Gary Ressler moved to Miami in 2001 to assume operations of TILIA Real Estate (formerly ABC Management Services, Inc.), a family-owned and operated commercial real estate management and development firm.
Mr. Ressler’s family owns and operates one of Miami’s most iconic and historic pieces of real estate in downtown Miami, The Alfred I. DuPont Building, which was purchased by Mr. Ressler’s family in 1991 for $8,500,000. Construction on the DuPont Building started in 1937 and it was completed in 1939. It was the first skyscraper built after the County courthouse and the bust of 1928. On January 4, 1989, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The Alfred I. duPont Building reflects the culture and designs of past eras. The Art Deco style of the late 1920s to 1930s is prevalent throughout, from the granite and limestone aesthetics of the exterior to the delicately painted cypress ceiling and marble paneling of the interior.
Mr. Ressler launched the TILIA Lifestyle Companies in 2002 with the opening of The Historic Alfred I. Dupont Building Special Events Venue – an award-winning event venue in the heart of downtown Miami – followed by TILIA Events, a full service Event Production Company.
The company launched TILIA Management, providing customer-focused, detail-oriented back-office support and consulting services to professional and financial firms in both regulated and unregulated industries, in 2008.
In 2012, TILIA Real Estate expanded once more into residential development, launching and completing Centro Condominiums, a 350+-unit workforce condo tower in the heart of Miami’s Central Business District.
I’ve known Gary for the past 6 years (full disclosure: Gridics, the company I co-founded, has an office in the Dupont Building). Gary is a fellow urbanist and deeply cares about improving the quality of life for all Miamians. Gary currently serves as a Trustee of The Miami Foundation, he’s on the Board of Directors of The Flagler Business Improvement District (Flagler BID,) which he co-founded, and on the Board of Directors of the City of Miami’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA.) Gary was born in Caracas, Venezuela and raised in New York City. He is married, has three daughters and lives on Miami Beach with his family.
The CRE Jedi: Gary Ressler, Principal, The TILIA Companies
The Asset: The Alfred I. DuPont Building
A Conversation With Mr. Ressler
Stoic Urbanist: What is a regular day for you?
Mr. Ressler: Pre- or Post-Corona? Because nothing is regular any longer… Every day begins the same way, which is centering: making breakfast for my three daughters (6, 10, & 12). Otherwise, I spend a lot of time connecting with our assets and their users. Particularly in these challenging times, engagement and communication with our clients, owners, and teammates is paramount. I spend an inordinate amount of time in meetings. I believe very strongly in collaboration, so regular, spontaneous, communication and feedback is essential to successful planning and implementation.
Stoic Urbanist: You’ve been in Miami almost 20 years, what do you love about the 305 and what is your biggest pet peeve about our city?
Mr. Ressler: I love that Miami is still such a young, small, and impressionable City. Because of its youth and size, Miami is the kind of City you can dive into, get meaningfully involved, and effect positive lasting impacts. I have no greater pet peeves than the inertia of bureaucracy that exists in Miami, the instinct towards ‘No,’ and a sometimes-self-defeating sense of exceptionalism that refuses to accept other communities can birth ideas that would thrive in Miami.
Stoic Urbanist: What are some of the greatest challenges South Florida faces?
Mr. Ressler: So many existential threats have already been identified in our community: climate change, sea level rise, and the opportunity/equity gap are just a few of the great challenges that concern me. As a community-focused advocate, however, I have always been drawn to quality-of-life issues. For the last 20 years, my involvement in Miami has revolved around smart & tactical urbanism, arts engagement, green & open-spaces, downtown revitalization, and homeless issues.
Stoic Urbanist: The City of Miami has a form-based code which was approved in 2010. Development in Miami during the last 10 years has been on a tear. Where do you see the greatest opportunity to improve Miami 21? Where does Miami 21 fall short?
Mr. Ressler: I feel Miami 21 does a disservice to the potential of Miami’s urban districts. An urban core requires a tight fabric, essential for the connections that create community. Miami 21 imposes setback requirements that are counterproductive to promoting a tight fabric and, written by suburbanites, fails to recognize “The Pedestrian as The Priority”. Megablocks have been permitted that utilize an entire block-face in the center of the urban core as a loading platform for 18-wheelers and no accommodation for pedestrians sharing the same sidewalk. The lack of attention to the pedestrian experience has led to a vehicular focused urban core that proves dangerous to pedestrians and lacks access to safe micro-mobility solutions.
