Earls Of Edgewater
First all the buzz was South Beach, says the Melo family. Then Brickell. Soon, they confidently predict, it will be Edgewater—which happens to be their center of action.
Last week, we snapped patriarch Jose Luis, 79, flanked by sons Martin, 38, and Carlos, 45. (A daughter, Laura, is also in the business, doing accounting.) Since coming to Miami in 2001 (preceded by 40 years of the family business in Argentina), the Melo Group has completed 2,434 condos and rentals and has another 1,358 units under construction. With other land they own, Jose Luis and sons estimate they can build another 3,000 units in Edgewater—and they continue looking for more.
Here’s what progress looked like on Thursday at Melo's current condo project, Aria on the Bay—construction is up to the 20th floor, with delivery due late ‘17. Melo reports it's 70% sold, with buyers from 36 countries. And the Melo family is comfortable with that statistic because it’s based on 50% deposits—a requirement it pioneered in Miami in 2011. Though people at first thought they were crazy, they say, everyone eventually realized the usefulness of the move to discourage speculation and uncertainty.
Designed by Arquitectonica, Aria will be 53 stories with 20k SF of commercial and retail space, and 648 units priced from the $400k’s to more than $12M. Of course, it will feature all the must-have Millennial amenities, like a state-of-the-art gym, yoga studio and spa; a TV screening room; a teen lounge; a kids playroom; a BBQ area and fire pit; and two curved sunrise and sunset pools.
Jose Luis comes to work every day, including Saturday. He brims with enthusiasm, seeing Miami as the next New York City. Investors flocking from around the country and the world, he says, bring new ideas and companies; they don’t just visit but increasingly want to stay and manage their businesses from Miami. He sees Edgewater as an obvious dedicated residential area, perhaps like NYC’s upper east and west sides. He feels nothing compares to its combination of panoramic views yet proximity to the new bustle of Wynwood, Midtown and the Design District, not to mention more affordable prices than waterfront on the beach.
Echoing his dad, Carlos sees the potential over coming decades for denser population and dramatic residential towers in Edgewater. They’d be even higher except for FAA restrictions.
Melo Group has done 14 major developments in Miami (11 rentals, three condos), mainly in Edgewater but also in the River district, Allapattah, and the Arts & Entertainment area, including Melody Tower, opened in May. At 38 stories with 8.5k SF of retail, rentals are being offered from $1,650 for a one-bedroom to $2,350 for a three-bedroom. Construction was fast, they point out: 500 units in 500 days.
This week, Melo tests pilings at its newest project, Square Station, next to Melody, two 34-floor towers of 710 rental units and 15k SF of retail, which the Melo gentlemen say will deliver just 18 months from now. One of the reasons they’re so quick, they say, is that they are a fully integrated firm, not relying on subcontractors as much as others.
How do the partners divide their roles? Martin studied accounting and handles finance, and Carlos is an architect handling construction and design. Regarding market conditions, Martin sees them as stable, with developers finishing projects that already have financing and have launched, but not starting new ones for the foreseeable future. As for Zika, they feel it’s just a momentary blip and the American disease control system will kick in and quickly eradicate it.
The next generation is well on its way. Laura has a 21-year-old and 18-year-old twins. Carlos has two kids, 14 and 11, and Martin’s are ages 1, 3 and 6. Martin says the 6-year-old already loves real estate, judging from the fact that every weekend he asks to go to a job site to “assist” in driving those big machines around—he makes a beeline to the foreman because “he knows he’s the guy with the keys.” Remarkably close-knit, the families actually all live in the same building on Miami Beach, and Carlos and Martin report that every morning at 8am the children take the elevator to visit grandma and grandpa. Carlos and Martin are similarly devoted, going home from the office with dad every day at noon for a working lunch at one of their apartments.
And what is it with the elephant in the Melo logo? Jose Luis is a collector of all things pachyderm (see the backdrop of the first picture in this story), which he likes because it represents strength, steadiness and loyalty. Some other factoids you might not know about him:
Favorite food: Milanesa, asado con papas fritas
Favorite restaurant: Old Lisbon in South Miami
Afternoon routine: At 5pm every day, has tea and milk and “only one cookie…well, maybe two”
Favorite vacation spot: “our backyard on Miami Beach”
Why he only talks about the future: “I am a young boy of 79, and if I start talking about the past, I will become an old man.”
Favorite music: “Tango, of course.”