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February 19, 2024 | Profile Miami

Miki Naftali of Naftali Group

PROFILEmiami had the opportunity to sit down with legendary real estate developer and investor Miki Naftali of Naftali Group to discuss his career and first project in Miami, the recently launched Jem Residences Miami. Miki Naftali is the Chairman and CEO of Naftali Group which he established in 2011. Over the course of his 35-year career in the global real estate industry, Miki has acquired, developed, and managed over $15 billion and 31 million SF in real estate assets across North America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. In New York City alone, he has assembled a seminal portfolio of 25 luxury condominiums encompassing over 1,900 residential units, as well other notable projects, including luxury apartment buildings and mixed-use properties.

Now, Miki has turned his sights on Miami where he recently launched JEM Residences Miami in Downtown Miami’s Miami Worldcenter neighborhood. This dynamic condominium development will rise over 700’ tall, 67 stories, and is set to become a landmark focal point within the city’s iconic Miami Worldcenter. JEM Residences Miami will feature 259 condominiums with a private 50th floor amenity suite designed to compete with any high-end luxury hotel, offering a diverse array of meticulously curated indoor and outdoor spaces to cater to various activities.

PROFILEmiami joined Miki at the Jem Residences Sales Gallery to learn about his career and why he set his sights on Miami to develop his next project:

[PROFILEmiami] Where did you grow up? Give us your background? How did you get involved in real estate? Tell us about your first deal?

[Miki Naftali] I moved to the U.S. in 1987 to attend the University of Southern California to pursue a degree in industrial engineering management. While going to school, I became a property manager in order to help pay my bills. My early exposure to real estate deals involved searching for rental buildings to purchase, a task I learned myself through a combination of on-the-ground exploration and common sense. My breakthrough came when I successfully identified a property for acquisition, earning my first real paycheck. I knew that I had found my passion. After spending time in Los Angeles, I returned to Israel in 1992, where I started to work as a project manager and quickly moved up the chain to senior project manager to later become CEO of a small real estate company working on various projects including residential, hotels and office buildings. My signature project at the time was a 44-story mixed-use tower in Tel Aviv, one of the tallest buildings in the city. In 2000, I made a pivotal move to New York, marking a significant chapter in my real estate career.

Jem Residences Miami

[PM] What was your first major development?

[MN] From 2000 to 2004 I developed several very successful residential projects in New York City. In 2004, I acquired the famous Plaza Hotel – a renowned New York landmark and one of the most recognizable brands worldwide – for $675 million. After a well-planned $450 million major gut renovation of the one million, 100-year-old building, The Plaza was transformed into the most luxurious mixed-use building. It includes 180 private residences which all sold at a record-breaking price, 152 hotel condominium suites for sale, 131 over-sized hotel rooms and 160,000 square feet of retail space that houses ultra-luxury boutiques and North America’s first luxury food hall. The Plaza’s world-famous interior venues were restored to their original grandeur, and the project was completed in late 2007.

[PM] When did you found Naftali Group? Give us the background on the firm.

[MN] In 2011, I founded Naftali Group after developing major projects in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal, and Singapore as well as taking our Canadian arm public and serving as the chairman of the board. I decided it was time to start my own company and focus my energy and time on designing and developing great buildings that are financially sound, instead of splitting my time dealing with public markets. Naftali Group was founded with a passion to be the best in class. We work with the most talented designers, engineers, brokers, and in-house executives, always pushing the boundaries and standards, and delivering high-quality results in all different market types.

[PM] Naftali Group has built quite an impressive record in NYC, can you tell us what have been some of the keys to your success?

[MN] We have always stood by our product and provided the highest quality possible for each development we deliver. Our company builds projects with timeless designs and great locations based on buyer demand. We prioritize listening to our buyers and delivering on their needs. It’s a simple formula in theory, but few can make good on these promises. That is what sets us apart; the ability to consistently create quality projects, time after time. We also have a strong team that is meticulous and detail oriented. From conversion to ground-up new construction, we have a rare ability to bring together talented teams to realize ambitious goals. Ultimately, our customers are what matter the most. In one of the most competitive and advanced real estate markets in the world, our customers have chosen to buy and rent our apartments even before our projects are completed, which is a testament to the quality of our work.

