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June 2020 MRED+U Graduation


Graduation Fall 2019This year’s MRED+U graduates represented the 10th anniversary of the MRED+U program joining over 160 alumni working throughout the industry in South Florida, the US, and the world. Beginning with an August 2019 Orientation packed with site visits and neighborhood tours. The calendar was filled with events such as the ULI Vison Awards, ULI Fall Meeting in Washington, DC, site visits, guest speaking engagements featuring our enthusiastic and inspiring Advisory Board, a Holiday Party hosted by our Advisory Board Chair Nitin Motwani at Miami Worldcenter, the 2020 Real Estate Impact Conference, a spring trip to Seaside and more. In March, we quickly moved to a 100% virtual classroom and the remainder of the academic year was seamless and engaging based on feedback from all participants.

This was an extraordinary year for this class, not solely defined by the pandemic, and we celebrate all of you through the following Graduation Video until we can celebrate in person. Thank you to our Advisory Board, students, alumni, faculty, and staff for making this the best year ever.

Fall 2019 Karim Fayaz
Ali Troy Gulec, dual M.U.D.
Xiaoyun Jiang
David Martinez-Delgado
Jesus Alfonso Perez Villamizar
Eli P. Stephan
Chao Wang, dual M.U.D.
Spring 2020 Or Shai
Dylan Rzepka, dual M.Arch
Summer 2020 Asi Ackerman
Claudia Carolina Aguado Camilli
Alexander Stephen Alford
Mazin Hasan A. Alroumi
Kevin Frank Bandel
Justen M. Bittman
David Ernesto Chonillo Breilh
Antonio Chopitea Junior
Ryan Coffield
Caroline Edna Cozzi
Andrea Cross
Chandler Alexandra Davis
Celeste Desiano, dual M.Arch
Nicholas Daniel Font
Samuel Esteban Herrera
Nicholas J. Nicola
Viorica Irena Pineda
Mackenzie Alsace Reininger
John Alphonse Ronco
Joseph Henry Roque
Christian J. Salgado-Soto
Andrew Christopher Samonas
Michaela Madison Senior
Andrew Albert Socarras
Burak Sumru
Laura Zapata Cadavid

Fall Orientation Was an Innovative and Fast-Paced Start for All Involved


Orientation GatheringThe MRED+U program was busy all summer planning a pandemic-safe return to campus with a variety of virtual and hybrid learning experiences for our incoming class. Starting in mid-July, students were immersed in Finance and Market Research bootcamps that met weekly through Zoom. In mid-August we welcomed our largest group of new students with a virtual “Meet & Greet” with faculty, staff, and Advisory Board members and outlined some of the upcoming programs and events. Our orientation week had a different feel from years past but we were able to have small site visits and walking tours at CocoWalk, the Vagabond, throughout Coral Gables, Gables Station, and at HTG’s Village View in Ft. Lauderdale. Each of the tours were recorded through Zoom –­– students who were not able to attend were able to follow along virtually.


Cocowalk Nearing Completion as MRED+U Students Gain Behind the Scenes Access

Orientation-CocoWalk Site VisitSmall groups of students were treated to a site tour of the long-awaited renovation of Cocowalk. As the oldest city in Miami, Coconut Grove remains a top tourist destination in Miami and Cocowalk has long been known as the “heart” of the Grove. Grass River Property, Comras Company, and Federal Realty Investment Trust are betting on this with the anticipated reopening of Cocowalk in the next few months with 150,000 square feet of retail space and the addition One Cocowalk, 85,000 square feet of Class A office space.

Purchased in 2015, Grass River’s renovation of the original open-air mall included a demolition of the eastern portion of the mall to create the new Class A office space while keeping the original structural columns. A restoration of the whole garage with a post tension structure was required. A signature 20,000-pound baobab tree was airlifted in and placed as the focal point of the new courtyard.

One of the goals is to create a flagship community project that is more appealing to the neighborhood, residents, and local workforce. The first floor of One Cocowalk will remain retail and restaurants and floors 2-5 will be new Class A office spaces. Regus’ co-working operator, will anchor the office building, taking about 2,000 square feet on the ground floor and the remaining 41,000 square feet on the second and third floors. The rooftop area will be available for office tenants with Wi-Fi and seating for outdoor dining and relaxation.