Stoic Urbanist: Tell us about the brewery that you’re launching.
Mr. Ressler: Vanessa, my wife, and I are passionate about place-making and community building, particularly through active community engagement and participation. We both spent formative years in San Diego, CA and now, as adults, have spent almost a decade of summers in Asheville, NC – both very reputable ‘beer towns.’ We fell in love with beer and craft culture, whose successes are made through a keen focus on a specific customer base: the local. With a laser-focus on serving your neighbors, you can build community and ensure long-term success.
We were initially going to develop a bottle-bar to serve myriad craft beers made by friends and crafters from all over the country. As we were planning the venture, a neighboring, much larger, space – with the potential to add rooftop access for a Beer Garden – presented itself. Coupled with a former restaurant space that had found trouble repositioning itself, we were presented with a unique opportunity to build a full production brewery and Brewpub operation with canning capabilities.
Being housed within the “Stock Trading Room” for the building’s founding tenant, Dupont’s own FLORIDA NATIONAL BANK AND TRUST COMPANY, naming the venture came easily: we simply replaced the word, “Bank,” with, “Beer!”
And so, FLORIDA NATIONAL BEER AND TRUST COMPANY, or FN’BEER, was born.
Little did we know, or expect (particularly being so involved in the City of Miami,) that the process of legalizing the Use, seeking Planning & Zoning approvals would take more than five (5) years!
While COVID has forced the entire industry to rethink what a restaurant looks like, and how it behaves post-pandemic, we have decided to continue towards launch, so stay tuned…
Stoic Urbanist: What impact will COVID-19 have on office and retail space?
Mr. Ressler: I’ve heard much smarter people than myself opine both that:
(i) No one will ever go back to the office AND
(ii) Companies will require even more square footage to accommodate social distancing
I think humans, as a species, have a very short memory and, while this pandemic will have a short-term effect on how people utilize their offices, I believe our behaviors will return to the familiar once the immediate risk of the coronavirus is addressed, either with an effective treatment, or a vaccine.
What we have already witnessed is the accelerated downturn in the retail market. The future will be about innovation and being nimble. Communities that weather this storm best will be those that are quick to react and innovative in their thinking and approaches. We cannot continue to see the public realm as simply a way for cars to get from ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B.’ Spaces must be reclaimed, thoughtfully used, and programmed to rebuild trust with the community.
Stoic Urbanist: Seems like there will be good buying opportunities in the next 6-24 months? Which asset class is most appealing to you and why?
Mr. Ressler: The fact is there is always opportunity in the market. The question is: what is your risk tolerance, your liquidity position, and your investment horizon? I think it’s still too early to tell where the opportunity will come out of the coronavirus pandemic. There are simply too many unknowns still.
Our business model was built around opportunistic investment, thoughtful repositioning, and nimble management, invested over a long time-horizon, intentional about building value year over year – sometimes for decades – creatively and strategically.
Stoic Urbanist: Which South Florida CRE professional do you have a lot of respect for and why?
Mr. Ressler: I could name myriad CRE professionals in Miami I respect…
I moved to Miami in 2001 having built a career in storytelling in theater and film; I had no idea how to run a real estate asset, let alone a portfolio. Rafael Kapustin, who succumbed to a battle with cancer in 2014, was an important early mentor. His vision, passion, and intelligence drove the opening of the residential market we see blossoming in Downtown Miami today. He taught me how, and where, to cultivate influence in Miami.
Nitin Motwani is another professional whose work ethic, vision, and commitment to execution has been an inspiration. He has guided Miami WorldCenter’s conception, development, evolution, and construction through crisis after crisis, being nimble, intelligent, thoughtful, and always generous.
Joe Furst has shown what vision, determination, political will, and finesse can accomplish in the creation of an entire neighborhood. Wynwood was a vision in the head of a handful of people. He took that vision and created value in ways no one could have predicted. All with humility and grace.
When I met Danet Linares, I had just moved to Miami and she was leasing a premier Class-A commercial tower in downtown Miami. We both sat quietly through monthly Miami Downtown Development Authority (DDA) meetings. I have had the pleasure of watching her build a career as one of the most influential CRE professionals in Downtown Miami and beyond with tact, intelligence, integrity, and an intrinsic understanding of what her clients are looking for and how markets evolve. I now have the pleasure of serving on the DDA Board with Danet.
