Renowned Architect Rafael Viñoly Tells It All

World-renowned Architect Rafael Viñoly, who designed One River Point on the Miami River, spoke to the Wall Street Journal about growing up in Argentina and the path that led him to become a celebrated architect. The 386-unit One River Point, being developed by Shahab Karmely’s KAR Properties, represents Viñoly’s entrance to the Miami real estate market.

In the WSJ article, Viñoly talks about his native Montevideo, Uruguay, and his family moving to Buenos Aires when he was a young child.


When I was 5, my family moved to Buenos Aires. My father, Román, had been invited to direct Wagner’s “Die Walküre” at the Teatro Colón, one of the world’s finest opera houses. He then became active in theater, before being lured into the country’s emerging film industry as a writer and director.

 Our house in Buenos Aires was a new and a fairly conventional single-family home in the city’s northern suburbs. It was an up-and-coming and largely sparse area about 40 minutes by train from the city center.

 The two-story redbrick house had a pitched roof in a Spanish style and you entered through the porch that faced the street. Inside, there was a small office at the top of the stairs where my father worked and had meetings.

 My younger sister, Ana Maria, had her own bedroom in the back facing a pretty little garden. Between her room and my parents’ bedroom was the room I shared with my older brother, Daniel. It was spare: two beds and a large armoire.

My mother, Nene, had studied architecture for a time, but she quit to make a living as a math teacher. She decorated our house with forward-looking modernist furniture from Brazil, although she mixed in traditional pieces.

 My family wasn’t well off. The film industry was unpredictable. As a result, my parents always had financial difficulties.

 At home, my father was the outgoing and overly expressive one while my mother was the opposite. It wasn’t the steadiest environment to grow up in, but they loved their children and always put us first.

 My mother’s parents both died when she was about 8. The inheritance was mismanaged, and my mother and her siblings were sent to a convent. From an early age, my mother and her sister worked as private tutors in math and science. They were known as smart and gifted teachers.

 My father also came from a poor background. He left home as a teenager to follow a travelling circus and returned a theater person. As a result, he was always emotional and, essentially, a dreamer.

 When my brother and sister and I were kids, my father’s way of “talking” to us was in writing. Every Friday night we’d go to bed and find a hand-written letter under our pillows. On Saturday, we’d discuss them together in his office. Those sessions were a theatrical event and often made me feel as if we were on trial. I still have some of those letters, a trace of my father’s soul and his love.

 Perhaps the most significant turning point for me as a child came when I was 5. My father, a music buff, found a fantastic piano teacher who was an émigré from a sophisticated family in Florence. As in many cases with a music teacher like this, I learned many more things than just how to play. She introduced me to philosophy and the contemporary arts of the 1950s and ’60s.

 Drawing came naturally to me. Someone saw my drawings and recommended me to an architecture firm. I started working as an architect at 17, even before entering the university. Today, my wife, Diana, and I live in Manhattan’s Tribeca area.

The Real Deal: A sit-down with Alexander Wertheim: Spacio founder on his business, SoFla’s construction challenges & more

“You’ve got guys that show up today, and three weeks later, they’re gone.”March 23, 2017 10:30AM
By Doreen Hemlock

Alexander Wertheim is founder and president of Spacio Design Build, a general contracting firm with clients such as Nobu Miami Beach, the Related Group and the Marriott Stanton South Beach. A former pro tennis player on the ATP whose coaching gig got him into the construction and property management business, Wertheim now oversees a firm of about 20 employees with revenues of about $20 million.

Wertheim spoke with The Real Deal about building a business, challenges facing South Florida contractors and the latest construction trends.

“I’m a guy who believes you go with the curve,” said the 45-year-old Miami native. “You have to adapt.”

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Q. How did you get into the construction business?