Avra Jain hosts small group of students at The Vagabond

Orientation- Vagabond

Avra, one of our most enthusiastic and involved Advisory Board members, invited a small group of students up to The Vagabond to hear her talk about how she discovered the neighborhood now known as MiMo. The Vagabond was opened in 1953 as a motel and restaurant and quickly became a fabled hangout for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and the rest of the Rat Pack. Years of deterioration and decline took its toll on the neighborhood, in 2014 Avra identified the neighborhood and The Vagabond as just days before it was set to be demolished. After purchasing the site for $1.9 million, she spent the next 18 months restoring it to its original splendor. This historical renovation included the landmark mermaids on the street corner and the mosaic dolphin and mermaids in the pool, all of which were recreated from photographs.

Avra’s passions are art and architecture, as evidenced by her development efforts throughout Miami-Dade County from Hialeah to the Miami River. She committed to serving the needs within the community and believes quality affordable housing is of paramount importance to long term sustainable growth of the Magic City. She shared with the students that if the financial aspects of a transaction can’t be explained on the back of a napkin, it’s probably not a deal that makes sense.



Orientation-Coral Gables with Scott Davidson

City Beautiful with MRED+U Advisory Board Members Scott Davidson

A small group of students had the opportunity to meet with Advisory Board member Scott Davidson and learn about his real estate career path, family business and involvement in Coral Gables. The group met at Gables International Plaza, an emblematic building developed in the 1980s by Scott Davidson’s family. Scott gave an extensive overview of George Merrick’s vision and design of Coral Gables as well as its evolution into the current City Beautiful. With breathtaking views of Coral Gables from the top of the building, students benefited from Scott's visual as well as oral presentation.


Miracle Mile through the eyes of Venny Torre, CEO of Torre Construction and Development

Orientation-Coral Gables with Venny TorreA small group of students walked the Mile with Venny Torre, whose boutique construction and development firm, has put an indelible print on the City of Coral Gables. With 25 years of construction and development experience, Venny began working in the construction field at the age of 15 and has not stopped since.

The tour commenced in front of the flagship Actor’s Playhouse at the Miracle Theater as Venny led the students down Miracle Mile and discussed the revitalizations that are taking place downtown. He offered students insight in to how COVID-19 had impacted retail stores in the area. Although property owners have been working with their tenants and offering abatements to help ease the economic blow, smaller stores are suffering significantly. Restaurants have adapted by providing more outdoor dining space for their clientele to meet county restrictions as well as expanded takeout and delivery options.

Often called Mr. Downtown Coral Gables, Venny leads the Business Improvement District, serves on the board of the Community Foundation and the Coral Gables Museum and has a passion for historic preservation and urbanization. He discussed plans of the city to potentially add residential zoning and allow bigger buildings to create more density in the area. Tied closely to that is how parking might be restructured. There are plans to redo the local parking garages to make them a hub for public transportation. Restructuring the parking garage will make it easier for residents and those looking to commute by public transportation methods, to know they have somewhere to leave their car safely while they commute to and from work.

Venny’s plans to expand art in the beautiful city through community development includes plans to bring back local artists to liven up Miracle Mile and create murals for selected walls throughout the street. He has been a proponent of working with property owners to put pop-up art galleries in vacant storefronts along the Mile.


Insider View of Gables Station

Orientation-Gables StationJared Graham, Director of Development, and Ryan McKee, Design & Construction Project Executive, lead a small group of students through Gables Station, NRI’s latest transit-oriented, wellness driven and urban living project. Located at US1 and Ponce, the mixed use project is comprised of three buildings and will add 500 apartments, 125,000 s.f. of retail and anchored by a 4 story Life Time Fitness Club. The project was developed to capitalize on public transportation access from the Miami Metrorail and the Coral Gables Trolley system and to add a new walkable community option by integrating access to the Underline. The addition of the Gables Station Park blends with the Underline to create the largest park in Coral Gables at almost 3 acres.

Our students were able to walk through all three buildings beginning with Building 1 which is nearing completion and includes the Life Time Fitness club. The state-of-the-art apartments will have access to the Club’s on-line bookings for fitness and spa availability. Between Buildings 1 and 2 are easy access to the parking garages and retail and restaurant spaces, all accessed from the Ponce side of the project. Plans for these spaces include a specialty grocery as well as other dining and retail options. Building 3 will have larger apartments and the most expansive views looking over Biscayne Bay and Downtown Miami.