Stoic Urbanist: Having owned/managed real estate for ~20+ years, what is one of the most important lessons you’ve learned? Something you wish you knew before entering the business?
Mr. Ressler: Patience really is a virtue. Shit in Miami takes more time than you ever thought possible! It’s not you; it’s them!
Stoic Urbanist: What would be your 3 main tips for college grads aspiring to work in real estate?
Mr. Ressler: Real estate is no different from any other industry. Simply put: you want to spend less than you bring in, so these tips are not industry-specific:
1. Surround yourself with people smarter than yourself.
2. Find allies and support them as fiercely as you hope they will support you one day.
3. Always do the right thing. When it comes to number 3, there is very little grey area.
Stoic Urbanist: What hobbies do you have?
Mr. Ressler: My hobbies revolve around the worlds of art and performance. I love to collect and curate art, which is why we founded TILIArts, our company’s arts initiative, which seeks to engage our Tenants and Visitors with unexpected collisions of art and culture.
I spend a lot of time working with (and sometimes founding) organizations I feel will enhance the experience of living in Miami, and cultivating relationships with organizations and artists whose work I respect and moves me.
Stoic Urbanist: What is the last great book you read, and what is your favorite book?
Mr. Ressler: The last great book I read was The Purpose of Capital: Elements of Impact, Financial Flows and Natural Being by Jed Emerson. I spend a lot of time thinking about impact – and leveraging impact – specifically as it relates to quality of life and non-profit initiatives. The Purpose of Capital takes that same introspection about impact and explores how positive impacts can be accomplished through the thoughtful deployment of capital.
My favorite book is Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Stoic Urbanist: What’s your favorite Miami neighborhood and why?
Mr. Ressler: I am ride-or-die with the Flagler District! Miami’s Central Business District has a unique density and walkability that makes it particularly appealing to the pedestrian experience. Having grown up in New York City, I look to live in an environment where I don’t need to climb in a car and waste time on commuting. With its density and transit options, downtown Miami IS that place!
Stoic Urbanist: What’s Miami’s next up-and-coming neighborhood and why do you see potential?
Mr. Ressler: I’m still bullish on downtown Miami. With over 90,000 residents, a burgeoning food & beverage scene, and a streetscape re-visioning on the cusp of breaking ground, the Flagler District is about to explode. We have been waiting a long time for this moment. It has taken decades to engage the Flagler District’s fracture voices towards a single vision, which we are just now ready to implement, beginning with the construction of a festival street.
Stoic Urbanist: Favorite restaurant for a business lunch and what item on the menu would you recommend?
Mr. Ressler: There are a few, but just one…? ALLOY BISTRO. Order one of everything. Thank me later.
Stoic Urbanist: Who’s your favorite South Florida politician and why?
Mr. Ressler: I am attracted to politicians who lead with their constituent’s best interests at the forefront, character, an open mind, and a clear view of how history will judge their decisions. I think of people like Florida State Senator Jason Pizzo, Representative Javier Fernandez, Commissioners Eileen Higgins (Miami-Dade County) and Manolo Reyes (City of Miami).
Below are some images of The Alfred I. DuPont Building. The building is extremely well maintained and managed and when you step into the building you feel like you are going back in time. Proximity to transit (Metromover, Metrorail, Brightline and MIA ) and I-95 make The Alfred I. DuPont Building a great choice for an office. Step into the DuPont building, and you walk in the footsteps of Florida’s historical elites into a wonderfully preserved and grandiose piece of history.
Dine and celebrate in +/-13,000 total square feet of event space including the unsurpassed 2,000 square foot bank vault. Give your drink order to the bartender at the ornate iron-wrought bank teller window. Enjoy a performance on the elevated stage over the security vault. Waltz past the 50,000 pound door and dance in the original bank vault. The features of the North Ballroom make it the ideal location for your event of up to 150 people, and is the perfect cocktail reception area before dinner.
Rejoice and revel in the luxury of the South Ballroom’s size and accessibility. Party in comfort with 6,500 square feet of extravagant, open marble flooring. With its open floor plan and impressive views, the South Ballroom can transform itself into any space you need. With plenty of room for up to 550 people, your event will be unforgettable.