After retiring from professional tennis, I coached. One of the guys I was coaching owned 30,000 apartments across the United States. I was up at his house one day and said, “I need a career.” So he hired me. He started to buy in Florida in the early 1990s. He bought a couple thousand units in west Fort Lauderdale and offered me a job there as a social director. So now, I’m doing bingo, fitness at the swimming pool, handing out bagels…I looked at it like school. I was there six months and stuck my nose everywhere. I found out what the property manager did, the leasing agent, the superintendent, the sprinkler guy, everything. Then, he says to me, “Do you want to move to Connecticut and be my son’s right-hand man?” I left the following week. I was 23 years old, director of operations of a company with 52 employees, about 10,000 apartments, half a million square feet of industrial space and four condo associations.

I learned construction, punch-out work, leasing and managing apartments, budgets, due diligence on new buys. Later, I went out on my own. With a partner, we did a bunch of condo conversions, and then, I came up with the current concept.

Q. When and why did you start Spacio?

We started in Coral Springs in 2007 to go after homeowners who wanted basic renovations. We built a beautiful showroom, and the recession came, so we went lean, down to my partner and myself. Back then, you’d call me and say, “I have a dry-wall repair,” and I’d be there.

After the recession hit, we landed our first building in downtown Miami, the Ivy. The majority of developer units are what they call “decorator-ready,” with a finished kitchen and finished bathroom. But if someone wants to move in, you need to do the floor and baseboards, window coverings, painting, closets and lighting. We came in and did those upgrades on more than 400 units.

From that, we went across the street to The Mint and changed our business model. We opened up a design center to offer a turnkey package, a one-stop shop. We did construction and even worked with furniture providers if you wanted. Mint was 532 units. Our average ticket at Ivy was $10,000, and at Mint, about $30,000. So, we ended up doing seven other buildings at the same time. We became known as the condo contractor.

Then, we landed Paramount Bay in Edgewater, and those units had $80,000 to $100,000 tickets. Next, we did 224 rooms at the Stanton South Beach Marriott. That was our first big commercial project.

Q. How much business did you do last year, and what do you project for this year?

Last year, about $20 million. This year, I have almost $14 million on the books, and it’s only March. So, it should be more.

Q. Tell us about some key projects.

We just finished Eden Roc Nobu, which is a hotel within a hotel. We took the existing restaurant, gutted it and added about 3,000 square feet of exterior space to make the largest Nobu in the world. We also did the lobby, common areas and the hotel rooms – around 150. At the Marriott Stanton at 161 Ocean Drive, we started out with the rooms, then common areas, the front and façade, the entrance, lobby. Because they couldn’t build new, we literally had to rebuild the entire structure from the inside outside, including the roof – all with the hotel in operation.

Q. What is the biggest challenge you face as a contractor in South Florida?

The workforce here. It’s laid-back, and that makes things take longer. And it’s very transient. You’ve got guys that show up today, and three weeks later, they’re gone. You hear a lot of horror stories. We’re very careful about the subcontractors we work with and develop long-term relationships with them.

Q. What trends do you see in construction in Miami?

One is incorporating exterior space into the interior. People are adding collapsible window-doors that open to one side to bring exterior space inside. You’re seeing this in homes, restaurants and hotels, because so many people love to be outside. In houses, people are putting bars, kitchens, TV rooms, sitting areas and fire pits outside to continue the experience of their great-rooms inside. It makes the space seem bigger and more welcoming.


SPACiO Design Build Tapped to Renovate and Build Out Massive Warehouse in Little Haiti

SPACiO Design Build has been selected by Innerspace Custom Closet Storage Solutions to renovate and build out a 24,000 square foot warehouse in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Little Haiti. Innerspace, a premiere designer of organized closet systems in South Florida that is relocating from Wynwood, is a perfect example of the quality of businesses that are choosing Little Haiti as their new Home.

The build-out of the space includes a 5,200 square foot interior office and a unique showroom, which requires reinforcing the existing structure to withhold new loads for Innerspace to move in next month. The repositioned structure is a perfect example of the successful re-use of an older building prime for redevelopment in an emerging neighborhood, which is attracting new businesses to the area.

