Miami-Dade County funnels $9.8 million to Jorge Perez venture
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Globally famed for luxury condo towers, Miami developer Jorge Perez, partnering with an affordable housing developer under a new entity, is getting almost $10 million from Miami-Dade County to finish half-built rental buildings in Little Havana.
Commissioners last week approved Bruno Barreiro's use of $10.5 million — an amount allocated to each of the 13 commissioners for capital improvements in their districts — to finish affordable housing projects.
Most of the money is going to RUDG LLC, a company formed more than six months ago by The Urban Development Group's Albert Milo and The Related Group's Mr. Perez, who before building nationally touted high-priced waterfront towers built homes for low-income families.
When requesting the funds' approval, Mr. Barreiro told other commissioners this was a way to leverage general obligation bond funds because it would help finish struggling projects and create more affordable housing.
Mr. Perez enjoyed success during the building boom with condos in South Florida, Fort Myers, Las Vegas and elsewhere and was labeled the "Donald Trump of the Tropics." But he was badly hit by the bust, running into trouble with lenders after his company couldn't make debt payments. Lenders now control Related's three-tower Icon Brickell and are trying to sell its 1,600 remaining condos.
In late December, Related got a $6.3 million sales tax refund after a county enterprise zone was expanded to include Icon Brickell. The refund comes from sales taxes the group paid for construction materials to build the complex.
The developer duo is getting $3.7 million for construction on 24-unit Porto Allegre at 574 SW First St. and $6.1 million to finish 49-unit Toscana at 126 SW Eighth Ave., Little Havana rental buildings. Porto Allegre is about 80% complete, Toscana 65%.
The original developer of both was Miami-based mFm Construction, which built several projects in the area.
Mr. Perez's office said he was traveling and unavailable.
Mr. Perez and Mr. Milo are to take over the two foreclosed-upon developments planned during the boom as condos, said Mr. Milo, RUDG's vice president.
Taking over a half-built project is "certainly more challenging than a project we start from the beginning," he said. This type of project, he added, requires more due diligence to know how previous owners handled it.
The group is considering hiring the original developer on a consulting basis, Mr. Milo said, "to give us the background on what transpired before us getting control of the project."
Slated as affordable apartments for the elderly, the properties are to be run long-term by a local housing agency.
Mr. Milo says he expects to start construction within three months, with the company soliciting to hire added contractors for the job.
Once construction begins, each project should take about six months, Mr. Milo said. The county is to monitor process and make monthly site inspections, he said, to ensure the projects stay on track.