Just the other day I took my wife, June, on a tour of our newly completed SLS LUX Brickell mixed-use project that we have co-developed with our impressive partners at the Related Group. This is the Allen Morris Company’s 81st development and our first hotel and condominium project.
It was exciting to see the new residents living in the luxury environment that we envisioned five years ago. It was particularly reminiscent to see the 58-story, 1.3M Square foot structure standing next to the 909 Brickell Plaza office building, which The Allen Morris Company built in 1974 and the 1000 Brickell building my father developed in 1968 (the first multi-tenant office building on Brickell Avenue!).
Each one of those earlier buildings was an adventurous and gutsy undertaking, of course dwarfed by the mammoth complexes of today. It reminded me of the major “pivot” for our commercial real estate business, when we made a decision to develop the award-winning Alhambra Towers in 2002. From that experience I decided that I only wanted to build beautiful landmark buildings that not only inspired me, but genuinely improved the surrounding community.
Part of that shift was my feeling burned out from doing something I knew how to do well, yet was not passionate about. Alhambra Towers taught me the importance of listening to my heart and asking myself if the project being considered will not only make money, but would be something we could be proud of and that would make people’s lives better. We recently had the opportunity to develop some very profitable buildings that could have been easy, ‘low-hanging fruit’ to develop and make money.
But when we measured the opportunity against our mission statement to ‘Inspire, Impress and Improve,’ it didn’t meet any of the criteria. They were going to inspire no one, impress no one, and improve the lives of few people. So we didn’t do it. We respectfully passed on the project. I was reminded that every time we say no to mediocrity; it frees us up to work on another project that we are truly passionate about. I really feel grateful and blessed to have the opportunity to make those kinds of decisions.
Just as Alhambra Towers has become an icon for the City of Coral Gables and is used in much of the city’s promotional materials, we are now finalizing plans to build two extraordinary landmarks and new state of the art city garages in the downtown area we are calling Coral Gables City Center.
I am fully committed and passionate about creating something great that will endure and benefit the people of Coral Gables, while celebrating the legacy of its founder, George Merrick, and his original vision for the city!
The signature features of Coral Gables City Center will be a statue of the explorer Ponce de Leon on top of the office tower and a towering archway in the apartment building inspired by the Arch of the Republic in Florence, Italy. The arch will actually be the size of the Arc de’ Triomphe in Paris and we expect it to be the most photographed Instagram hot spot in Miami. This is our company’s passionate interpretation of how we hope to Inspire, Impress and Improve the City of Coral Gables and other cities where we are creating new projects, such as in Orlando, Maitland, St. Petersburg and Atlanta. The projects we build now are for the ages and are something I can feel truly passionate about.
Watch this video on how Alhambra Towers inspired Allen Morris and changed the direction of the company.