“It’s exciting to be part of Little Haiti’s transformation, helping to turn visions into reality through quality craftsmanship,” said Alex Wertheim, president of SPACiO Design Builds. “We’re looking forward to working more in the area as it begins to develop into one of Miami’s hottest neighborhoods.”

For more information, contact: Jessica Forres, 202-716-8320 or

 About Spacio Design Build

SPACiO Design Build is a full-service general contractor with preeminent expertise in high-end commercial and residential projects. The Miami-based company was founded by Alexander Wertheim and has build-out some of Miami’s most iconic projects, including high-end restaurants, luxury condos and boutique hotels. With more than two decades of experience in the construction and design industry, the SPACiO team is renowned for its high-quality craftsmanship, professionalism, leadership and proactive communication with clients.

If I Knew Then…


In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy. See the article featured in Crain’s Miami here.

By: NicoleMartinez |@niki_frsh

The Mistake:

I was getting a lot of new business continuously and not focusing on my past clients as an added source of revenue.

When I first got started, I was letting the business run me, instead of me running the business. One of my most common mistakes was that I would land a client, and this would happen especially with some of my bigger clients, and I would do the job and just move on after that. I wouldn’t necessarily continue maintaining a relationship with them, whether that meant through person-to-person contacts, e-mail marketing or regular follow-up phone calls and meetings to see how they were enjoying the new space.

In the construction business, you’re only as good as your last job. In my space, you have huge general contracting firms and those guys have a pipeline for years of work. A firm our size, however, doesn’t have a tremendous pipeline, so you’re always working on trying to get that next job.

Over dinner with other business partners one night, one of them had mentioned to me that it seemed like I was not focusing enough on my existing clients. He said that I needed to keep extracting them for additional work.

“The majority of my clients that I have today are friends, because I do maintain monthly contact, whether that’s something as simple as a phone call.”

The Lesson:

Throughout the years I’ve learned and we’ve grown tremendously from taking our clients and extracting them for additional business. So if you’re not following up continuously and reminding them about who you are and what you do, they forget about you.

It doesn’t just stop at traditional marketing initiatives. Whenever I meet a client I try and figure out what they like to do. For instance, I take my clients to play golf, dine with them, or take them fishing. We become friends. The majority of my clients that I have today are friends, because I do maintain monthly contact, whether that’s something as simple as a phone call. I try and stay on top of their business, and at the top of their mind, and that’s become a failsafe way to continue having lasting business relationships that allow my own business to grow.

This approach, coupled with quality craftsmanship, has helped SPACiO grow from $9 million in 2014 to nearly $20 million in 2016.

Follow SPACiO Design Build on Twitter @spaciodb.

CASE STUDY: The Psychology Behind NYC Luxury Real Estate Listings Can Work in Miami

Here are some factors that luxury residential brokers consider when creating a listing, according to DNA Info New York Writer Amy Zimmer:

The power of pricing “just below”

Just as in retail, many in real estate price their property “just below” a round number — for example listing an apartment for $499,000 instead of $500,000.

“There is a psychological effect of being just a hair under,” said broker Claire Groome with Warburg Realty.

For instance, she recently sold a three-bedroom co-op in Carnegie Hill listed for $3.495 million after three days on the market, saying, “Rarely will you see something listed for $4 million.”

When Dan Bamberger, of the Bamberger Group, analyzed Manhattan sales prices in 2015 using Streeteasy data, he found that listings between $300,000 and $1 million used the “just below” strategy nearly 90 percent of the time. Homes priced between $1 million and $10 million used the strategy 78 percent of the time.

 The allure of neutral spaces

Staging apartments — which often involves de-cluttering, painting and changing furniture — has become more common, even for apartments at lower price points.

