PROFILEmiami had the exclusive opportunity to sit down with Ron Gottesmann and Nir Shoshani, founders of NR Investments and the masterminds behind CANVAS as well as Miami's new, burgeoning Arts + Entertainment District. Get inside the neighborhood changing developers' minds as they discuss how CANVAS came to reality, what drives the Arts + Entertainment District forward, bridging art and lifestyle within a residential community, and how they brought life and vibrancy to a dilapidated area in the heart of Downtown Miami.
PM: This area was completely flat, there wasn’t any development in the A + E District, when you guys got here, what did you find and how did you get the land
Ron: We built Filling Station Lofts, and after we completed that project, we created CANVAS. Prior to that, we looked at everything happening around us and decided we wanted to do something different… so we started the Arts + Entertainment District, which was formerly the Omni District.
Nir: When we talked about forming the Arts + Entertainment District, before Filling Station Lofts, there wasn’t much in the area. Our idea was to create an urban village. One essential component was public transportation. Fortunately, that feature was already in place – a MetroMover station – but it was underutilized. Another was density. We needed to create density, which, in turn, would create energy. And another component was mixed-use retail. Ron and I took our time picking the right people to help us build that energy… all of which was necessary to bring people to the area. This wasn’t a renaissance… it was a ground-up effort. Virtually nothing existed within these 16 blocks.
Ron: This is a true story: We took some people from our company on a fishing trip to the Tropic Star Lodge in Panama. One evening, we were sitting around a table and there were some guests nearby from New York. They asked us where we were from and we said Miami; so they said, ‘you have to go this cool place,’ and they started showing us photos of Filling Station Lofts and the rooftop. All of us looked at each other and we were in shock. We said, ‘you know what, we did it!’ This was a validation of what we had built. It was our dream to create a concept and connect it to the community. Even through the Miami Flea, we have given residents who live in Filling Station Lofts the opportunity to further their own businesses. That’s why we started the event -- to give people who actually live in Filling Station a platform to grow their businesses and achieve recognition.
Nir: To date, we have hosted more than 180 public events in an effort to further the growth of the District. I think that’s been one of the most important aspects of creating a genuine community…and through a very holistic approach.
PM: So you guys decided to build condos because you already had the rentals via Filling Station. Did people demand for condos or did you guys do your own market research?
Ron: It was a dream. It was a vision. At the end of the day, we wanted to develop something affordable – something that was luxury but not too expensive. We also wanted to maintain Fannie Mae approval, which prevents selling to bulk buyers. In the beginning, we were approached to sell in bulk, but we didn’t. Fannie Mae approval creates a healthy project…and when it comes to delivery, people can really buy and finance with 5% down on their units. This was our intention from day one.
Nir: From the get-go, CANVAS has been an end-user product. We’d like it to be a place where families and professionals will be able to fulfill the American dream.
PM: We discussed that the clientele who likes the Arts + Entertainment District, design and style may not like real estate business and developers, where do you see a lot of your buyers coming from? Are they investors looking for rental units or end users?
Ron: It’s a mix of people. We have investors, we have end-users, we have domestic buyers, we have foreigners who come here to study. The area itself is such a unique location…one that’s close to Miami Beach, the University of Miami, Miami International Airport, etc. -- so you find yourself in a place where you can easily be mobile. In the past, this was the Omni District. We succeeded in changing the branding to the Arts + Entertainment District. That was the first stage. Then came the push to sell to people who really wanted to use it. The majority were end-user buyers. We never pitched or sold units as rental opportunities or promised returns. We don’t believe in selling something we cannot commit to. Quality product, amenities, connectivity between people…that’s what we’re looking to create and provide.
Nir: Although I dislike the word, it’s about “lifestyle.” We see this area as offering the urban community lifestyle, not the South Beach lifestyle. We are stressing that in our amenity deck…we are stressing that in the joint activity offerings through the gym, the racquetball courts, etc. We want our residents to connect through these features.
Ron: Not only that, but also with retail. We believe that retail shapes an area. For that reason, we are paying a great deal of attention to the retail space… and we aren’t rushing into the maximum rent per square-foot. We want to preserve and build the community. We are not looking for the top restaurant… we are looking for the restaurant that can serve the neighborhood – grocers and other retailers that will connect with the community.
PM: CANVAS will feature art installations throughout, etc. How did this idea evolve?
Nir: I think it’s very much part of what we are about. It’s another key element. All of these individual aspects are not “THE” factor that will make the project a success… they make up the entire package. The first similar experience we had with an art installation of such magnitude was within Filling Station Lofts, where we decided to work with Wynwood-based muralist Daniel “Krave” Fila, along with seven local artists, and create small, original works of art in the lobby. We subsequently saw a huge demand. So in CANVAS, we decided to scale up, going from framed works to murals. We will therefore have 27 residential floors in the building with original curated murals on every one.
Ron: We decided to bring Wynwood into the building, but in a classic way. We implemented something similar in the Filling Station Lofts; and therefore, I think we have proven that it can be done successfully. The building is unique and the response has been phenomenal.
PM: When the buyer closes on the unit and you give them the keys, what is one feature in the building or their newly purchased unit that will stand out and make them happy they bought here?
Ron: Everything. Absolutely everything from A to Z. We don’t cut corners. When the clients move in, they will get everything ready to go. The only thing they’ll need to bring with them will be their shirt and their furniture. The amenities are there, the retail is there, and the community is there.
PM: What does CANVAS mean to the Arts + Entertainment District and to the city of Miami?
Nir: For me, CANVAS is the first milestone in the District – one that will bring more people to the area and subsequently create even more energy around us. Architecture is important. Structure is important… and that is what we have worked to do with CANVAS.
Ron: I think it’s the next phase in the continuation of building up this area and the District. People are in love with the community. It’s a place that residents will be proud to call home.
About Nir Shoshani, Ron Gottesmann & NR Investments:
NRI is a privately held real estate investment company with focus on commercial and residential real estate co-founded by Nir Shoshani and Ron Gottesmann. NR Investments is built upon the belief that small investments in communities and local culture result in large returns in real estate value. NR Investments has completed neighborhood changing projects across South Florida, including Filling Station Lofts, and Lima, Peru. Prior to forming NRI in 2001, Nir Shoshani was president at TiS America, Inc. a subsidiary of Top Image Systems Ltd. (NASDAQ: TiSA), a publicly traded, high-tech firm headquartered in Israel with operations around the globe. Mr. Shoshani is a graduate of the Belgrano School of Business in Buenos Aires. Co-founder Ron Gottesmann was a former mortgage banker who oversaw the operation of the Miami branch of GFI Mortgage Bankers Inc. of New York. Today, NRI is a fully integrated developer, owner and manager of real estate, with holdings that include large-scale office buildings, commercial shopping centers and multi-family housing.