Miami Developer Carlos Rosso On Starting His Own Firm And Pioneering Standard-Branded Residences
Carlos Rosso led the condo division for Miami’s most prominent developer, Related Group, for nearly two decades until he felt it was time to start his own firm. Now, a little over a year later, Rosso has launched the first-ever Standard-branded condo project in the U.S., seeking to build on the trendy reputation of The Standard hotel brand.
“I spent 20 years with Jorge,” Rosso said, referring to Related founder, Chairman and CEO Jorge Pérez. “We had a great time.”
Rosso remembers Pérez telling him, “Whatever you want to do, you know I'll always support you and you always have a place to come back if you want to.”
Shortly after leaving, Rosso was contacted by Midtown Development principal Alex Vadia, whose firm master-developed Midtown Miami, a walkable district anchored by a Target, shops and apartment buildings. They paired up to build a 228-unit tower on a vacant lot at the site.
“From a risk perspective, I think it has the right scale for me — in terms of cost and value and amount of equity that I need to deploy," Rosso said. "It was a perfect kick-start to envision the first project of Rosso Development.”
Rosso then reached out to Amar Lalvani, CEO of hotel management company Standard International, regarding a potential branding partnership. Founded by hotelier Andre Balazs, The Standard attracted locals, celebrities and overnight guests to hang out at its spas, pools and trendy restaurants.
A few Standard-branded hotels have been through changes lately — two in Los Angeles closed, the trendy Standard High Line in New York was tied up in foreclosure, and The Standard Hotel in Miami was bought by an entity tied to Starwood Capital CEO Barry Sternlicht. Rosso said those changes don't affect his project; they are due to transactions with the underlying real estate, not the operator, he said.
Balazs reportedly sold an 80% stake of Standard International to private investors, and Bangkok-based real estate firm Sansiri now has a 59% stake, according to Skift. The Standard International umbrella now includes the hotel brands Bunkhouse and Peri, and Lalvani has discussed plans to expand to 35 additional properties.
Rosso pitched Lalvani on the idea of branded residences. That led to a licensing deal, with the Midtown project becoming the first-ever Standard-branded condo in the U.S. (Another one is being developed by a different team in Portugal.)
The resulting building design includes studios to two-bedroom layouts ranging from 432 to 965 SF. It includes amenities one might expect from a Standard: a rooftop pool, restaurant and bar, a concierge service, a fitness center, an infrared sauna, a karaoke bar, a pet spa and others. The 10K SF ground-floor space will be leased to shops and restaurants.
Units will be priced from $329K to $829K, and owners will be allowed to lease their units for short-term rentals of one month or more.
Under their agreement, Standard International has to approve everything: architecture, interior design, programming and marketing, Rosso said. That includes "the sofas that are going to be in the lobby, the music that's going to get played in speakers” and even staff uniforms, Rosso said. Arquitectonica is the architect, and Urban Robot is handling interiors.
In Miami, where buildings are being brand-named after cars (Porsche, Aston Martin), clothing (Armani, Diesel) and crystals (Baccarat), Rosso thought of who or what he’d like to see in the lobby of a building.
“I'm not a crystal enthusiast, I’m not a car enthusiast,” he said. “What attracted me — and this is a very personal sort of decision — is [The Standard has] a culture and other things that I think are important to a certain group of buyers.”
In condo development, it isn't necessary to sell everything to everybody but to forge a connection with a key audience, Rosso noted. He recalled when Related Group developed an Armani-branded building with Gil Dezer, the Miami developer who popularized the branding of high-rises with projects like Trump-branded towers and the Porsche Design Tower.
"He always used to tell us, ‘You know the difference between me and you? We read different magazines. … You guys are crazy about art. I am crazy about cars.’ He said, ‘For me, opening the hood of a Porsche Carrera and listening to the pistons — that noise for me, that’s classical music or that's art.’”
Rosso declined to discuss specific terms of the licensing agreement, citing confidentiality clauses, but said benefits flow both ways in a licensing deal. The developer gets the cachet and recognition that a brand name can bring. Conversely, a developer’s network of brokers, and its advertising power, can help a brand spread.
“I'm going to be spending more than 10 times your budget in marketing in one of your hotels, putting your brand in different submarkets where maybe you never thought that you could reach,” Rosso said.
“For example, for The Standard, we are running ads in Brazil. We are running ads in Colombia. We are geotargeting apps in Mexico. And guess what? Developers from all these and developers from Mexico are calling The Standard now, saying 'Hey, Carlos Rosso is doing a development with you in Miami? We followed what he did with SLS. We want to see whether we can do something with you in Brazil.’"
That appears to already be shaking out.
"I got a call yesterday from Texas," he said.