Edgardo Defortuna
Edgardo Defortuna

Discerning luxury high-rise customers seek out Edgardo Defortuna’s buildings for a reason: With 40 years of experience in the business, he knows what buyers want. As president, CEO, and founder of Fortune International Group, Defortuna is the creator of many of the most notable high-rise addresses in Miami.

Defortuna will be presenting at Elevate, the first-of-its-kind conference celebrating the art of high-rise living. It will be held at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, Dec. 4 to 6, with speakers from across the industry offering their insights in an intimate setting.

Attendance is reserved exclusively for developers, brokers, architects, and designers in the high-rise community. Registration information and a list of confirmed speakers can be found at elevate.livabl.com.

Why did you want to participate in Elevate?

When it comes to residential luxury, it’s about understanding and comparing notes with colleagues on what the sophisticated buyer is looking for when they’re purchasing high-end real estate. It’s always been my interest. It’s great to be part of such a panel.

We know that the economy has been difficult, but what are some of the other challenges facing the high-rise industry right now?

The economy in general terms has been more difficult because, of course, interest rates are an issue, and the impacts of the pandemic, both in the office and commercial markets, have been impactful.

The reality is that today it costs more to develop any property because materials and construction costs have gone up significantly. And interest rates have gone up, and the ability to find financing for large projects is more limited. It’s only available to very qualified developers with significant financial backing.

From that end, it has become a more difficult area to navigate, but, as far as Fortune International and the type of projects that we’re doing, they are well-liked and active for both buyers and financial institutions.

We haven’t seen that major impact other than you must sell at higher prices because the costs are significantly higher. As you might know, in Miami, you presell a significant number of units before you even start construction. The potential surprises of having sold a significant amount and then adding costs to what you initially thought, the costs were problems.

But in general terms, I think, at least for now, the economy has not impacted me in any significant negative way. We’re all much more cautious, and I’m doing projects that really make a lot of sense rather than undertaking projects that are marginal or that could potentially get into trouble because of the economic conditions.

You’ve been involved in the industry since the early ’80s. Tell us about the most surprising changes you’ve seen in high-rise developments.

There have been many. Some of the more remarkable ones are the sizes of any given project today. When they came in during the ‘80s, the 30-story tower was a tall tower. Now we’re building 80-story towers.

Then there’s the technology that goes into not only designing the projects, but also how accessible and important technology is in today’s world. Also, the design of the towers, especially in the luxury segment, has changed from being more ostentatious to a subtle luxury. The high-end design and materials are still there, but a lot quieter and more understated.

Certainly, there’s a lot more importance to the lifestyle and the property management of projects. That’s why we’re typically teaming up with luxury hospitality brands like The Ritz-Carlton or the St. Regis Residences because the buyer is looking for service, attention to detail, and is conscientious about the way they’re going to live.

Not only does it matter how the building looks, but also how the property will operate. That’s why we really concentrate on getting the full package. The property needs to be attractive and well designed, but also well managed and thought out. The services that we plan really function the way they should and that’s what distinguishes us.

St. Regis Sunny Isles Beach in Florida.
Courtesy Fortune International Group St. Regis Sunny Isles Beach in Florida.

We’ve seen quiet luxury becoming a trend within fashion, and it sounds like it is carrying over into the high-rise industry?

The sophisticated buyer understands what luxury should be, and it’s the same thing in fashion. Especially after the pandemic, home had a different meaning. People put a lot of attention on where they are, where they spend time, and how they spend time.

People are a lot more conscious about their health and a lot more conscious about what their families and their children do. We put a lot of effort into that. It’s another trend in this market. People need to pay attention because that’s what the customer is wanting today.

How are you redefining the high–rise residential experience?

The beauty of our company is that we are not only developers, but we have an incredibly large sales organization that provides a lot of information for us on how to design our buildings. We are listening to the customer through our sales teams.

We try to understand and anticipate the needs of those buyers; we’re trying to figure out what the wishes and wants are even before they know. That’s because any large project you start today will be delivered four or five years from now. So, it’s key to anticipate what new trends will look like—that includes what technologies, kitchens, bathrooms, public spaces should look like.

Things are constantly evolving today with artificial intelligence and all the services that you have at your fingertips. Connectivity and the ability to do work from your home are key components of the lifestyle, so we’re paying attention.

So, it’s all about integrating a complete lifestyle right out of the home?

We have learned a lot from the past years and the way people live.

Our company has tried to create a positive impact on our customers’ lives. It’s about the quality of the air that they breathe in their homes, the purity of the water, and the use of recycling systems—in everything we do, we try to make a greater impact on the world.