From Caracas to Miami

An Immigrant’s Tale

An Immigrant’s Tale: How Alirio Torrealba Went from Selling Cars in Venezuela to Developing Luxury Condos in Coral Gables, and Never Looked Back

By Joseph A. Mann Jr.

If location, location, location is the mantra of real estate, then Alirio Torrealba is exemplary of that adage, in more ways than one. With an uncanny knack for timing, the Venezuelan-born entrepreneur left his home country just before President Nicolas Maduro began a dictatorial reign that demolished the nation’s economy and its personal freedoms. He then tapped into – and helped uncork – a new wave of luxury condominium developments in the posh Miami suburban city of Coral Gables. That transition is the stuff of immigrant dreams and speaks volumes about the opportunities for foreign nationals in multi-cultural Miami.

Torrealba, who earned a law degree in Venezuela, launched his business career in Caracas in the early 1990s by starting a company that became a leader in used car sales. He later acquired new car dealerships for Kia and Ford in Venezuela, and in 2010, expanded to Puerto Rico, investing in Kia dealerships there.

During visits to Miami, Torrealba began looking at the residential real estate market. “Around this time, we started buying, selling, and renovating individual apartments,” says Torrealba, now 50 years old. He and Fernando Pinto – a friend and business partner from Venezuela – began working together on real estate sales. “But this seemed very risky – real estate was not the original plan.” 

Aware of the shifting economic and political landscape of Venezuela in 2013, the year that Maduro came to power, Torrealba, his wife, and two children moved to Miami. There, he and Pinto opened a real estate office to handle luxury apartments. Business was good, and the two made a wide range of contacts and gained insights into the local residential market. One of those insights was Torrealba’s observation that families in the affluent suburb of Coral Gables were often interested in selling their large homes after their children were grown and would be interested in downsizing to condos in the same area.

With not enough high-end product to satisfy demand, Torrealba decided the Coral Gables luxury condo market offered possibilities. So, in 2014, he established MG Developer. In the ensuing decade, his company became a leader in developing new luxury properties in Coral Gables, while respecting the legacy of Mediterranean and Spanish colonial architectural in which the city takes great pride. He also earned local acclaim by becoming involved with the city’s civic organizations, joining its museum board, its community foundation, and funding art in public places.

“The quality of our products and our architectural styles make a big difference,” Torrealba says. “When we began, I was innocent. You start off with lot of enthusiasm and passion, and as you advance along the road, you see all the problems. But you’re already on the way, so you have to keep working and moving ahead.”


MG Developer’s first big project, started in 2015, was a five-story building with 32 luxury units called Biltmore Parc, a few blocks from the city’s downtown. “That’s where we launched our adventure,” Torrealba says. But it was not an easy launch, at a time when new construction was at a low point in Coral Gables.

What Torrealba found was that “financing was really tight. Banks were still worried about real estate loans following the 2008 recession, and we were foreigners and didn’t have a record of building in the area.” So Torrealba and some Venezuelan friends became partners and joined forces to supply part of the financing. “It was a Venezuelan version of crowd financing,” he says. After they paid $10 million for the land, they were able to obtain bank financing for construction.

A Mediterranean-inspired design by the local architecture firm Bellin & Pratt, the building was completed in 2017 and sold out

by 2019. “It’s interesting that nobody was building condos in Coral Gables after 2008. We woke up the city,” says Torrealba.

As Biltmore Parc was under construction, MG Developer started another project that was to be the cornerstone of its future projects: a townhouse community called 444 Valencia. “We just happened to start 444 Valencia while we were doing Biltmore Parc,” Torrealba says. “We knew the area, walked around, and talked to people in the neighborhood, and we were offered the land. It was an opportunity.”

Made up of three-story townhomes, it was finished and sold out before Torrealba’s nearby Biltmore Parc was completed. The demand for elegant townhouses, inspired as much by Georgian town houses in London as the Mediterranean look that endeared locals, exceeded all expectations.

Realizing he had hit on something, Torrealba went on to create a grouping he dubbed Biltmore Square, which added the townhome projects Beatrice Row (completed 2018), Althea Row (completed 2021), and Biltmore Row (completed 2022). Along the way, MG Developer also completed some single-home projects, including The Ponce and Villa Blanc (both completed 2021). In conjunction with the city’s Art in Public Places program, he commissioned Argentine artists Roberto and Rosario Bejar to create a massive stone bench at the edge of Biltmore Square, called “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Such contributions have earned Torrealba kudos from local leaders, including Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago. “Alirio Torrealba and his company have built first-class developments in our city, all in the spirit of our founder George Merrick,” Lago says. “Additionally, he is an involved and committed citizen supporting many worthy civic and philanthropic causes.” 


With his townhome projects wrapping up, Torrealba is now embarking on his most ambitious projects to date. The first is the “jewel” of his work in the city, The Village at Coral Gables, a $50 million residential complex with 48 new units occupying an entire 2.6-acre city block. Inspired by the same Spanish architecture that Coral Gables is famous for, and scheduled for completion in 2024, it consists of four three-story buildings, 16 town houses, four villas, and four lofts, with prices ranging from $2 to $4 million.

Torrealba’s award-winning architects, Coral Gables-based De La Guardia Victoria Architects & Urbanists, see the project as an extension of city founder George Merrick’s vision for Coral Gables in the 1920s, when he commissioned the construction of seven “villages” – among them French city and country villages, a Dutch South African village, and Italian and Chinese villages.

“I do see it as a continuing of the American tradition of building villages,” says partner Maria de la Guardia. “And whereas in [Merrick’s] tradition of building villages, each really referred to an architectural style, either French, Chinese, Norman, or Dutch South African, the Village at Coral Gables is referring not to a style of architecture from other places, but back to Coral Gables itself,” and its signature Mediteranean-inspired look.

“We make sure that the communities we build have a unique sense of style and design, and that they reflect George Merrick’s vision for the city,” Torrealba says. With impressive Seville-inspired architecture, The Village will offer lush common garden spaces, fountains, and walkways. It will also have indoor and outdoor terrace lounges, a wellness club and fitness wing, plunge pool, library, and conference center.

MG Developer is also moving into more vertical projects. The firm plans next to develop Alhambra Parc, an eight-story, mixed-use building with 62 luxury condo units and retail space on the ground floor. MG is partnering on this project with VYV, a Peru-based real estate development firm, with financing provided by Knighthead Funding LLC, a New York-based private mortgage lender. Still another project is Merrick Parc, a luxury residential rental complex. The $204 million mixed-use project – just outside Coral Gables’ city limits – will have two towers, 450 apartments (including studios and one and two-bedroom units), retail spaces, and parking. MG Developer is partnering with the Baron Property Group of New York and Colliers International for initial financing.

In a final shift in emphasis outside Coral Gables, Torrealba is also developing two 10-story multifamily towers with rental units in Hialeah, a large working-class city northwest of Miami, which is suffering from an acute housing shortage. Metro Parc and Metro

Parc North will be the city’s first 10-story buildings and will add more than 1,200 units to Hialeah’s housing stock.

“Our origin was in luxury properties, but we see rentals as an attractive business and we have diversified. These projects offer more attractive properties to Hialeah residents, especially for younger people. People who left Hialeah to live in other places will have alternatives, and can now live close to their families,” Torrealba says, in a way echoing his first realization for condos in Coral Gables. It’s all about staying close to home, wherever that home happens to be.

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