Stephen M. Ross, Kenneth A. Himmel and Gopal Rajegowda

Stephen M. Ross (left), Gopal Rajegowda (top), and Kenneth A. Himmel.

Stephen M. Ross, Kenneth A. Himmel and Gopal Rajegowda

Chairman and founder; president and CEO, Related Urban; partner, Related Southeast at Related Companies

Stephen M. Ross, Kenneth A. Himmel and Gopal Rajegowda
By February 18, 2024 6:03 PM

Where does one even begin talking about Related Companies’ surge of South Florida purchases and development in the past few years?

The list of properties is dizzying: 360 Rosemary, 515 Fern, One Flagler, Phillips Point and CityPlace Tower — and that’s just in West Palm Beach.

But the thing that one has to marvel at is that Related got this tapeworm at pretty much the perfect time. “Florida right now is the best market in the United States,” Stephen M. Ross told Commercial Observer from his Florida office last week.

Ross should know. More than four decades ago he established a partnership with Jorge Perez with The Related Group, and in the process created one of the most hallowed brands in the state. (The partnership was amicably dissolved in 2022. “He wanted his sons [to take over],” Ross said.) But Ross also has a native’s appreciation for the flux and changes in the state. “I grew up in South Florida, and my ties never really left,” Ross said. “I went to high school here. I know the area.”

Indeed, even before COVID-19 hit, Related sensed that Florida was ripe for an explosion of interest. “It wasn’t all the pandemic,” said Ross. “We saw the growth increasing prior to the pandemic, and that was why we built 360 Rosemary. But, certainly, the pandemic increased and accelerated the growth of that building.”

And the demographic trends seem to be on the same course as Related.

“Florida is now a place where young professionals want to live year round,” said Gopal Rajegowda, who relocated to the state 11 years ago to help steer Related’s strategy. “We’re certainly playing a big role, making it more attractive as the density grows.”

“We want to take retail and restaurants to a whole new level,” said Related Urban’s Kenneth Himmel. “We’re bringing in a lot of great names. … When office tenants come here they want great restaurants, and retail, and they want this year round.” Indeed, Related has talked a healthy number of popular New York restaurants like Milos, Harry’s, Felice, Adrienne’s and Tacombi into opening satellites.

Several of the sites that Related has acquired recently are still doing the hard work of leasing up tenants and looking for financing before breaking ground. (Ross isn’t worried about that.) The company won’t be bored for the next few years. But the big question is if this is enough to keep them satisfied, or if there is more work to be done in South Florida. Ross has a ready answer:

“We’re never done.” —M.G.