When the weather heats up in South Florida, real estate bigwigs head for the mountains of Colorado.
Dozens of developers, brokers and others are spending at least part of this summer in Aspen, as well as in Vail and Beaver Creek, The Real Deal has learned. It’s the choice of escape for many of the real estate elite, who often hobnob with each other at dinners, cocktail parties, outdoor concerts, coffee shops and ice cream parlors.
Among the titans: Craig Robins and Jackie Soffer, Jeffrey Soffer, Art Falcone, Matt Adler, Michael Comras, Warren Weiser, Claudio Stivelman, Mayi de la Vega, Jay Parker and more.
Sometimes, they even mix business with pleasure.
Developer Stivelman, CEO of S2 Development, first visited Aspen in the summer of 2013, and fell in love with the scenery, friendliness and lifestyle. “It’s a very sexy little town with an unbelievable energy,” he told TRD.
Since then, he has returned each summer, increasing his length of his stay and the size of his rentals each year, until this year, he and his fiance Stephanie Rimes rented a five-bedroom, five-and-a-half bath home for 12 weeks, until late September. His plan is to alternate three weeks in Aspen, one week back in Miami, back and forth, all summer long.
While in Aspen, Stivelman exercises each morning — hikes, plays tennis, bikes, works in a gym, does yoga or takes a barre class — then works all day, and exercises again, enjoying the daylight until 9 p.m.
“Nowadays, the world is so connected to the internet, phones and scanners that you can work and control your business from anywhere in the world,” he said. The only thing he misses are in-person marketing, sales or construction meetings, which he can schedule for days when he is back home.
In Aspen, he sometimes runs into other South Florida real estate honchos. At a private Fourth of July event, he and other developers talked about sharing private planes. And though he hasn’t forged any business deals, he figures it could happen. “It’s easier to make deals there because everybody is so relaxed and so tranquil,” he said.
Mayi de la Vega
De la Vega, founder and CEO of ONE Sotheby’s International Realty, has spent time in Aspen with her family each summer for at least five years. This year, she is renting a home for close to a month. “It’s my happy place,” she said.
But it’s not all play and no work. She took about a week off, and then had a series of real estate-related events, including hosting a cocktail party for South Florida clients who are in Aspen for the summer. She is also networking with agents from Aspen/Snowmass Sotheby’s International Realty, who refer business back to her in Miami.
“Today I’m doing this cocktail party to promote Miami to Aspen residents, to peak their interest to purchase in South Florida,” de la Vega said recently. “Tomorrow I’m going to Vail to do an event there with our office in Vail, Liv Sotheby’s International Realty, and they have a lot of Mexican and Miami clients in for the summer.”
On the agenda: showcasing South Florida developers’ projects that ONE Sotheby’s represents exclusively, and hosting a dinner for clients and brokers. She also planned to attend a cocktail party hosted by a Miami bank.
City National Bank of Florida
Jorge Gonzalez, president and CEO of the bank, spoke to TRD from Aspen on the eve of a Saturday night cocktail party he and a handful of his bankers were hosting for about 50 Miami clients at the Jerome Hotel.
“Business never stops, so we can get to know clients better and do business with them [in Aspen],” Gonzalez said.
In the last two years, he said the bank has financed eight to a dozen Colorado properties for South Florida clients. Chris Damian, City National’s director of wealth management and private banking, said the bank expects to do the same amount over the next year, with the average property at $10 million to $15 million.
Esquenazi, principal at Continental Real Estate Companies, or CREC, has gone to Aspen for eight summers with his family, renting a condo or townhouse each time. “It’s like paradise for me,” he told TRD. This year he is going for a couple of weeks; his partner, Warren Weiser, is spending a month there.
Esquenazi likes to work on his computer or phone after an early morning hike. He tends to run into other real estate bigwigs at the park or the ice cream shop.
“When you’re in that beautiful environment your guard is down and you’re not doing business, but you build bonds that translate to business,” he said.
That philosophy is shared by Julie Talenfeld, president of Boardroom PR, who also just returned from almost a month in Aspen with her family, renting a condo on Ajax Mountain. “It’s like summer camp for adults, and you end up seeing so many people from South Florida,” she said. With daytime temperatures in the 70s and 50s at night, she hiked and biked and went to a Boz Scaggs concert. “You can still do business out there and you’re having a blast,” she said.
Yet, some South Florida real estate bigwigs eschew Aspen, preferring not to run into Miami real estate moguls while on vacation.
Parker, CEO of Douglas Elliman’s Florida brokerage, is going to Vail for two weeks with his wife and twin sons this summer, staying in a rented condo. “I started doing it three years ago. It’s just a a great family vacation. You get the mountains, the activities, and you have great weather,” he told TRD. It’s a chance “to put yourself in a different state of mind.”
Parker likes Vail because “I really just want to get away,” he said. “I don’t want to run into people I know from Miami or New York everywhere I go. And for me, the experience in Vail is a little more isolated, and to me that is a little more appealing. I still have all the creature comforts, but I don’t have to bump into people.”
He also is drawn to it because it doesn’t require flying overseas. “I’ve developed a fear of being in congested vacation destinations,” Parker said. “I do everything in my power to avoid congested places because of what happened in Orlando, what happened in Nice.”
Douglas Elliman has several offices in Colorado, and Parker plans to return during Labor Day weekend when the firm will host a developer showcase at Jazz Aspen, featuring South Florida projects. “It’s like what we do in Art Basel, we’ll do something similar in Colorado to capitalize on a powerful, wealthy group of individuals interested in these markets,” he said.
Mark Pordes, owner and CEO of Pordes Residential Sales and Marketing, just spent eight days in Beaver Creek with his fiance Katherin Nieto and six-month old baby Mason Pordes. “It was to decompress, to take a week of from life and business and get up to the cool mountain weather,” he told TRD.
Pordes has been vacationing in Colorado for at least 10 years, usually renting a townhome or house. He plays golf, hikes, reads, mountain bikes and relaxes.
“It’s a great place to decompress the mind and the spirit,” he said, “especially for the fast-paced real estate people.”