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The Bisnow 2016 Miami Power 50 The most influential players in commercial real estate -- Part 1 (No. 1-18)

South Florida

As the winds of change blow a bit harder, it seems time to reflect on what's been a Platinum Age of Miami real estate, featuring not only countless cranes, but dramatic regional transformation. It doesn't happen magically on its own; extraordinary individuals drive progress. So we've talked with many of you, and herewith attempt to sort, rank and recognize the key figures. Of course it's not scientific, but subjective. If this causes you to debate and disagree, well, that's the whole point.


1. Jorge Perez, CEO, Related Florida


A self-made model for the ages, charismatic and colorful, ubiquitous, effortlessly bridging American and Latin communities, and thinking as high as the sky, Jorge's the personification of Miami rhythms and dreams. Moreover, he's the Janet Yellen of the industry: every word and action parsed for hints on which way it's headed. So the fact he hasn't announced new projects and is adding focus to rentals is taken as a caution, but launching sales for a 60-story Auberge is interpreted optimistically. Jorge remains Miami's condo king—and what defines the city more than that? (Well, maybe art—but with PAMM, he's got that covered, too.) He's also got other products and a deep bench: Steve Patterson leading apartments, Carlos Rosso condos, Lisette Calderon P3 and redevelopment, and Albert Milo affordable housing. And with son Jon Paul in charge of Auberge, he's beginning to pass the torch.

2. Armando Codina, executive chairman, Codina Partners


The graybeard, the godfather, the patriarch. People have different monikers for him, but they all agree that he's like the President—if he calls and asks, you do it. He's been king of industrial real estate; sold Flagler to Fortress; helped create a politically powerful Cuban-American community; and remade west Dade. His civic influence (including over the years at the side of Alvah Chapman and Jeb Bush) goes way beyond writing checks, and his reputation for integrity is legendary. Plus he's seeded the future: Daughter Ana-Marie Codina Barlick is CEO and ready to take things to a new level. And with announcements just this month of pre-sales for another condo tower in Codina's Downtown Doral project, the next gen is well on its way.

3. Stuart Miller, CEO, Lennar and Rialto Capital Management


Having this major industry figure based here along with his two big deal firms—homebuilding giant Lennar and investment firm Rialto (helping make the CMBS market work as one of the most active B-piece buyers of securitized debt)—has put Miami on the national real estate map, from houses and apartments to finance and lending, and JV'ing with all kinds of partners. But Stuart doesn't just live here (which is saying something—he's planning quite the abode on Star Island). More importantly, he's become a civic titan through vast holdings in Homestead and Doral, big recent purchases in Miami Lakes and Hialeah, chairing the board at the University of Miami, and mammoth charitable contributions (even including, above, the Ice Bucket Challenge).


4. Don Soffer, and Jeff and Jackie Soffer, founder and co-CEOs, respectively, Turnberry Associates


Grandfather Harry bought 785 acres of swampland 50 years ago and named it Aventura, and father Don created Turnberry, but the kids haven't rested on their riches: They've continued to make Aventura Mall one of the highest-grossing bazaars in America, bought and revived the Fontainebleau, are upgrading Opa-locka airport, and with the LeFraks plan to transform a North Miami junkyard into a $4B model of mixed-use. They've also each become mega-power couples: Jackie last year married Craig Robbins (see below), and Jeff is hitched to supermodel Elle McPherson (and if that status is not enough, was last year officially named a billionaire by Forbes).

5. Craig Robins, CEO, Dacra Development


Some icons have just one major triumph. Craig (pictured at a recent Bisnow event with new wife Jackie Soffer, see above) is already on his fourth or fifth. He helped revive Ocean Drive with dad Jerry, brother Scott, mentor Tony Goldman and music giant Chris Blackwell. He rocked Lincoln Road. He built AQUA. And now his big focus is the Design District, making into a diamond-studded retail scene with deep-pocket partners Bernard Arnaud and LVMH (and minority investors Ashkenazy and GGP). It may seem a little quiet still, but just wait for the hotels and residential in coming phases. Don't forget, Craig's also the guy who helped explode Art Basel.