These apartments tend to show better in photos as well as in real life, experts say, as they give would-be buyers an easier canvas upon which to quickly project their lives.

 The repellent effect of stale listings

In this market, listings that sit longer than 60 to 90 days raise red flags, said Broker Zach Ehrlich of Mdrn. Residential.

Buyers are suspicious of stale listings, thinking something must be wrong with the property. Their agents also steer clear, thinking the seller isn’t likely to cut the price, he said.

To avoid that perception, brokers often try to work around this. They might reduce the price by some nominal amount — like $1,000 or $5,000 — to grab attention again as a price reduction or might re-list an apartment, reversing the order of the unit number. So, apartment 11K might be relisted as K11 to trick websites like Streeteasy and Zillow.

 A listing’s wording is chosen with care

Though text may be secondary to pictures, many brokers still labor over word choice — even more so now, said Stephen Kliegerman of Halstead Property Development Marketing.

“You want to make sure your messaging is clear and direct, but you want make sure you leave some things out so people still call you,” he said, explaining that if a listing has too much information, would-be buyers might think they don’t have to see the space.

You can read the entire article here:

SPACiO Tells Invest:Miami Magazine What’s Trending in Miami Real Estate

In case you missed it, Invest Miami Magazine sat down with SPACiO president Alex Wertheim to discuss what he expects to see in Miami’s construction and design industry this year.

Alex discusses some factors that are driving demand for construction and design services, based on his experience as a general contractor building out some of Miami’s most iconic residential and commercial projects. He states that residential demand growth in Miami will continue, due in large part to the lower cost of living compared to other major gateway cities across the U.S. and Florida’s advantageous tax structure.

While construction in the residential sector is clearly slowing down, Alex continues to see an increase in construction activity in the commercial real estate sector, especially in the restaurant and hospitality areas. This reflects a trend in which restaurant owners/operators are increasingly allocating resources to upgrade the aesthetics of their facilities to match the level of service and culinary experience. For that reason, he expects to see more complex designs and build outs as new restaurants enter the market. SPACiO recently built out the Nobu restaurant in Miami Beach, which is a great example of this trend. Hotels are also recognizing the importance of investing in aesthetics to remain competitive and provide an ‘experiential’ atmosphere. This trend is fueling the renovation and repositioning of several Miami hotels, including SPACiO’s latest project: Marriott Stanton South Beach.

Alex concludes by highlighting the importance of restaurant and hotel owners/operators as well as developers hiring the proper architect, designer and general contractor to ensure that pre-construction work is handled by highly qualified professionals. If the selection process is executed poorly, the construction phase will probably create unplanned challenges to the final vision of the hotel and restaurant owners/operators.

To read more about Alex’s predictions for 2017, you can view the entire article here.

Behind The Scenes: Building Out A Condo At Oceana Bal Harbour

SPACiO Design Build’s crew is meticulously building out a condo at Oceana Bal Harbour, one of the most luxurious development projects in South Florida. SPACIO’s work in the decorator-ready unit consists of installing hardwood flooring in the interior and tile on the large balcony, dropping the ceiling for additional lighting, painting, installing pocket doors, audio visual and more.

Build-out velocity is a priority for our clients who plan to occupy or rent out the unit shortly after closing. For that reason, four weeks after securing the necessary permits, SPACiO delivers a finished unit to the new owner or renter eager to move in. In some instances, we are recruited by buyers to plan the build-out work ahead of the closing and, when the deal is closed, our crew immediately jumps right in.

Working at Oceana is an incredible experience. With floor-to-ceiling windows and extra-deep balconies, the unit has one of the most breathtaking views available in Miami. The luxury tower’s spacious homes and balconies were designed to offer views of the Atlantic ocean to the East, Biscayne Bay and the Bal Harbour marina to the West and Miami’s skyline to the South. Our experienced crew’s work is not distracted by the remarkable view of golden sun rays reflecting on the blue ocean but we agree that it is a challenge! Stay tuned for photos of the finished condo!

