TAMPA — A Miami mogul talked about his interest in Tampa real estate on Wednesday.
South Florida developer Jorge Pérez, also known as the "The Donald Trump of the Tropics" and CEO and founder of the Related Group, was the keynote speaker at the 2016 Latinos Unidos Luncheon scholarship luncheon.
"Tampa is a fabulous market for luxury real estate," he told a crowd of about 650 people at the Hilton Tampa Downtown. "People need to move to the urban core to make great cities."
Pérez, 66, is already making moves in Tampa. Last year the Related Group bought the Tampa Tribune's headquarters at 202 S Parker St. for $17.75 million. Pérez plans to build a midrise residential project on the 4-acre site that will overlook the Hillsborough River. The Tampa Bay Times recently purchased the Tribune itself.
"Tampa always had a very diversified base," Pérez said. "We're hoping to become an integral part of growth."
Forbes magazine calls Pérez the richest Latin American entrepreneur in the United States. In his real estate career, he has developed and managed more than 80,000 apartments and condos.
Born in Argentina to Cuban parents, he has donated $40 million in cash and art to the Museum of Miami, which was renamed the Pérez Art Museum Miami.
Influenced by his trips to Europe, Pérez said he plans to bring new architecture and his love of art to Tampa.
"I think art makes you a better person," he said.
Pérez's investment in Tampa started in 2011 with a $6.5 million project, the Pierhouse at Channelside apartments. He is also planning to build a 21-story apartment tower on Harbour Island.
During the luncheon, Mayor Bob Buckhorn gave him the key to the city.
Pérez is a friend and business partner of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. His company built two towers in South Florida that bear the Trump brand, thanks to a licensing deal (the Related Group no longer owns them). Pérez said Trump called him asking for his support in the election.
"I told Trump, 'If I support you, there will not be one Hispanic person who will talk to me', " Pérez said.
Their close personal and business relationship stops at politics, Pérez said. He supports Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
As for Trump's now famous pledge that he would make Mexico pay to build a wall along the U.S. border, Pérez just laughed and said this:
"I told him when you build a 30-foot wall that the Mexican government will pay for, what side of the wall do I get to be on?"
Contact Ariana Figueroa at email@example.com. Follow @ArianaLFigueroa.