The Real Deal Miami

Rising star: Nitin Motwani on his evolution from Lauderdale kid to real estate titan

Worldcenter principal discusses decade-long project saga, growing up in Lauderdale Beach
Nitin Motwani

Nitin Motwani

After a decade spent assembling land north of downtown Miami and waiting out the economic downturn, Nitin Motwani and his partners are finally moving forward with the massive Miami Worldcenter mixed-use project.

Motwani, 35, is managing principal of Miami Worldcenter Group and managing director of Encore Housing Opportunity Fund, which is developing the Paramount Fort Lauderdale Beach condo tower. He is one of 10 South Florida real estate leaders in the 35-and-under crowd featured in The Real Deal’s latest South Florida Market Report.

TRD recently spoke to Motwani about his family’s role in the transformation of Fort Lauderdale Beach’s hospitality market and the challenges of serving as the point person for the long-delayed Worldcenter.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Your family developed and operated numerous hotels in Fort Lauderdale Beach during your childhood. How did the area evolve throughout that time?

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the area transformed from a spring break destination to a resort and family-friendly destination. A lot of other motels in the area shut down and a lot of investors decided to put their money elsewhere. My family, and a few other families, worked with the city and asked what the vision would be. They went around the world promoting Fort Lauderdale.

My father passed away in 1994 at 47. My mom persevered, and we continued to live and work in those hotels. The transformation was a 15-year process, so it took a long time. Experiencing that and seeing the challenges my family went through, financially and personally with the loss of our father, we didn’t quite appreciate what was going on at such a young age. As Lauderdale evolved, I saw a lot of the enthusiasm and pride my mom had about [her role in the transformation]. For my brother [Dev] and I, it became about having a career in something we could be so passionate about.

Now through Encore, we are developing the first luxury condo project in Lauderdale Beach in the last decade. It’s under 100 units and is a unique high-end boutique building. I used to go to that HoJo’s as a kid. It was a spring break mecca. We tore it down and are now building something to attract buyers from all over the world.

Why was it important for you both to leave South Florida after high school?

At the time, my brother and I felt we wanted to live and work elsewhere. I was the kind of person who wanted to try different things. We both went to Duke and got our Masters at Columbia. In between undergraduate and graduate school, I went to work at Goldman Sachs, where I met my wife, Anshu. I owe Goldman a great debt of gratitude for that. I also made great friends and worked for great people there. But it still wasn’t the right long-term thing for me to do. I had to get myself back into what I was passionate about. South Florida is in our blood.

I came back down in 2004 and was doing my own real estate stuff when I met Art Falcone. We started discussing various ways to do stuff together, exploring opportunities in India, Dubai. We ended up talking about Miami Worldcenter, which was just land in Park West. I started working for him in 2006. We certainly could not have predicted the global recession and its impact here.

How has working with Art shaped your approach to real estate and prepared you to serve as the public face of Miami Worldcenter?

I would describe Art in three ways: mentor, partner and close friend. He made the decision early on that I was going to be his partner, not his employee. Art and I joke that from 2006 to 2008 people said we were crazy, from 2008 to 2011 people said we were stupid and ever since the market turned, people said we were lucky. Art sold his homebuilding business in 2005. In 2009, we launched Encore with our first fund and again people thought we were crazy and stupid to do that. We targeted Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. Art reminded me to have conviction in what you are doing and persistence and belief in yourself when others don’t. Because of that, we’re sitting here today as the largest property owners in downtown Miami and also with a private equity fund with over $1 billion in assets under management.

With Worldcenter, I joke that it’s almost like my child at this point. We have a great group around me. Being the front man, it was really tough for a few years. Some of the politicians used to call me Kevlar because I was constantly taking bullets. We always believe Miami was a young city destined for great things, and Worldcenter can help Miami evolve into a global city. Believing in what we were doing didn’t make it easier to take some of the negatives. We avoided opportunities to sell off a bunch of parcels to condo guys and move on. We just feel it’s a great opportunity and privilege to do something like this.

