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Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With Related Group’s Carlos Rosso

This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles.

Miami was the land of little garden apartments until Related Group helped change the game with its vision for sophisticated metropolitan living.

Related Group Condominium Development Division President Carlos Rosso

Since 1979, the company has been stacking up condos and apartment buildings along the South Florida coastline, pulling in world-class designers and architects like Philippe Starck, Rem Koolhaas and Arquitectonica, and making high-end gyms and rooftop swimming pools the rule rather than the exception.

Carlos Rosso, who earned a master’s degree in real estate development and finance at MIT, met Related CEO Jorge Perez when he reached out regarding his thesis project. “When you’re done with that useless book, come work for me,” Perez told him.

For 16 years now, Rosso has helped Related navigate through, and recover from, the housing crisis by changing financing structures and incorporating operational elements like restaurants and hotels into building designs. With Related’s international expansion, Rosso’s workplace has expanded throughout Central and South America. This year alone, he has about 2,000 condos to deliver, most of which are already sold.  

Related Group Condominium Development Division President Carlos Rosso

Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry? 

Rosso: It can be difficult to explain the role of a developer, but I think my daughter’s description during a recent school presentation said it best: “I’m not sure what my dad does at work every day, but he’s always yelling on the phone.”

Seriously though, being a real estate developer is all about pushing other members of a project’s team to go above and beyond what they think is possible. That can sometimes involve some yelling, but overall, it’s about having a vision and, more importantly, having the tenacity and dedication to make it come to fruition. 

Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do? 

Rosso: I’m an architect by trade, and so most likely would have taken that route if I hadn’t gotten the opportunity to pursue a career in development. Both my parents are also architects so it would have been a natural path for me.

Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had? 

Rosso: I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve loved almost all of my jobs. I’d have to say being unemployed after graduating college was the worst period of my professional life. I graduated in 2001 shortly after 9/11 and the job market was incredibly tough, even with a degree from MIT. My wife had just gotten pregnant with our first child and so those were a tense few months. That period of uncertainty definitely made me value my future jobs much more and has impacted my overall drive and work ethic. 

Bisnow: What was your first big deal? 

Rosso: My first major deal was a condominium tower in Brickell called 1100 Millicento. I’d been with Related for a few years, but this was the first job where I personally found the site, identified the owners and eventually convinced them to partner with us on the project. We had just wrapped up development on MyBrickell and knew there was a huge demand for these kinds of downtown residences making it a natural decision. Fortunately, the tower did exceptionally well and was entirely sold out within a few months. The property’s 2015 delivery actually marked the beginning of South Miami Avenue’s ongoing transformation into Downtown Miami’s lifestyle hub. 

Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure? 

Rosso: Thank God, none of our properties have been failures. Some performed better than others, but every single development has been successful and profitable. Of course, we learned key lessons from each of the different developments, as they each bring a specific set of challenges requiring a unique set of skills. Nevertheless, we’ve remained steadfast and have continued to emerge better developers after each delivery. 

Bisnow: How do you define “making it”? 

Rosso: That’s a bit of a Catch-22. Every time you deliver a project, you feel an incredible sense of accomplishment, but, at the same time, you tend to fixate on every detail that couldn’t be executed or on things you wish could have been done better. For me personally, this leads me to embrace new challenges, which are partly what led the firm to tackle a major international expansion. We’d been extremely successful in Miami and knew the only real next step was to broaden our scale globally.

Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve? 

Rosso: I have a couple. The first is when I see someone accept failure. The second is when I see someone lack a fear of failure. In my opinion, you’ll never be truly successful without determination and, conversely, a fear of failure will keep you sharp and can often help you preempt possible challenges.

The Related Group Condominium Development Division President Carlos Rosso and Marcus & Millichap SVP Investment Sales Alex Zylberglait

Bisnow: Who is your greatest mentor? 

Rosso: In my personal life, definitely my parents. They showed my sisters and me that it’s possible to be successful and live well doing what you love. They both followed their passion for architecture and led incredible lives filled with family, friends, lots of travel and great food. 

On a professional level, it has to be Jorge Perez. Being able to work alongside him has shown me the kind of energy, dedication and persistence required for success. He’s in the driver’s seat and he’s tough, but that keeps me on my toes and constantly looking for ways to keep up with him. 

Bisnow: What is the best and worst professional advice you've ever gotten? 

Rosso: Best: “Nothing is ever given to you.” Worst: “You can be whatever you want to be.” I believe that downplaying the kind of work achieving certain goals will take can be a disservice to the person on the other end. Those moments of pain and suffering shape you as a professional and help you decide whether or not you’re on the right path. 

Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance? 

Rosso: I consider myself to be pretty down-to-earth and often go out of my way to keep things simple. Of course, I love good food, wine and to travel, but I don’t let physical things define me.

Bisnow: What is your favorite restaurant in the world? 

Rosso: Maybe this is a non-answer, but my favorite restaurant is whichever one I’m at surrounded by my family and friends, and having a good time. This has actually translated over to my work life and has led us to emulate that big “home-style dinner” atmosphere into our different culinary projects. One example is Amara at Paraiso, which was created in partnership with James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz. The restaurant was designed with big families and groups in mind and it is spectacular, especially for brunch! 

Bisnow: If you could sit down with President Donald Trump, what would you say? 

Rosso: Focus on the things that unite us and not those which divide us. The pendulum will swing back around soon and people will be looking for common ground instead of more reasons to stay divided.

Bisnow: What's the biggest risk you have ever taken? 

Rosso: There were several instances where I invested my entire life savings into a particular job. I had to live off of credit cards and was always worried that something was going to go wrong or that the deal would be delayed or stalled. It was horrible. Those times fuel me today and push me to never take anything for granted. 

Bisnow: Whose work do you most admire? 

Rosso: I admire the different designers, architects, artists and restaurateurs that we partner with on each of our different projects. I believe that tenacity and persistence are more important than talent, and when you see the end results it’s clear each of our different partners eats, sleeps and lives their craft. It’s truly inspiring to see their dedication to excellence.

Bisnow: What keeps you up at night? 

Rosso: Too many things. Sometimes it’s a complex challenge at a specific project, but other times it can be something as simple as an email I may have forgotten to send. It’s not uncommon for my team to wake up to an inbox full of emails sent at 3 a.m. Of course, I’m not expecting them to answer in the middle of the night, but it’s the only way I can go back to sleep without the fear of forgetting an idea or question.

Bisnow: Outside of your work, what are you most passionate about? 

Rosso: My family and friends make the long hours and stressful circumstances worth it. Having a close group of loved ones keeps me motivated and inspired.