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Miami condo king Jorge Pérez on gentrification, Liberty Square and federal investigations

Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald on

Published in Home and Consumer News

"Nobody knows anything," screenwriter William Goldman famously said about the movie industry's ability to predict a box-office hit.

But in the real estate industry, experience imparts knowledge, expertise and insight -- and few in South Florida are as experienced as The Related Group CEO and Chairman Jorge Perez.

Since 2010, the company he launched in 1979 has completed, planned or began construction on more than 33 million square feet of residential and 965,000 square feet of commercial properties throughout Miami-Dade, the U.S. and Latin America -- at a combined value of more than $17 billion.

Perez, 69, was also voted the single most knowledgeable person in the business in the 2016 Miami Herald Real Estate Survey. He recently sat down for a wide-ranging interview at Related's most recent project, the 57-story condo/hotel tower SLS LUX Brickell at 805 S. Miami Avenue, which opened its doors in May. (You can read his comments on sea level rise from that same interview here.)

The conversation below was edited and condensed for clarity.

Q: The Related Group broke ground last May on a five-year, $307 million redevelopment project of Liberty Square. You have said you want that project to be part of your legacy. What makes this one so special to you?

--Sponsored Video--

A: The reason why that project is so important is because this will be one of the first affordable housing projects done in the U.S. after the recession, in a formerly segregated neighborhood of Miami where a wall literally used to separate black people from white people. And we want this project to not just be a housing development, but the start of a transformation for that entire area.

The original affordable housing built in Liberty Square was beautiful. But the developers forgot about the issues. If you concentrate poverty in one area and don't include businesses and training and employment and all the other things you need to generate household growth, that area will become a ghetto. You can see that now in Liberty City, with all of the gang activity and the killings.

We're taking a more holistic approach with Liberty Square. We want to include businesses, retail, shops, artist studios, maybe even a museum or performing arts center. We're not going to just build affordable housing. We're going to mix incomes and add retail and employment opportunities. That will make the neighborhood sustainable. This will not just be a project that looks nice. That's why I think this could be a great legacy project and why we're devoting so much time and thinking to it.

Q: Last year, as part of a wider probe of fraud in Miami-Dade, the federal government started an investigation of a low-income apartment building for seniors your company built in Shenandoah. Is that investigation complete?

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