Rilea Group CEO Alan Ojeda came to Miami from Spain 30 years ago, and has created a real estate empire centered on downtown Miami’s most high-tech office building — the LEED gold-certified 1450 Brickell. Rilea is also building the new International Finance Bank headquarters at the northeastern corner of Douglas Road and SW 8th Street as a fee developer. The arrival of 1450 Brickell this year shocked the downtown office market, drawing tenants from local “feeder” buildings and ushering in a new competition for tenants. The Real Deal talked to Ojeda about the challenges of development today, why in 2003 he decided to go against the condo grain and make One Broadway a rental building, and when his next residential project, 1080 Brickell, could see its delivery date.
What has progress been like at 1450 Brickell?
It’s performing very well. We have signed over 60 percent of the building in the first 12 months; we opened our doors in January 2011 and we have signed 24 contracts, or about two per month.
How is One Broadway performing?
Rents are going up everywhere. Now what we’re seeing is the synergy between [Brickell and One Broadway, which are adjacent buildings] — there are already three tenants at 1450 that have asked about bringing employees from abroad to One Broadway for two months or three months, and renting in One Broadway. [As of March 4] we had 27 units empty out of 370 total, or about 92 percent occupied.
Why did you decide to make One Broadway a rental building?
The answer is because we are long-term people. In 2003, the idea with [One Broadway and 1450 Brickell] was to have an income-producing product. So right now, we have roughly 1.1 million square feet between both, with 60 percent of it as office space and 40 percent as rental apartments.
What is your biggest challenge right now?
The market — but it’s coming back. We are much better than we were 12 months ago. You see what’s happening — the most important thing is if you look at the sales per square foot of new product in Brickell, the average per square foot is more or less $60 higher than the replacement cost. So the sentence we used to use a few years ago, “I can buy below replacement cost,” is gone.
What is the status of 1080 Brickell?
I’m starting to move with 1080 Brickell. It will most likely be residential. Now that the market’s coming back, it’s time to get going again. I would like to start in 2011, and finish in maybe three years, so delivery by the end of 2014.
How is green development affecting your work?
We are the first LEED gold-certified office building in Miami, excluding older buildings that were retrofitted. You see more and more that major corporations are “ecologically correct.” They only move to buildings that are LEED-certified. We also save money, because you use less energy. I’m saving a ton of energy every month. That translates into a less expensive building.