[PM] When did Miami come on Naftali Group’s radar? Tell us about the acquisition of the JEM property.

[MN] The decision to invest in Miami aligns with our company’s strategy of expanding into premier geographic areas with strong growth potential and creating “best in class” developments at various price points. Miami has evolved tremendously over the past few years and the buyers have become more sophisticated and are seeking a better-quality product in residential apartments. The goal is to bring the expertise gained from global markets to South Florida, invigorating neighborhoods and setting a high standard for quality real estate products in the region.

Jem Residences Miami

[PM] Why was Downtown Miami and Miami Worldcenter so attractive to you?

[MN] Miami Worldcenter, located in Downtown Miami, is a well-known international hub that offers excellent walkability, making it an ideal location for development. The area is home to many entertainment and cultural institutions, including the Kaseya Center, Adrienne Arsht Center, Perez Art Museum Miami, Museum Park, and the Frost Museum of Science. Additionally, the neighborhood boasts a diverse range of dining options, high-end shops, and iconic waterfront, making it an attractive destination for both visitors and residents. For those seeking an urban lifestyle, the neighborhood offers plenty of transportation options without the need for a car. JEM Private Residences, strategically located near Brightline’s Miami Central Station and metro-mover, make it easy to travel to various cities in Florida within Miami and other parts of the state. The project is also less than 10 miles from Miami International Airport, making travel in and out of the city convenient.

[PM] Tell us about JEM Private Residences, what makes this tower so unique?

[NM] We have collaborated with some of the world’s most talented architects and designers to create an extraordinary building in Miami. Arquitectonica leads the building’s design, Rockwell Group handles the interiors, and EDSA manages the landscape. The development is an urban oasis that boasts exceptional quality, craftsmanship, and construction that will stand the test of time.

JEM Private Residences is a 67-story building with 259 units ranging from 469 to 2,052 square feet. The condos start at the 43rd floor, offering breathtaking views of the Miami skyline, Biscayne Bay, and Atlantic Ocean. The building’s top floor comprises 10 penthouses, with some having their own private outdoor pools. Amenities include the JEM Club on the 50th floor, which features a Sky Deck with a 60-foot pool, jacuzzi, and custom sculpture.

Jem Residences Miami

[PM] How is developing real estate in Miami different from New York City?

[MN] I joke that we thought it was difficult to get approvals and permits in New York, but Miami is even more difficult. Jokes aside, there are very different pre-construction processes in New York than Miami. The obvious is that we are able to sell much earlier in the process in Florida, which has allowed us to be creative and work alongside incredible partners here locally. While there are differences, what we do see is a shift in the type of product we are delivering in Miami. As more and more buyers come from New York to Florida, we want to be able to provide a product that appeals to the New York and international buyer. This is what has influenced our unit mix and make-up of this mixed-use development.

[PM] Your daughter Danielle works with you in an EVP role overseeing marketing and design, how special is it to share that family/work relationship?

[MN] Danielle learned the business from the bottom up, starting as a receptionist, moving to an administrative assistant in one of our sales offices, and learning every trick of the trade along the way before becoming our Executive Vice President of Marketing and Design. She is highly motivated, hard-working, and keeps pushing the quality of our work, so yes, it is special and rewarding to see the growth over time and it’s very helpful because I have more time to grow the business.

[PM] Besides real estate and work, tell us about some of your other hobbies?

[MN] Family and boating are my passions. I love being on the water, it is the only place I can relax.

[PM] Where can we find you in your day off? (Favorite restaurant, country club, boat, etc)

[MN] My days off are for either family or spending time on the water.

Jem Residences Miami

Image via PROFILEmiami | Renderings via Hayes Davidson


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