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The 35-Year-Old Uber-Developer Behind One of America’s Largest Redevelopments

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By now many know how uber-developer Nitin Motwani (with Art Falcone) has doggedly pieced together parcels and entitlements for Southern Florida’s impending biggest development, Miami Worldcenter—culminating last week in a unanimous County decision to green-light a new Community Development District so that, at long last, 90 days from now shovels will go in the ground. But where does all his energy and determination come from?

Pictured earlier this week at his desk in Miami Tower, Nitin tells us a key inspiration was his mom, Ramola, widowed in 1994 when he was 15 years old and his dad died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage. His parents had been refugees from an area of India that was partitioned into Pakistan in 1947 and came via Bombay to Florida, where they settled in Fort Lauderdale and looked around for a livelihood. They were a great team, he says, noting they were college sweethearts, and that his dad had an MBA and his mom a law degree.

…the 43-room Tropic Cay. But in 1994, as the economy worsened, Ramola was faced with pressure from banks following her husband’s death. Somehow she persevered and found financing. After that experience, Nitin and Dev felt they owed it to her to pursue careers beyond real estate. Products of public high school, both enrolled at Duke, after which Nitin went to Goldman and Dev to Credit Suisse, learning Wall Street. But their nostalgia lingered, and after a couple of years, Nitin went to Columbia for a master’s in real estate, then moved back to Fort Lauderdale in ’04; Dev followed in ’06.

The family ended up selling their Merrimac property to Trump in ’04, which last year sold to Hilton, which created a more upscale Conrad. And just recently they partnered with Miami’s Fort Capital in the development of an ultra-luxe hotel and residential project under the Four Seasons flag on their former Tropic Cay site.

Nitin now lives in Coral Gables with his family and has three focuses. Well-known, of course, is the Miami Worldcenter site, which we snapped him pointing to from his office in Miami Tower. It’s from 6th to 11th streets, and Second Ave to Miami Ave patiently assembled for a decade. A second focus is Encore Capital Management—private equity funds and a private REIT that include 50 projects, largely infill residential from Miami to Orlando, Dallas, Austin, Phoenix, LA, and SF. A third focus is family investments that his brother manages.

In coming weeks, site work and demolition will proceed on the Miami Worldcenter, with groundbreaking expected in September. The first phase, to deliver in 2018, will include a mammoth $700M, 1,800-room Marriott Marquis on five acres (not to be confused with the existing JW Marriott Marquis), and the 765k SF “Mall at MWC” being done by Forbes and Taubman to be anchored by Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. A 32-floor, 462-unit apartment complex is being done by Zom, and Daniel Kodsi is leading the development of 513 ultra-luxury condos called Paramount at 10th and 2nd Avenue, where buyers have come from more than 30 countries; the smallest unit will be 1,100 SF, starting in the $700k’s.

As the transformation gets going, Nitin says a couple of major community issues that will come into greater focus are the need for more extensive and efficient transit, and for more public spaces (like plans for the architects of NY’s Highline to do a 10-mile long Miami “Underline.”)