The Real Deal Miami

Day in the life of: Tony Cho

The Metro 1 founder on the latest with Magic City, his daily meditation practice and his iguana problem
By Dennis Lynch | September 20, 2018 11:00AM

Tony Cho (Photo by Sonya Revell)

While the top real estate players in Miami hail from all over the globe, the origin story of Tony Cho, homegrown president and CEO of commercial brokerage Metro 1, may be the most unique. The 40-year-old was born in Central Florida at the Kashi Ashram, an interfaith commune founded by his grandmother Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, who counted Julia Roberts and Arlo Guthrie among her devotees. Bhagavati adopted Cho at birth and raised him in the community, where he learned the meditation techniques he still practices today. Heading up the firm he founded in 2005, which focuses on real estate in Wynwood, Little Haiti and other urban core neighborhoods, Cho recently hired Edwards Realty Services president Richard Edwards to lead an expansion in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Cho stepped into the development business in 2006 when he began assembling Little Haiti properties, which would become part of the $1 billion Magic City Innovation District. Metro 1 recently wrapped up the first of about a dozen renovations in the 17-acre project, which aims to create spaces for tenants in the tech and sustainability sector, as well as offering restaurants and bars to attract people to the neighborhood. Cho lives in Miami Beach with his wife, Ximena, who runs Metro 1’s social outreach and community service initiatives as director of M1 Community. Fresh off a jaunt to Burning Man in Black Rock City, Nevada, Cho discussed his typical day with TRD. 

7:00 a.m. I wake up, and the first thing my wife, Ximena, and I do is meditation. We try to do at least 20 minutes. I try to incorporate pranayama, which is breathing techniques, so just regulating your breathing and getting focused for the day. Because I grew up doing meditation most of my life, I kind of combine different methodologies together and have my own practice.

7:30 a.m. Ximena and I have been on a health kick. We’ve been doing intermittent fasting. I usually start out with warm water and apple cider vinegar to alkalinize the body. Then I have probiotics to get your stomach in the right place. Oftentimes, I’ll skip breakfast entirely until lunch. If I don’t, I have a coffee with almond milk. Then I’ll end up chasing off the iguanas from the back porch because they poop all over. We’re dealing with an infestation of iguanas.

8:30 a.m. I’m on my way to the office for meetings. On Mondays, we have a company-wide sales meeting at 9 a.m., then we do individual teams. Sometimes I’m leading, other times, I’m there just monitoring. Then we get into specific projects. These usually take two and a half hours.

11:00 a.m. I’ll meet with my executive assistant to see how many messages I’ve missed; usually my phone’s been blowing up the whole time. I very rarely look at my phone when I’m in a meeting. It’s not easy, but I really strive to be present when I’m with my team.

12:00 p.m. Two months ago, we implemented lunches for the whole staff every Monday, so we all eat together as a community. Otherwise, I order in from some healthy places near us, like Carrot Express. It’s never a consistent time, it’s whenever I have time in between meetings, sometimes as late as 4 p.m. The rest of the day is divided between phone calls and meetings.

2:00 p.m. I’ll go out to Magic City to meet with potential new tenants. My role is primarily to curate those tenants and generate new business. The process involves a lot of touring and showing people the vision of what’s happening — illustrating the vision so people get confidence in coming to a new neighborhood that they’ve been unaware of. Magic City is still under construction, and so tours will often focus on the neighborhood’s existing businesses, as well as several of our recently renovated commercial spaces and Magic City Studios, which is where we host events during Miami Art Week and year-round.

3:30 p.m. I’ll often have ad hoc meetings with partners from any of my active projects. Today I got a surprise call from The Related Group’s Carlos Rosso to discuss our upcoming Wynwood 29 project. Sometimes the calls are about amenities, others, they’re about our price point, but they happen pretty often since the concept is still being finalized.

4:00 p.m. The afternoon is focused on returning calls from people who have been trying to reach me all morning. Then I’m setting up meetings and other things for the coming days.

6:00 p.m. I’ll do a quick meeting with my vice president of commercial leasing, Andres Nava. He’s currently heading up leasing for Magic City and MiamiCentral Station, the Brightline’s station in downtown Miami, and so the conversations will often cover both projects. This particular meeting focused on finalizing a deal with a culinary concept interested in the Central Fare food hall and then drifted into ways we can integrate local culinary talent at Magic City.

6:45 p.m. A quick sunset paddleboard session in Biscayne Bay.

8:00 p.m. Ximena usually calls and says it’s time to come home for dinner. On the way home, sometimes I will call and check in with friends or family. The best way in my opinion to balance your life is to remove yourself from the equation and check in with others. I want to do that more.

8:30 p.m. It’s not good to eat later — again, I’m working on intermittent fasting — so I’m trying to get home earlier and eat earlier. I’m a flexitarian with a healthy focus. I’m predominately pescatarian, and I eat Mediterranean food a lot [and] things like baked sweet potato, healthy garden salads. Two to three days a week, we’ll have vegetable stir-fry with some protein like wild cod or organic salmon.

9:00 p.m. Sometimes Ximena and I will take a walk around our neighborhood. I live on Miami Beach and so it’s easy to get to either the beach or the bay. Either way, walking near the water helps us decompress, reflect on the day and prepare for the following day.

9:30 p.m. We don’t watch television and rarely watch movies. We both usually settle down, and I’ll start reading. I go from motivational business strategy and entrepreneurship-type books to spiritual books. I try to balance my spiritual understanding and my work pursuits. The last book I read cover to cover, which I rarely do, was “Principles: Life and Work” by Ray Dalio.

10:30 p.m. I meditate and do a gratitude practice. I give thanks for everything I’m grateful for, which is a lot — my family, my wife, my community, my coworkers. By 11 p.m. I’m in bed.