Helping Transform Little Haiti One Building At A Time

Increasingly rundown warehouses in Little Haiti – the next Wynwood – are getting a new lease on life. Drive along its streets and you will see a lot of construction going on, as old buildings are being repositioned into new uses, including art galleries, showrooms and more.

Our client, Innerspace Custom Closet Storage Solutions, is a perfect example of the quality of businesses that are choosing Little Haiti as their new home. Innerspace, which is relocating from Wynwood, is a premiere designer of organized closet systems in South Florida. We’re currently renovating for Innerspace a 24,000-square-foot warehouse and reinforcing the existing structure to withhold new loads for our client to move in next month. The build-out of the space includes a 5,200 square foot interior office and a unique showroom.

Our goal with this project is to make the building relevant to the emerging neighborhood, which is attracting new businesses to the area. We’re already starting to see an influx of new neighbors, including a French catering business across the street and a future art gallery next door.

It’s exciting to be a part of Little Haiti’s transformation, helping to turn visions into reality through quality craftsmanship. We’re looking forward to working more in the area as it begins to develop into one of Miami’s hottest neighborhoods.

Custom Home Miami Beach: A class of its own

This $10 million dollar residence is truly in a class of its own.  SPACiO meticulously crafted every gorgeous facet of this modern home. The contemporary design featured an open floor plan with white oak flooring, a professional chef’s kitchen, and a massive master suite with an adjoining office. And it features a rooftop deck for breathtaking views of downtown Miami.

This is the type of custom home project that the SPACiO team takes immense pride in bringing to life.

SPACiO makes the process of building a home simple and convenient to the homeowner. It all starts with a visit to SPACiO’s showroom, where we display samples of materials. Our entire team is also there to help the owner make decisions on the spot. We assign a team leader to communicate and coordinate with all the subcontractors’ schedules so the owner always knows where we are in the process. One thing we realized over the years is that one can never over report with a homeowner, who eagerly waits for the completion of his/her home. We provide our clients with a detailed timeline and weekly update including photos or videos as needed. Honoring the timeline is a key priority to us so our clients can arrange travel plans for milestone walk-through visits.

While SPACiO is committed to quality work, we are even more committed to helping owners have a positive experience when building their homes or building out their luxury condo units. We are always glad to get on a call to discuss how we can help you.

Q&A with Guest Contributor: Coral Gables Architect John Perez talks Innovation/ Experiential Architecture

Q&A with Guest Contributor: Coral Gables Architect John Perez talks Innovation/ Experiential Architecture

SPACIO sat down with talented Architect John Perez for a Q&A to hear about his experience remodeling, updating and building new hotels across the country and how the hospitality industry is rapidly embracing innovation and experiential architecture.

1 – When you work with hotel operators/owners to extensively remodel a hotel, what advice do you give your clients when they first reach out to you?  

One of the first things we discuss is the target market the client is aiming to reach. There is a wide range of guests, and this translates into styles, finishes, levels of service and facility requirements. Different sectors of the market have diverse needs and expectations from their guest experience. For example, a business traveler will require different amenities than a resort guest.

2 – What are some of the architectural trends in the hospitality industry that we will see in 2017?

Most new hotels these days are being designed with technology in mind. Travelers want to be connected, and need information to move as quickly as their devices do. Things such as checking into your hotel using your smartphone and using your phone as your room key will become more widespread. Features like setting your desired temperature when you arrive to your guestroom, setting the time the blinds are raised and lights turn on… all of this you will be able to control from your phone, just the way people control in their homes.

3 – What are some of your favorite projects and why?

The Grand Beach Hotel Surfside – West was a fun project. I am especially pleased with the four-story frameless glass atrium featuring a full height media wall. The small footprint of the lobby required a special identity, and I believe we were able to achieve a unique and eye catching check-in experience for the guest.