The Closing: Daniel Kodsi
Developer Daniel Kodsi is on the cusp of completing the largest project of his career: Paramount Miami Worldcenter, a 60-story, 530-unit tower developed in partnership with Art Falcone and Nitin Motwani. Now rising past the 41st floor, the tower — which is part of a huge $2 billion mixed-use development downtown — is scheduled for completion by mid-2019. Kodsi’s first job in the business was decidedly less glamorous: sweeping out condos at age 10 at his father’s project on the Space Coast. But by his mid-20s, he had launched his own firm, Royal Palm Companies. Kodsi has since built $2 billion worth of single-family homes, apartment buildings and condominium projects, including Esplanade Grande in West Palm Beach, Paramount Bay in Miami’s Edgewater neighborhood and Paramount Fort Lauderdale Beach. Although he took financial hits during the recession, he has come back this cycle. “You don’t have a career as long as I have and not have bad falls,” he said. TRD sat with Kodsi in Paramount’s sales gallery. This interview was edited and condensed for space.
DOB: December 16, 1968
Lives in: Hibiscus Island, Miami Beach
Family: Wife Bru; three daughters (aged 12 and twins aged 10)
What was your childhood like? Until the age of nine and a half, I was in Montreal, and then we moved to Central Florida on the Space Coast in Cocoa Beach. It was the late ‘70s recession. My father was a businessman in Montreal, doing a combination of the textile business and building homes. There was a distressed condo development opportunity in Cape Canaveral, and he and some partners got involved in it as their first project. It was the beginning of his development career in Florida. By the age of 10, I was sweeping out condos, making two bucks an hour, which was good money when all you needed to buy was gum and candy.
Every summer after that I worked in construction. By the age of 16, I was an assistant project superintendent. I started literally from the bottom, understanding everything, from hanging drywall, being a plumber’s assistant, pouring concrete. I did a lot of that labor, and right after college, I got my general contractor’s license.
What was your first real estate project? Out of college, I worked on one or two projects with my father and my uncle, so I kind of sunk my teeth into a couple of developments. By the time I was in my mid-20s, I was already putting projects together and starting to build a company. I was up to about 80 employees by 2008 and downsized significantly after 2008 and kind of brought it back in this past cycle.
I know you had some setbacks, some foreclosures. How did you handle that? In comparison with what other people went through, I fared very well. They were all friendly foreclosures. My bankers were friends, people I did business with for years. During the recession, I helped my banks reposition properties, sell properties. If there was a necessity for a foreclosure, we did it in conjunction with the lender to clear title so it would be easier for them to sell the land. But I never opposed a foreclosure. I settled all the guarantees and everything I had because I was a good borrower and a good partner to have. I knew getting out of the recession I was going to start over again, and people were going to judge you on how you acted through the recession, and that was why I was able to come back and do what I did.
How did you reinvent yourself? I don’t think I needed to reinvent myself. Coming out of the recession, I did what everyone else did — all the big companies, whether it was Related or Fortune — they all kind of got together and said we are better together than apart. A lot of people did joint ventures.
I knew Art Falcone. We literally shared offices in the mid-’90s. We used to build single-family homes across the street from each other. We said, “Look, everyone is joining forces, let’s join forces.” We decided to do a couple of projects and have had great success working together.
It was first [Paramount] Fort Lauderdale that we teamed up, and then this project [Paramount Miami Worldcenter]. I used to own about 25 percent of the land that is Miami Worldcenter, and I sold it to Art. I was buying the parcels and trying to put blocks together and so was Art, and it got to a point where it didn’t make sense for both of us to do it. I typically wasn’t a land guy. When I buy land, I want to buy it and develop it. I’m not someone to sit on land. So I sold off my parcels to Art so he could put blocks together… After the recession, we teamed up on Fort Lauderdale and always said we know this area, let’s do it together.
Is Paramount Miami Worldcenter your biggest project to date? Yes it is. It’s a huge project. I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be anyone’s biggest project in their career. There are days when I am like, “That’s it, end on a high note.” But you can’t throw away an almost 30-year track record. So I am continuing on.
You must need breaks sometimes. Where do you like to go on vacation? I like vacations where you can explore. My wife and I, we feel like there are so many places in the world to see that when we finally get a chance to go on vacation, it’s a chance to learn something new.
How long have you been married? Sixteen years.
What is your secret to a happy marriage? Friendship. Everything else is B.S. It comes down to being good friends with your spouse, and if you are friends, I think everything can be worked out.
How much cash do you have in your pocket right now? I carry over $1,000 at any time, just in case. I don’t know if a guy with a gun shows up, maybe $1,000 makes him go away, even though I am trained to take the gun out of his hand, too. I am military-trained.
What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you? The best statement I heard was expectations lead to disappointment. I live by that one. I pretty much [go into] anything in my life with no expectations. Of course, you need to have a business plan, pro forma expectation on a project. I put in my best effort, and the rest I am going to leave up to faith, I guess, because a lot of times you see people suffering because they had certain expectations that weren’t met. I tell people constantly, “Don’t have expectations and then everything will be fine, because it will work out the way it is supposed to, not the way you wanted it to be.”