6. Steve Owens, president, Swire Properties


If you think Brickell has already boomed, just watch the 5.4M SF City Centre unfold, including (in a later phase) an 80-story tower that may become the city's tallest. A 220-year-old British/Hong Kong brand is helping morph a sedate financial center into a sea of life—with the occasional wait for a drawbridge. Running the firm's US operations for 30 years, Steve (who's retiring in January, and pictured last month at a Bisnow event) works for a company that builds for centuries. Some thought it was crazy to undertake such a giant project; but just like it was vindicated for boldly developing Brickell Key decades ago, now it's due another statue for the genius in building out Brickell itself. 

7. Sonny Kahn, Russell Galbut (pictured) and Bruce Menin, co-founders, Crescent Heights


Here's another corporate goliath whose HQ here makes Miami legit nationally. Although these guys got their start doing Florida condo conversions, they became legend with spectacular recession-era timing, pivoting in 2005 and buying like madmen at 8-caps in 2008-09. Today Crescent Heights is a major coast-to-coast player building ritzy towers in Beverly Hills and Chicago, and Seattle's tallest skyscraper; indeed, Bruce lives largely in NYC. In Miami, its activity is lower profile but significant: large sites ready for mixed-use on Alton between 5th and 7th (and on the other side of the street, a big Baptist Hospital facility—welcomed by the beach, which over the years has lost hospitals to Aqua and the Ritz), and on Alton at both Lincoln and 19th (all hail a new Whole Foods!). The firm's also reflagging the Shelborne as a Marriott and planning things for Biscayne in the 30s. For the future, these gents have the perfect location at the foot of MacArthur Causeway if there's a BayLink to the city or a South Beach train loop. Meanwhile, often below the radar, Russell has become Mr. Miami Beach, involved in tons of other local deals and charities.

8. Stanley Whitman, Randy Whitman and Matthew Whitman Lazenby, chairman emeritus, chairman and CEO, respectively, Whitman Family Development


Patriarch Stanley Whitman said 50 years ago (while creating the Shops at Bal Harbour) that he wanted it to be both the Fifth Avenue of the South and the Lincoln Road of the North. Today, at 97, he watches proudly as grandson Matthew Lazenby presides over one of the most iconic luxury malls in America. Not content just to be on the level of Worth Avenue and Rodeo Drive, it's readied a $400M expansion plan, including the recent purchase of a church, and begun directing (with Simon Property Group) the retail for Brickell City Centre. The family's ultimate influence can be seen not just in the stores and shopping it creates but in the posh neighborhood that spills out around them.

9. Ugo Colombo, founder, CMC Group


Son of an Italian industrialist, this part-time auto racer and luxury car dealer is above all a classy developer who sets the standard for high-end condos that spread a European flair and often sleek glass look throughout the city: Bristol Tower and Santa Maria in Brickell, Grosvenor House in Coconut Grove, Porto Vita in Aventura, the Epic Downtown, Art Deco redos on Ocean Drive, and now Beach House 8 in Mid-Beach. His planned the 64-story Flatiron in Brickell features a striking curvilinear design and may well inspire what we've dubbed a new "Curvaceous Age." In the ultimate tribute to the quality and style of his creations, brokers say the value of his older projects keep pace with that of the coolest new buildings.

10. Edgardo Defortuna, CEO, Fortune International


Superbroker and developer, Edgardo adapts and stays relevant, deploying 1,000 agents to market top condos in South Florida, and developing the Ritz Residences and Jade Signature on Sunny Isles, Hyde in Hollywood and Auberge in Fort Lauderdale. He was the first super-broker to set up strategic relationships with counterparts in Latin America, and has made it his business to prospect second-tier cities and coax airlines to fly non-stop there. With brother Walter as chairman and next gen leaders on board like Eduardo Emery, he's built a formidable team. And his recent move to buy out Marlborough House may make him the catalyst to start a transformation of upper Mid-Beach.

11. Tibor Hollo, founder, Florida East Coast Realty


The 89-year-old Holocaust survivor who speaks 10 languages is Miami's skipper of skyscrapers and literally changing the skyline of the city perhaps more than anyone else. He's well advanced with Panorama Tower on Brickell, which at 822 feet will be the tallest building in Miami when it delivers in '17. (It's 33 feet higher than the Four Seasons.) He's also filed (with former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt as a partner) to do 1201 Brickell Bay Drive, the old Villa Magna site, at 1,044 feet, and planning One Bayfront Plaza (100 South Biscayne) at 1,010 feet. And his unflagging energy inspires us all—don't be surprised to see him at lunch holding court at the first table at Joe's.