Behind the Scenes at Housing Trust Group’s New Senior Community, Village View

Orientation-HTG Fort LauderdaleOrientation week gave a small group of students the privilege for a behind the scenes look at HTG’s new affordable senior community, Village View, that is currently under construction. This development is located in the budding Flagler Village market in Broward County and, upon completion, will deliver 100 affordable units for seniors (55 and over). Apartments are set aside for seniors earning at or below 30, 60, and 70 percent of the area median income (AMI).

Students first were briefed on the construction’s sites COVID requirements and the protocol that the builder, ANF Group Inc., follows to keep the site in good standing. Students were shown an elaborate break down of how the construction project manager keeps the development on track throughout the different phases of building. Following the briefing, groups embarked on their hard hat tour of Village View led by MRED+U Advisory Board member, Matt Rieger and the project team including MRED+U Alumni, Kim Colin.

Groups walked through each floor of the site as they observed the new construction taking place with Matt, as his team explained the phase of construction that each floor was on and identifying unique construction design techniques to ensure a safe and quality product. Students climbed to the top floor of Village View, where the building was being prepared for concrete to be laid down over the tension cables.

At the top of the building, students saw immaculate views of Flagler Village and the surrounding neighborhood skylines. On their way back down to the ground level, groups stopped on one floor to overlook the pool area which lies in the core of the new development. The tour concluded with Matt Rieger answering inquiries from curious students. Village View is planned to be completed in the first quarter of 2021. Rents will range from $402 to $1,236.

“Tuesdays with MRED+U” Student Speaker Series Launched on August 25th


Speaker Series-Steve CohenOur Tuesdays with MRED+U Student Speaker Series commenced with a dynamic discussion with Advisory Board member Steve Cohen on Making Valuable Connections Through Networking. Back for his fourth year, this topic has always been an extremely useful way to start off the fall semester as our new and returning students are keen to develop networking skills and business connections as they start the MRED+U program. Steve encouraged the students to figure out what they can offer the executive that they are hoping to meet. Networking is a two-way street, and each person needs to be able to give something in order to get something from the relationship. He stressed the importance of creative approaches to networking, timely follow up after a meeting or call and thanking the person who took the time to meet with you.


Speaker Series-Taylor CollinsAvra Jain introduced the students to our newest Advisory Board member Taylor Collins of Two Roads Development on September 1st. Taylor’s approach has four key elements: location, realistic proformas, simplicity and accuracy of information. He firmly believes that the final project should be more desirable than the renderings. One way to accomplish that is to use virtual reality designers to create your project in real time which will help reveal design flaws before construction. Don’t cut corners to save money. Not only does the developer have a “10 year tail” whereby they are responsible for making sure everything works for that time period, cutting corners will cost more in the long run, waste significant amounts of time, and most importantly, ruin your reputation. Taylor’s latest project, Elysee Miami, a luxury condominium project in Edgewater, is hoping for a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy (TCO) in October.


Speaker Series-Nitin MotwaniAdvisory Board Chair Nitin Motwani joined Tuesdays with MRED+U on September 8th. Miami Worldcenter is a 27 acre $4 billion urban mixed use project in the heart of Miami intentionally surrounded by arts, culture, the Miami port, public transportation, access to micro neighborhoods, and South Beach. In 2006, the first land assembly efforts began and shortly after, as a result of the Great Recession in 2009, the principals spent the next several years redefining the project and reevaluating their capital partners. In 2015, the principals elected to pivot and return to their original concept of building a community with “urban fabric”, versus a large scale downtown mall. They parted ways with the original retail/mall investors and focused on working with the Downtown Development Authority, public partners who were similarly committed to revitalizing downtown and making it a central hub of downtown living.

Miami World Center built a team of best in class including partnering with CIM Group, Forbes and Taubman (retail), MDM and Marriott (convention), Zom Living (residential), Hines (office), and Elkus & Manfredit (master planner). Over 76% of the Miami World Center employees were from Miami-Dade County so there was an immediate positive economic and community impact. The focus became: 1) pedestrians first, 2) transit connections, 3) creating public spaces.