In Depth: Miami's Brazilian Boom
By Arielle Castillo
Leticia Leite, director of communications, Peixe Urbano collective buying website
In the heart of the design district, VIP customers stroll into a high-end kitchen showroom and take it all in: Recycled wood seams up flawlessly against frosted, handle-less cabinets. Carefully compartmentalized caverns appear from behind massive, crocodile-stamped leather sliding doors. Interlocking parts meld together as if by design magic. Everything opens and closes with nary a click. This is the airy Ornare custom closet and kitchen exhibition space, the Brazilian luxury design house’s first in the United States. And odds are that the clients ooh-ing, aah-ing and eventually buying these designs will be discussing the details in Portuguese.
|Clàudio Faria, owner, Ornare Miami furniture design company|
Much about the Ornare showroom—its particular sense of luxury, its ever-increasing success with buyers from its homeland—is emblematic of a new development in Miami. Though Brazilians have long been considered an especially powerful, even sexy, faction of the city’s multinational fabric, their numbers are growing here by the day. A host of economic and lifestyle factors are making the Magic City inviting for visitors from Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and beyond. And a great many of them are choosing to stick around.
“We’re seeing more and more people spend time here,” says Lipe Medeiros, also a São Paulo native and cofounder of the South Beach-based SoFi Property Group, a high-end real estate team run by Keller Williams Realty. The company is surfing a wave of a new class of Brazilian buyers who are treating their investment properties in Miami as true second homes. “Maybe now they spend six months here and six months in Brazil,” he says.
Brazil’s current boom is having a ripple effect in Miami. As one quarter of the lately oft-referenced BRIC world powers (alongside Russia, India and China), the country is flourishing economically after long years of inflation and financial crises. Earlier this year, a Reuters report on the country’s official 2010 economic statistics painted a rosy picture, to say the least. Brazil’s economy had risen by 7.5 percent, the biggest jump in 24 years, and its currency, the real, more than doubled in US value since 2002 (from approximately $.25 to its current $.62)—all while the Miami real estate market continues to favor buyers. This has turned Miami into an increasingly attractive place to live, play and even work, especially considering its close geographical proximity to the mother country.
This perfect storm is benefiting Brazilians who’ve made Miami their home for a while—like Leticia Leite, a 30-year-old who moved from Rio de Janeiro to the US with her family at age nine. Leite is the director of communications for Peixe Urbano, Latin America’s first collective buying website. Though it launched just last year, it now offers daily deals in more than 60 cities in that country and in Argentina, with plans to expand further throughout Latin America. While she met the company’s founder, Julio Vasconcellos, in the United States, he and the company’s headquarters are based in Rio de Janeiro. But Miami, and her professional experience in the United States, has worked out perfectly for Leite. “The fact that I grew up in Miami helped me learn Spanish, which helps now that our company is expanding,” she says.
Photographs by Lyall Aston