Two of Miami’s most recognized developers joined students, faculty, alumni, and advisory board members of the Robert Traurig-Greenberg Traurig LL.M. in Real Property Development for a panel discussion on the joy and heartache that is South Florida development as part of the 2018 Homecoming activities.
Anthony de Yurre, LL.M. '05, Jeff Berkowitz, J.D. '74 & Jerome Hollo, J.D. '93
The “fireside chat,” moderated by Bilzin Sumberg partner and LL.M. ’05 Anthony de Yurre, brought together Jerome Hollo, J.D. ’93 and executive vice president of Florida East Coast Realty, and Jeff Berkowitz, J.D. ’74 and chairman and founder of the Berkowitz Development Group. All are members of the RPD advisory board.
Hollo shared that he has “practiced more law as a developer than ever as a lawyer” at the firm his father, the legendary Tibor Hollo, began over 60 years ago (and over 60 million square feet of construction) though Jerome got his start as a private practice transactional attorney. “My father saw very early on the efficiency of going vertical,” he said. “Instead of a development on 200 or 300 acres, you can build one building in the right area where people can eat, drink, and live.”
Florida East Coast Realty is currently developing two such projects in downtown Miami. Panorama Tower is an 85-story mixed use condominium on Brickell and tallest building south of Manhattan, at least until completion of another FECR project: the 92-story One Bayfront Plaza, which will stand at 1,049 feet with 1,052 apartments, class AAA office space, and 200,000 square feet of retail space.
“Always be on your toes,” Hollo told the packed and interested audience. “And find your niche.”
Berkowitz may be best known also for vertical development, as he pioneered the “stacking” of big box stores. The 1996 opening of Dadeland Station was the first of its kind with a three-level mall with 330,000 square feet of leasable retail space that is the south Miami-Dade County home of Target, Michael’s, Best Buy and Bed Bath and Beyond for more than two decades.
“Having remote parking – not parking right next to the store – was a completely new concept,” he said. “Now it’s a national model for stacking retail.”
Another big Berkowitz project was Fifth & Alton, the 2014 South Beach mall with anchor stores Publix Super Market, Best Buy, and Ross Dress for Less. He remembers a time, with the construction of the mall when the company was completely tied up in litigation because the project was shut down for being unsafe days after opening. The project had been a challenge from the start, he said. The property sat on a “Brownfields” site, where a former gas station and mechanic shop had left the ground rife with hazardous contaminants. Additionally, there was a 1946 historic building (now restored and home of the Vitamin Shoppe), and a public alley with public utilities running the length of the block lined.
(Berkowitz was given the “Best Chutzpah” award by the Miami New Times for planting a four-story sculpture by like-him-or-hate-him Romero Britto at the entrance to Miami’s South Beach.)
Berkowitz’s latest project, SkyRise, is part fine dining/destination, part theme park, which Berkowitz fancies the American Eiffel Tower or alternately an abstract Statute of Liberty. The waterfront 1,000-foot structure, which some have likened to a giant hairpin, will offer unparalleled views of Miami, death defying attractions, fine dining, and entertainment.
The project took Berkowitz’s company into a fight in the Florida Supreme Court in a filing by community activists. The Coconut Grove-based developer says that his firm hires a lot of lawyers and his law degree “helps because I am a lawyer and I speak their language.”