Impact glass giant Raul Casares, who ‘changed the South Florida skyline,’ dies at 82

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Raul Casares, the president of one of the nation’s largest window and sliding glass door companies, and his daughter Ingrid, the South Beach nightclub impresario who was so close to Madonna she could call the superstar simply “M,” used to drive along Brickell Avenue and play Spot the Glass.

“We used to drive after every hurricane and look at all the windows that broke and none were his,” Ingrid Casares said hours after her father died Friday, Dec. 2, at 82 of complications from Alzheimer’s. When the pair spotted the holes pockmarked in buildings where glass once stood, Raul Casares would say, “That’s not mine. We’ll get this one.”

That wasn’t idle boasting. “As Miami evolved into an urban city over the past 25 years, Raul understood that even the best-designed buildings must be built to last. When we built Bristol Tower on Brickell Avenue in the early ’90s, it was one of the only buildings to not sustain any damage from Hurricane Andrew. We didn’t lose one pane of glass,” said developer Ugo Colombo. “Raul’s work helped define our skyline, allowing developers to build taller, stronger, more beautiful buildings.”

Casares’ handiwork as president of R.C. Aluminum Industries in Miami graced numerous high rises in South Florida. Among them: the Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, the Santa Maria skyscraper on Brickell, the Il Villaggio, Apogee and Portofino buildings on South Beach, the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, a series of Grand Bay residences on Longboat Key near Naples, the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort and a 22-story office building in La Paz, Bolivia.

 

Also, the impact glass on AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami and the Regal 18 Cinema on Lincoln Road. Casares worked alongside the region’s top developers, people like Colombo, Jorge Pérez and Jeffrey Soffer.

“I always enjoyed dealing with your father,” Soffer said in an email to Ingrid Casares Friday. “He was always good for a good laugh and a tough negotiation.”

Said Pérez: “Mr. Casares was not only an excellent businessman but a very good friend. His word was his bond and we had a wonderful business relationship for over 20 years.”

R.C. Aluminum, a privately held company Casares founded in 1990, posted record profits within its first five years — aided, no doubt, by the destructive force of Hurricane Andrew in August 1992, and Casares’ resulting development of impact-resistant glass.

By 1997, five years after Andrew blew through South Miami-Dade, R.C. Aluminum employed 400 people in four sites in Miami-Dade and had plants in Naples and Colombia. The company had revenues of $40 million by 1998.

The company remained a force in the industry through its 2014 acquisition by Tecnoglass, a manufacturing company of architectural glass, windows, and associated aluminum products. Casares first partnered with Tecnoglass in 1995 and helped grow that company into an industry giant.

“Raul was the epitome of a superb entertainer. There was never a dull time with him, even negotiating to his impossible terms was fun,” said Jose Daes, Tecnoglass’ chief executive officer. “Everything Tecnoglass is today we owe to his teachings. Miami’s skyline has his mark imprinted.”

Casares was born on Sept. 22, 1934, in Havana, and moved to Miami with his family in the early-1950s. A Miami Jackson Senior High School student, Casares earned an engineering scholarship to the University of Miami but as a teenager he opted to work a menial labor job with Miami’s Crossly Window, a company that pioneered then-new products like insulated glass and exotic paint finishes. He would leave the company as president of its Miami division. In the late-1970s he co-founded ThermAlum and then R.C. Aluminum.

“If you wanted to have impact windows, you had to go through my Dad,” his daughter Ingrid said. “When no one knew about high-rise windows, my father controlled that business.”

A 1997 article in the Miami Herald confirmed her account. “It’s hard to find a current local project that doesn’t have custom windows from R.C. Aluminum,” the story said.

Casares placed artistic renderings of coming projects where employees could see them at his manufacturing plant near the airport on Northwest 75th Avenue. “I want the workers to see what they work on. I want them to take pride in these projects,” he told the Herald in 1997. “Everything we do, everything we manufacture, we install ourselves.”

In the ’90s, Casares also invested in Ingrid’s South Beach nightclubs. He held ownership in the former Bar Room and Joia restaurant. “He was a pioneer,” she said. “He believed in me.”

For all of his success, family fun trumped all.

“This is a man who lived life to the fullest,” said daughter Luly Casares, a Miami clinical psychologist. “On Tuesday night at 10, he would want to go to Prime 112 — because why wouldn’t you? And he taught us to enjoy every part of life — fishing and making food. He was an amazing poker and domino player. He really showed us not only to work hard but to play hard and he did that as long as he possibly could. He had a fierce vision of creating something in Miami and he really did.”

Casares is also survived by his eldest daughter Nancy Vias, a partner in her father’s business, and grandchildren Daniela and Alex Vias, Nico Casares and Ellie Casares-Feinberg. Services will be held at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Augustine Church, 1400 Miller Rd., Coral Gables. Donations can be made to The Alzheimer’s Association, Southeast Florida Chapter.
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