March 4, 2024
Collins Avenue
Collins Avenue in Miami Beach is one of the historic districts studied by a consulting firm.

Photo: iStock

Tropical Chocolate
Ricardo Trillos has been experimenting with locally grown cacao beans.
Johann Zietsman
Johann Zietsman, CEO and president of Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

Photo: Trudie Lee

Magic Leap
Magic Leap hopes UM students can create software for its devices.

Miami-Dade Roundup

'Tropical Chocolate' and news from Miami-Dade


  • The Miami City Commission tentatively adopted an ordinance that requires developers in parts of the city’s urban core north of downtown to create apartments that are affordable for residents making between 60% and 140% of the city’s median income. The ordinance requires that any new apartment building in those areas set aside 14% of units for workforce housing or 7% for affordable housing. Condos must include 10% workforce or 5% affordable housing. In return, developers in those areas can build slightly larger buildings than generally allowed and receive other zoning benefits.
  • Developer Vagabond Group began renovating and preserving a Miami apartment building that will become affordable housing, through the first affordable housing grant from the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency.
  • Toronto-based Colliers International Group acquired Coral Gables-based CREC. CREC cofounders Warren Weiser and Carol Greenberg Brooks will join Colliers.

Miami-Dade’s locally designated historic districts represent about 1.4% of its land area but house 3.5% of its population, according to a county-commissioned study by PlaceEconomics. The districts are typically five times denser than the rest of the county, and assessed value per acre is 3.8 times that of the rest of the county. Foreclosure rates in historic districts were half those in the rest of the county, and single-family homes in the districts appreciated twice as fast as homes in other parts of the county.


Tropical Chocolate

In 2009, Ricardo Trillos started Cao Chocolates, Miami’s first chocolate company that manufactured chocolate directly from raw cacao beans (“bean-to-bar”). He imported cacao beans from Venezuela, turned them into cocoa and created chocolate bars for corporate customers. Eventually, Cao Chocolates expanded into a Pinecrest retail shop, and Trillos’ wife, Anelith Ortega, became his full-time business partner. Now the pair hope to begin making chocolate with cacao beans grown domestically, on trees at the non-profit Patch of Heaven Sanctuary in southwest Miami-Dade.

Cacao trees typically grow much closer to the equator. Patch of Heaven got its trees from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, and Trillos has been experimenting with the locally grown beans for a few years. Last year, as he was ready to bring local-bean chocolate to market, Hurricane Irma destroyed the crop.

Trillos hopes to have Miami chocolate in his shops sometime this year. “We’ve proven it’s possible,” he says. “We’ve made chocolates from that just for personal consumption.”

A little less than one-third of revenue comes from retail sales at Cao’s Pinecrest shop. The rest comes from catering and corporate sales.


  • The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts hired Johann Zietsman as its CEO and president, replacing the retiring John Richard. Zietsman was CEO and president of Arts Commons in Calgary, Alberta.


  • City National Bank created the CNB Housing Foundation, with $1 million in initial funding, to help low-income buyers purchase homes. The foundation will be able to close on homes quickly, hold them temporarily, then sell them at cost to low-income and moderate-income buyers. It hopes to capitalize on a preference among sellers for rapid, risk-free cash sales and give buyers who need mortgages openings to complete purchases.
  • City National Bank also made a $500,000 donation to keep admission free to the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami.
  • Lennar will sell its Rialto Investment and Asset Management division, which manages and services commercial mortgage-backed securities and oversees real estate investment partnerships, for $340 million to private equity firm Stone Point Capital. North Carolina-based First Citizens Bank and Trust will acquire Miami-based Biscayne Bancshares (which operates Biscayne Bank) for $119 million.
  • Mercantil Bank, which went public last August, changed its name to Amerant.


  • Through an anonymous $10-million donation, Miami Dade College will expand its American Dream Scholarship program, which covers fees not covered by other financial aid so high school graduates can get an associate’s degree.
  • The U.S. Department of Education awarded Florida International University a four-year, $1.1-million grant to establish a Center for International Business Education and Research at its College of Business. The award was the only one granted in Florida this year.


  • CMX Cinemas promoted José Leonardo Martí to CEO; he had been the CEO and CFO for Grupo Cinemex, the Mexican-based parent company of CMX.


  • Perry Ellis founder George Feldenkreis will take the Doralbased company private in a $437-million buyout that he first proposed in February 2018.


  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Firdapse, a medicine developed by Coral Gables-based Catalyst Pharmaceuticals to treat the rare autoimmune disease Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome.
  • Papa Inc., a Miami-based startup that connects college students with elderly people in need of non-medical assistance, closed a $2.4-million round of seed funding from investors, including Initialized Capital and Sound Ventures. Humana also recently added the service to its Medicare Advantage plans.


  • In its first academic partnership, Plantation-based Magic Leap joined with the University of Miami to develop what the company calls “Magicverse” — a blend of augmented reality and human-centered artificial intelligence. The partners hope to engage UM faculty and students to create a variety of applications for Magic Leap’s augmented reality devices and will open a lab at the UM College of Engineering.
  • Texas-based Sabre will buy travel technology company Farelogix for $360 million; Sabre says Farelogix will continue to operate independently from Miami.


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