Case Studies

Jorge Sanz – Related Group

Related Group VP at home helping build affordable housing

Jorge Sanz may not have been born to swing a hammer, but he’s been doing it—and more—for an awfully long time.

Sanz, the vice president of construction operations for Miami-based Related Group, began working in construction for his father, a Cuban immigrant and general contractor.

“My two brothers and I grew up in the business,” Sanz recalls. “My father wanted us to be doctors and lawyers, but we did what he didn’t want us to do—we work in construction.”

Jorge Sanz | Vice President, Construction Operations | Related Group

Jorge Sanz | Vice President, Construction Operations | Related Group

While his dad helped him learn nearly every trade job in the industry—from installing drywall and plumbing to setting concrete reinforced with steel rebar rods—Related Group enables Sanz to help rebuild areas of Miami that have been familiar to him since he was a boy.

Specifically, Sanz is leading projects to rebuild public housing that also adds affordable and senior units to the mix while achieving higher standards for energy efficiency.

“This is a great fit for my skills and a great way to give back to my community,” he says. “I saw what the company was doing, and I wanted to be part of it.”

A mixed approach

Founded in 1979, Related Group has specialized in revitalizing urban neighborhoods through a variety of projects ranging from luxury high-rise condominiums such as Baccarat Residences in Miami to affordable and market-rate units at the Boulevard and West River communities in Tampa, Florida.

Related Group’s portfolio also includes the mixed-use Parque Global development with five 47-story high-rise towers with 672 units in São Paulo, Brazil, and three joint venture condominium developments in Cancun, Mexico. The company has developed more than 17 million square feet while building and managing more than 100,000 residences.

Jorge Sanz | Vice President, Construction Operations | Related Group

Since joining Related Group in February 2019, Sanz has led projects to revitalize some of the oldest public housing in the U.S. at the 55-acre Liberty Square complex that fills nine blocks in Miami.

As one of four company vice presidents for Related Urban Construction, Sanz is focused on the operations and contracting side, including overseeing budgets and work schedules. Related Group has its own construction division and hires subcontractors for projects, with an emphasis on local firms that are frequently women- or minority-owned—as much as 40 percent on certain projects

Hiring those subcontractors also enables the company to meet Section 3 requirements of the federal Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968 used by the Miami-Dade County Public Housing and Community Development Department, which operates Liberty Square.

Rebuilding a community

Built during the Great Depression as a Public Works Administration project, Liberty Square was constructed as housing for Black residents who were restricted from living in other parts of Miami because of Jim Crow segregation laws.

Related Groups’ rebuilding of Liberty Square began in 2016 as three blocks of housing were razed and replaced with 600 garden-style apartments—three-story buildings with 30 to 36 units, Sanz says. Rebuilding Liberty Square is an ongoing phased project that is anticipated to be completed in 2027 with a total of around 1,900 new housing units.

The new housing units are only part of the project—Sanz says Related Group is also building new sewer and water lines, improving street drainage, adding a fiber network, and creating parks and playgrounds. The future construction phases will include a new school and retail development such as a supermarket, as well as a new fitness center, a rebuilt community center and a new medical center.

Jorge Sanz | Vice President, Construction Operations | Related Group

Liberty Square is also built to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Silver standards for energy efficiency. The new units feature high-efficiency central air conditioning and in-unit washers and dryers. LED lighting is being used as well. To provide hurricane protection, there’s concrete block construction and impact windows with heavy-duty frames and shatter-resistant glass.

As Liberty Square is being rebuilt, it is also shifting from strictly public housing by adding affordable and workforce housing with apartments available to renters earning from 50 percent to 120 percent of the area’s median income.

Housing for all

About five minutes from Liberty Square, Sanz is also overseeing the construction of Lincoln Gardens, a combined affordable and workplace housing development that also includes senior housing and townhomes built for first-time home buyers.

The project started in 2020 with four garden-style units and eight townhomes. There will also be a 77-unit, four-story apartment building for seniors that features a system to call for nursing or emergency help in the bathroom and a lobby screen that directs responders to the proper unit.

Jorge Sanz | Vice President, Construction Operations | Related Group

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Six units will have accommodations meeting the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for people with limited mobility, including grab bars in the showers. All the units are designed to be converted to comply with ADA standards—for instance, with wider hallways for people who use wheelchairs.

The two-story townhomes have three bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms and 10 will be available to first-time home buyers who are part of Federal Housing Authority loan programs offered and administered by Miami-Dade County, Sanz says. The first phase of Lincoln Gardens construction also earned LEED Silver certification and the buildings are insulated between exterior and interior walls to help abate noise and temperature differences between units.

Right place for his skills

Though Sanz’s father may have been disappointed his sons went into construction instead of white-collar career pursuits, Jorge says the skills he learned working with his father (he left the company after graduating high school) have enabled him to have a broad career in terms of commercial, residential and public works jobs.

Jorge Sanz | Vice President, Construction Operations | Related Group

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Before joining Related Group, Sanz was a project manager at Contex Construction Co. from August 2009 to December 2014 and then superintendent at Plaza Construction until February 2019.

Outside work, Sanz enjoys sport fishing and spending time with his wife and their three dogs.

Joining Related Group as a senior construction manager in February 2019 appealed to Sanz because of the company’s focus on workforce and affordable housing projects that accompanies its high-end work. He was promoted to his current position in June 2022.

“I have a wealth of experience, and I’m able to use it here,” Sanz says. “I’ve never been afraid of a challenge or trying anything new. It’s how we grow.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. IX 2023 Edition here.

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