12. Michael and Gil (pictured) Dezer, founder and president, respectively, Dezer Development


The creators of today's Sunny Isles oceanfront are taking it to the next level and in the process reinventing real estate branding. Father Michael (son of an Israeli bus driver and still a major owner in NYC's Chelsea) years ago replaced kitschy motels with flashy towers—half a dozen with Donald Trump—and now Gil is pushing the luxury envelope with Cesar Pelli-designed Residences by Armani/Casa and the Porsche Design Tower. Collectors of 1,800 classic cars (you really should see their astounding museum if you haven't), the Dezers know, and have helped create, Miami money and style.

13. Jules (pictured) and Eddie Trump, co-chairmen, The Trump Group


Known for creating Aventura's successful Williams Island (named after their dad), the "other Trumps" (not related to the candidate) have largely focused on Sunny Isles. They produced the lavish Acqualina Resort and Spa, eagerly received by the Rolls-Royce crowd, then last year matched it with a 47-story Mansions at Acqualina (quickly selling out, even the $55M penthouse). Now they're underway with the Estates at Acqualina, reportedly selling briskly even in a downdraft—and before recently announcing haute fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld as designer. The lineup of four over-the-top towers in their seductive pastel colors will become a landmark of Sunny Isles.

14. Jessica Goldman Srebnick, CEO, Goldman Properties


Keeper of the flame since her legendary dad Tony's untimely passing in 2012 at age 68, she remains an active owner and guru in the areas he pioneered: SoHo, South Beach and especially Wynwood. While her brother Joey is a restaurateur and her mother, Janet, has her own fragrance company, Jessica's backed by top talent like Joe Furst and Marlo Courtney as she channels Tony's cultural vision as the guiding light for the neighborhood's exploding art, food and retail scene. As more and more developers pile into Wynwood with different styles and philosophies, her compass and voice will become more important.

15. Bernardo Fort-Brescia, co-founder, Arquitectonica


It’s impressive to stand out as Miami’s leading home-grown architect given how many other outstanding figures ply the trade like Kobi Karp, Bernard Zyscovich, Luis Revuelta, Sieger Suarez, John Nichols, Raymond Jungles and others. But Bernardo (with wife Laurinda Spear) founded Arquitectonica 39 years ago in Coconut Grove, has grown it to 900 employees in 12 offices around the world, and seems to be designing half the new buildings in town. He can even be credited with Miami’s modern revival given it was his design of Atlantis (the 20-story condo in Brickell with the doughnut hole, technically “skycourt”) that helped the city catch the attention of a national audience watching Miami Vice.

16. Raanan Katz, founder, RK Centers


This retail mega-investor has bought every strip mall property he can find on the west side of Collins from Bal Harbour to Golden Beach and around Bay Harbor, which is why you see RK signs everywhere. (That mysterious basketball in the logo symbolizes what he used to play in Israel, a passion that also explains why he's an original co-owner of the Heat and often courtside at games.) It's an incredible portfolio of gateway properties north of Surfside that will give his family a commanding position in that area for generations.

17. Steve Bittel, chairman, Terranova

Terranova Corp founder and Chairman Stephen Bittel

A nimble veteran of multiple cycles, Steve manages big institutional money, has owned (and sold) tons on Lincoln Road and Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, and is building up the new "Lincoln Lane" at Meridian with ground-up centers for Anthropologie and Marshall's, situated to capitalize on the just-launched redevelopment of the Miami Beach Convention Center. And he's Miami real estate's political impresario, hosting Obama and Biden at home for fundraising dinners, and putting his Rolodex to work as one of two co-chairs of the DNC.

18. Jimmy Goldsmith, CEO, Gator Investments


Starting his firm 30 years ago after making his first mark as Coldwell Banker's top leasing agent in Miami, Jimmy's developed or renovated over 7M SF and 2,000 apartments, and today has over 150 properties in 21 states. Although purposely off-screen, he's known to insiders as a brilliant investor and one of Florida's largest owners of neighborhood retail. And they say there are few corridors in the Miami area where he doesn't own a piece. At ICSC in Vegas, he's reportedly sought out as an oracle.