foot.”
Even with its prowess at keeping Miami’s well-heeled one-percent buyer ensconced in elegant surroundings, affordable and mixed-use housing continues to be a foundation for Related Group, and is a top priority for the developer as it heads into what could become the next American Riviera: Tampa. The Gulf Coast city, which has become Related’s second-largest market after South Florida, is currently one of the country’s hottest real estate hubs, with exponential growth in both small and large businesses.
“Tampa has all of the qualities to grow into a major city,” says Jon Paul. “It’s attracting top corporate talent who will buy property and maybe even open their own companies, which will help the city continue to flourish. Operations from American Express to Raymond James have huge presences in Tampa. That is a great stable employment base. The population growth is outpacing the new supply of residential units.”
Related entered the Tampa market about ten years ago with the Pierhouse at Channelside apartments. Since then, the company’s growth in the region has included Icon Harbour Island and Manor Riverwalk, and The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Related’s first collaboration with the brand, launched sales for the property’s second tower this summer. The first tower sold out immediately after construction, with the penthouse alone pulling in more than $11 million.
“Tampa is a perfect example of what Related is,” says Pérez. “We have redevelopment projects in neighborhoods like West River and projects selling for the highest price per square foot, like The Ritz-Carlton condominium on Bayshore Boulevard. The most expensive and the least expected, and everything in between.”
Related Group recently marked the ground-breaking of Canopy at West River, a mixed-income rental project that will include 196 units of public, affordable and workforce housing spread across two towers. Other West River redevelopment plans include a market-rate rental project along the river and the $500 million, mixed-use Rome Yard, a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood with multiple modes of public transportation, a workforce training center, a cultural center, and an art pavilion, something Pérez holds close to his heart. A recognized supporter of Miami’s cultural scene and notable collector in his own right, he is always on the lookout for ways to nurture the expansive collection of work featured at Pérez Art Museum Miami, the former Miami Art Museum that changed its name following a $40 million donation from the mogul. The same creativity and commitment to art applies to Related Group properties.
“Art really does change the mood of a room,” says Nick. “It’s very powerful when you have good art in lobbies or common areas. Whether it’s owners or renters, residents enjoy seeing beautiful art because it makes them happier and adds to the overall quality of life.”
Pérez agrees. “We are bringing major art into Tampa,” he explains. “The Pérez collection is going to be exhibiting ‘Tides for Change,’ which is then moving to the Tampa Museum of Art. A multimillion-dollar monumental Botero piece is also gracing The Ritz-Carlton on Bayshore Boulevard. Art, design, luxury, perfection. All are a part of the Related Group’s DNA and shine through in every neighborhood we touch.”