Miami developer Hollo named global citizen

By Jennifer LeClaire | January 19, 2010 02:41PM

Tibor Hollo and One Bayfront Plaza, the Opera Tower, and the Sonesta Mikado Hotel Miami on Biscayne Bay.

He helped shape modern Miami, and that makes developer Tibor Hollo a world figure of sorts. Last week, that was confirmed when Hollo, the president of Florida East Coast Realty, was named “Global Citizen of the Year” for 2009 by the City of Miami and the Greater Miami Host Committee.

Eighty-two-year-old Hungarian-born Hollo, who has spent 55 years in the development game, was chosen for his ability to bring Miami to the world and the world to his adopted city.

On Thursday, the Miami City Commission formally recognized his contributions when it bestowed the award.

“Mr. Hollo has committed to concepts of sustainability which, of course, are global issues,” said Corky Dozier, executive director of the Greater Miami Host Committee. “By focusing on sustainability, he is actually restoring what was traditionally part of the landscape of Downtown Miami…. He is the father of Downtown Miami real estate development.”

Hollo, a Holocaust survivor and veteran of the city’s booms and busts, bought land across Downtown Miami decades before the Magic City began its revitalization in the 1980s. He developed about 55 million square feet, including single-family homes, landmark residential areas, commercial high rises, government buildings, marinas, high-end retail centers, warehouse complexes and telecommunications centers. Hollo was not available for comment by press time.

The Hungarian-born developer constructed the first-ever high-rise office building in Brickell in 1972, the Rivergate Plaza, a cornerstone of Miami’s financial marketplace. During his career, Hollo also developed the Omni/Venetia area, which is now known as Downtown Miami’s Media & Entertainment District. More recent Hollo projects include the Opera Tower, a project just north of the Performing Arts Center, and the Sonesta Mikado Hotel Miami on Biscayne Bay.

“Tibor Hollo is to Downtown Miami development what Marjory Stoneman Douglas is to the Everglades,” said Peter Zalewski, president of Condo Vultures Realty in Miami.

As Zalewski sees it, the real secret to Hollo’s success — other than having deep pockets — is his knack for focusing on what Miami can be rather than what it is today, and then figuring out how to structure the deal to make it happen.

“Tibor Hollo has had to endure his share of battle scars along a real estate career that spans more than four decades with at least two devastating real estate cycles,” Zalewski said.

Hollo’s latest development is the $1.8 billion One Bayfront Plaza, also on Biscayne Boulevard. It may seem counterintuitive to launch a large project in the midst of a market that hasn’t hit bottom, but Hollo-watchers put him among a handful of developers that can pull off such a project now.

“Developments he created in the urban core areas of Miami were trend setters for Miami’s skyline,” said Michael Cannon, managing director of Integra Realty Resources in Miami.

Ignacio Permuy, president of Terra Architecture in Coral Gables, said Hollo has continued developing through nine recessions.

“One Bayfront Plaza is an incredible undertaking, especially so late in his career,” Permuy said. One Bayfront Plaza will yield two million square feet of premier Class A office space for lease and 112,000 square feet of retail space. The four-star convention hotel will house 850 rooms and 120,000 square feet of exhibition space and banquet facilities. A 2,500-car parking garage is also planned. The property is set to break ground in 2011 and should take about four years to build.

“One Bayfront Plaza is another example of Mr. Hollo as a visionary,” Permuy said. “He’s looking five years into the future, understanding the recession, getting involved in the design, and not slowing down.”