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Apr.April 27, 2022 02:36 PM

How Greenberg Traurig is Transforming the South Florida Skyline

Greenberg Traurig LLP: Iris Escarra, Matt Gorson, Nancy Lash, Richard Giusto, Gary Saul

When you gaze at the Miami skyline, you’re seeing the contributions of Greenberg Traurig LLP, an international law firm founded in Miami in 1967, with a focus on real estate and land use. And despite its past success, the firm’s best work is still ahead as significant capital and investments continue to pour in from New York, California, across the United States and globally, with clients eager to partake in Miami’s enviable lifestyle, tax advantages and economic growth.

“Right now is our time,” says Matt Gorson, Greenberg Traurig’s senior chairman and the first national chair of the firm’s real estate practice. “The local area has been undiscovered and undervalued, but now clients are coming to us from around the country and the world, driven by the population growth and money flowing into south Florida. They know there is no firm better positioned to help them achieve their vision.”

The firm’s imprint is evident throughout Miami due to its strong heritage and long history of community building, dating back to its early days when firm founder Bob Traurig became known as the “dean of land use in Miami.”

Clients know Greenberg Traurig isn’t focused only on any one specific building, but rather how it fits into the community as a whole. In fact, Iris Escarra, co-chair of the firm’s land use practice, describes her work as “facilitating client dreams that will also positively impact the community.” She helps them achieve these goals by drawing on her previous experience with the Miami City Attorney’s office, which allows her to ably navigate the process to get them through all aspects of development.

“To be successful, you have to understand your clients’ businesses on a variety of levels, and we have the expertise to become a partner who can guide them every step of the way,” Escarra says. “I tell them that sometimes they’re going to feel like they’re in a Spartan race, but I know how to get over the finish line.”

Gorson sees this type of mindset as key to the firm’s staying power. “We’ve been fortunate to establish ourselves as solution-oriented, trusted advisors and counselors to many of the most prominent entities in Miami,” he says. “We offer a breadth of knowledge unequaled by any other, through our deep relationships with lenders, contractors, developers and the various governmental authorities.”

Clients also benefit from their business-minded, solution-oriented focus, says Richard Giusto, co-chair of the firm’s global real estate practice. “We are more than legal advisors; we act equally as consultants. We understand the market and our clients’ goals and we train our attorneys to approach client challenges and opportunities with an entrepreneurial mindset.”

Building Miami’s Next Chapter

Greenberg Traurig’s relationships are helping shape the future of Miami, which has seen massive shifts since the pandemic. “These have been amazing times for South Florida, probably more than any other city in the country,” says Gorson. 

With the influx of new residents eager to enjoy South Florida’s weather, lifestyle and business-friendly environment, there has been an explosion in all types of construction from residential to retail, including schools, offices and other infrastructure necessary to support the population growth, says Escarra. And that’s leading to a corresponding boom in Greenberg Traurig’s business as the firm aims to help its clients acquire the land to develop these projects.

To further promote quality of life, many neighborhoods are moving to the live/work/play model, notes Gary Saul, co-chair of the firm’s Miami real estate practice. “Developers have recognized that people want to stay in their neighborhood,” he says, citing Coconut Grove as an example of an area where residential activity drove subsequent retail growth. This is the ideal antidote to growing traffic concerns, with developers adding grocery stores, restaurants, schools and other amenities that serve residents where they are.

That’s leading to the current trend of creating more mixed-use projects, some built from scratch, while others are redeveloping existing retail centers by adding apartments on top. “Clients come to us with exciting visions, and we make sure we can bring the projects to life and put them into the market,” Saul explains.

Because land is limited, real estate developers are becoming more creative in adapting to the shortage, which includes local governments and developers joining forces in public-private partnerships to create transit-oriented, mixed-use developments, says Nancy Lash, co-chair of the Miami real estate practice.

These projects serve a dual purpose in alleviating traffic woes by getting cars off the road while offering a new way to create the necessary infrastructure.

Transit-oriented developments typically include a component stipulating the developer provide significant improvements to the adjacent transit station while offering the developer the opportunity to build a higher-density project.  “They present a win for all parties with infrastructure upgrades often implemented by the developer as part of the project and, at the same time, allowing for the development of a transformative project within the community,” explains Lash.

Another hot area is the demand for office space. While few people anticipated the rebound, today there is a shortage. “New Yorkers and other professionals moving here are driving renewed interest for offices in both suburban and urban markets,” says Lash, adding that a number of projects are on the drawing board that include a substantial office component.  “There has been particular interest in boutique office buildings outside the urban core that occupy a smaller footprint and help keep commutes to a minimum,” she says.

 

A Bright Future

While this population explosion, accompanied by complementary infrastructure, is often cyclical, Saul doesn’t believe that’s the case this time. “We see it as a sustaining trend,” he says. We knew what we had here, but it’s no longer a secret.”

For her part, Lash also sees continued activity in the public/private sector as local governmental authorities become more sophisticated in working with developers in ways that benefit the entire community. For example, she cites a recent transaction involving a plan for Broward College to develop residential multifamily housing that’s not specific to students. By adding 600 to 800 units on the campus, the college is able to monetize its land. “It’s not just governmental authorities pursuing public-private partnerships anymore. Our school systems, universities and hospitals, some of which found their state funding cut following the downturn, are looking for additional revenue sources to supplement traditional funding sources,” Lash explains.

On the luxury front, Saul points to a trend of condo residences being branded under the flags of top-tier resorts. “Their familiarity appeals to buyers because they know they will receive a high-end experience,” he says. “And those in the hospitality sector want their billion-dollar brands attached to this first-class city. I see it as a sign of Miami’s maturation.”

Gorson believes the catalysts driving the current trends will continue. “The work/live/play dynamic will endure so we will see this continued gravitation toward mixed-use centers that include offices, retail, housing and more,” he predicts.  

No one is better suited to help clients steer through these waters than Greenberg Traurig. “We started as a small firm, but this is our town,” says Saul. “Our clients know we can get them to the right person at the right time, like Iris, whose relationships are unparalleled in the city of Miami. It’s something you can’t fake.”

“When major companies come here, they know we can provide services others can’t because of our geographic breadth and esteemed zoning and land use practice,” Gorson says. “We’re actively involved and committed to the community, which offers further access to those coming in.”

Giusto adds, “Clients come to us because of who we are culturally as a firm. Our reputation and brand are excellent, but the reason we have been so successful and attracted so many global clients who want to do business in Florida is that we take a business-oriented practical approach that produces results. You can’t do it based on reputation alone – you have to add value and we do, time and again.”

Not only are they embedded in Miami, but Greenberg Traurig also is backed by more than 2,400 lawyers in 43 offices – with a scale that is unparalleled regionally, nationally and globally, compared with any other firm in Miami – Click here to connect with the team.

 

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