17 Aug AiroAV Malware Claims: Who is Miami real estate developer David Martin?
Most college students use coffee to power through all-night cram sessions.
As a University of Florida undergrad, David Martin used coffee in a different way — to launch his business career.
Starbucks had started sprouting up around the country in 1995, but none had yet reached Gainesville. So Martin signed onto his AOL account and went online to find out why so many were buzzing about the company.
“I had always been very entrepreneurial as a kid, so I took out a $50,000 line of credit from SunTrust Bank and opened a coffee and bakery shop on campus called Java Lounge,” he said. “It was open from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. and it grew so fast I ended up with 25 employees. I learned a lot about operating a business and having a responsibility to your customers. It also taught me how to deal with city government and getting permits.”
Two years before he graduated in 2001, Martin sold the coffee shop for $450,000 to Einstein’s Notes, a local Gainesville business.
“That coffee shop is a good example of what makes David a successful developer,” said Keith Kurland, Senior Managing Director & Co-Head of New York Capital Markets for the financial firm Walker Dunlop. “He saw a need for a coffee shop and he filled it. That’s akin to what he does as a developer — understanding what his end users want and need, from office to retail to residential.”
In the ensuing 19 years, Martin, 43, has become one of the most prolific and respected developers in Miami’s real estate market. His firm Terra, co-founded in 2001 with his father Pedro Martin, a former partner at the Greenberg Traurig law firm, has completed or is currently developing 8.6 million square feet of residential, commercial and retail spaces throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties, valued at a total of $7.24 billion.
“Under David’s leadership over the past 10 years, Terra has grown into an internationally respected development firm that is reshaping the face of South Florida’s communities and the broader real estate landscape,” said Pedro Martin, who remains active with the company. “I am incredibly proud that David has stayed true to our founding principles even as the company has grown. He understands that the work we do at Terra can be a part of the solution for the many challenges our city faces, and I know he will be making an impact in this community for decades to come.”
Full speed ahead
At a time when most developers have hit pause on new projects — even before the COVID-19 pandemic — to allow time for the absorption of the surplus of condos, commercial and office spaces already on the market, Martin is defying industry headwinds. He’s developing everything from luxury to workforce housing, industrial to hotel, single-family homes to his current project, a marina.
“I’m convinced there are 12 David Martins,” said Lyle Stern, president of the Miami Beach-based leasing and consulting company Koniver Stern Group. “He’s always available even though he has a lot of projects going on. He’s on every call. He’s ubiquitous. He’s like water in the rain. I believe he’s cloned. He’s everywhere. And he’s super involved. He never starts with ‘How much is this going to cost?’ but ‘How is this going to fit into this neighborhood?’ ”
Terra’s geographical reach extends throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties, from the booming Coconut Grove and Miami Beach to less buzzy neighborhoods such as Miami Lakes, Pembroke Pines, Hialeah and Weston. And because of his successful track record, Martin is able to attract heavyweight partners and investors, minimizing the risk of funding the developments using his own equity alone.
“He has a strong track record. He’s made a lot of money to invest in the future growth of his business, and the debt and equity capital markets respect him and are excited to invest with him, due to his keen eye for unique projects,” Kurland said. “That’s true of his partners on the development side too, from general contractors to construction.”
Those who work with Martin say one of the things that sets him apart is his keen attention to the smallest details, from doorknobs to color schemes to a $15,000 line item on a budget for a $300 million project.
“One of the things that’s both entertaining and frustrating about hanging out with David is whenever something comes up, he will act immediately,” said Bjarke Ingels, the famed Danish architect who designed the twisting towers of Terra’s Grove at Grand Bay luxury condo. “So if you’re discussing a project with him and you say ‘We should talk to this guy about this thing,’ David will call him on the spot, put him on speaker and instantly deal with the issue.
“Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with his train of thought. But David doesn’t leave anything for tomorrow or even an hour from now. It has to be right now. That’s often how incredible things happen.”
In the works
Terra projects currently under construction include:
▪ The 800-room Grand Hyatt Miami Beach on 17th Street, which will connect to the Miami Beach Convention Center via a sky bridge;
▪ Mr. C Residences, a 20-story, 151-unit luxury condo tower at 2655 S. Bayshore Drive in Coconut Grove that marks the first large-scale residential project by the upscale hospitality brand;
▪ Grove Central, an 883,000-square-foot mixed-use development adjacent to the Coconut Grove Metrorail station that will include a 50,000-square-foot Target, 288 market-rate and workforce rental apartments, and a 23-story office tower;
▪ The Canopy Club, a large mixed-use development at 500-600 Alton Road at the gateway of Miami Beach off the MacArthur Causeway that will include 330 residential units, a 15,000-square-foot retail component and a three-acre public park;
▪ District 79, a 500,000-square-foot warehouse/industrial project at 7777 NW 41 St. in Doral, on the former site of the PepsiCo distribution center and regional headquarters.
“David is in a class of his own,” said Peter Zalewski, a principal at the real estate analysis firm Condo Vultures. “He casts a long shadow over some other developers in Miami because he has diversified instead of concentrating on one area, like cratered downtown Miami.
“He’s a Florida unicorn, in that he was born and raised in the state and continues to build here. He might be a little optimistic about where he thinks the market is heading, but I give him kudos for going forward with projects that are going to be difficult, like the Miami Beach Marina.”
The Marina project currently is Martin’s main focus. The ambitious plan calls for a $40 million renovation for the aging Miami Beach Marina, with infrastructure upgrades including sea level rise protection and storm resiliency. Martin is also offering to pay the City $77.5 million for air rights and upland improvements on land adjacent to the marina, including the creation of a one-acre park and a completed stretch of the Miami Beach baywalk. Martin also plans to build a 23-story condo tower and 45,000 square feet of revamped commercial space.
The 30-plus year-old marina south of Fifth Street is owned by the City of Miami Beach and leased to an affiliate of…