  • jake

    TITAN????? What the hell are you talking about. A TITAN consist of people knowing who you are in other states and countries. No one even knows who this person is.

  • sean

    TITAN’s do not need partners.

  • real

    The real deal has to be on payroll for some of these real estate guys, their is no way you can call him a titan. How about you do a spread on someone who started frm the bottom and made it under 35. Not guys that come from money or have family connections that boosted their career. You can not call this man a titan when he has not made a dent yet in South Florida, why dont you let projects be complete first and let final number come in before you glorify real estate developers. Any jo shmo can say i paln on building 300 units in here and in there.

    • jake

      EXACTLY!!! Explain that to TIMO below.

    • al czverik

      Real, the more educated you become, the more you will understand the process.
      The development process is arduous for a SINGLE building. What Nitin (et al) has done over many years is raised capital, assembled land, re-envisioned the street grid, and paved the way for extraordinary development, and that is nothing short of spectacular.

      Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners.

      • real

        Its called working its not called a titan thats my point. What he is doing is not anything that is different from the others, raising capital come on any one in south florida can raise capital and coming from his background he had it easy. assembled land really? is the name titan worthy of what he has done. Fact is all of these news blogs and reporters need to do some research and realize that 30 under 35 or what ever they title these guys who don’t stick out but tend to know the right people to be published as a titan, it needs to stop. miami is a town full of egos and half the time the people they choose come from money which in my opinion does not count

        • jake

          Real, Don’t listen to Mr. AL. He is just upset because someone in Miami is speaking the truth. I know people in their early 20’s that have assembled land. Yes, It might be small residential, but still they are 23,25,26 and they would never want to be called a TITAN. I mean come on if NITIN is a TITAN then so is every other person that calls themselves a Developer. No one said what Nitin was doing isnt great or spectacular all we are saying is he is not a TITAN. The only person in SOFLO that lives here that deserves that title in my opinion is Related or Crescent Heights. But if you look from a U.S. perspective these guys here in SOFLO are not even at 1% compared to Donald Bren from California. If you take the networth of every developer in South Florida it still doesn’t add up to Donald Bren. Now if you want to argue on developments and not Net Worth.. fine add all that up and it still doesn’t come close. Point is Nitin is a tadpole in the ocean.

  • timo

    Comments below reek of jealousy…good luck with your endeavors

    • jake

      Jealousy? An industry Titan in real estate development would be Donald Bren who has done more for the city of Irvine than any developer has ever done for Florida. His net worth is more than all developers in NY COMBINED. He is a person to look up to. Nitin is a great person by NO MEANS a TITAN. So get out of here with your irrational comments.

    • real

      What jealous there is a difference from what the facts of his accomplishments are and the fact that they are praising him for things he has not done. First he comes from money obviously stated so that discredits him from doing it on his own, he is not a titan he is a man who took his dads connections and money, he did not start from the bottom and build an empire. He has not done anything sorry to break it to you. i can count hundreds believe it or not of south florida young real estate guys that have done more and still are not even known or claim a name such as titan. these are rich kids such as oren alexander and all the other young guys that come from money, their dads know xx amount of rich people and they get a boost of a life time that an average person will never get, than they pay their publishers to contact newspapers etc and do a spread on them Come on, real estate articles are like Hollywood now nothing is real, everything that developers, star realtors say is all smoke but no fire.

  • Bugatti

    Typical minor league dade county promoter. Next job is at liv or selling bugattis in Monaco. The Titan has never started a real estate project.

    • al czverik

      The irony of this comment coupled with your clever handle “Bugatti” is adorable. Let me guess, “Bugatti” is a family name. …

  • Miami

    You forgot to ask the Titan to discuss his projects under construction. The answer is ZERO. Great guy but no relevance in south fl real estate. Titans build things.

  • 1 like shawty

    A global city? If you ruin Miami’s culture and history. You ruin its appeal, no one will be drawn to live or visit here. It will be a bunch of rich people in condos and then they won’t even get why they’re here when its a ghost town. Jesus Christ you think you have a clue on a bigger picture but you money lust actually seems to be hindering you. Leave overtown alone!!!!