Porsche Design Tower, a 59-story luxury condominium development, recently rose from the ground on Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, near Miami. When completed, owners will drive into an introductory room where a mechanical shuttle will transfer their car into an elevator that will whisk them and their vehicle, as fast as 800 feet per minute, up to their floor. From there, the mechanical system will transfer the passenger and car into their suite in the sky. This combination of vehicle elevator and automated conveyance system is a first for the residential market.
Porsche Design Tower owners will display vintage and modern roadsters and ultra luxury vehicles behind a glass wall separating the garage area from the living room. Thus, the vehicle is displayed as a work of art—which is fitting, given the affiliation of the designers with the Porsche luxury sports car brand. Other amenities include a restaurant with full-height wine storage, a lounge with a bar (carved from a single tree from the Philippines) that has a glass-and-stone fireplace, a movie theater, billiards room, a spa and fitness center, a golf simulator, and a professional-grade auto racing simulator. These are helping to make the building a magnet for the ultra-wealthy from around the world.
The project is the latest creation from visionary developer Gil Dezer, who called upon the expertise of Andrew Richards, a construction management and all-around real estate development professional, to execute. The $560 million development required Richards to bring all his skills and abilities to the forefront. As vice president of development and construction, Richards is responsible for just about every aspect of the project.
Beginning when he was 16 years old, Richards’ career has been a series of logical steps that prepared him for the many tasks needed to realize such a formidable challenge. “I was fortunate to know what I wanted to do at a very young age,” he says. As far back as sixth grade, he had a strong interest in architecture and design, devouring design and construction magazines and drawing up his own plans for houses.
He started his career working part-time for an architecture firm. A couple of years later, he enrolled in the University of Maryland’s architecture program, where he subsequently switched to a land planning and real estate development track, followed by an MBA. After graduation, he began learning the real estate development business from the ground up—literally. His first duties as a professional included property site assessments, contamination assessments, remedial action plans, demolition, and rebuilds for the petroleum industry.
One high-end home development project, Ocean Harbour Estates, required blasting and digging out a basin in south Florida’s intracoastal zone to create a yacht basin for 15 exclusive residences in the premier Ocean Ridge communities. To realize this plan, Richards was involved in a complex permitting and approval process that included wetland creation and approvals by the Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Inland Navigational Trust, and multiple other entities. As most of his career has been focused on development on south Florida’s low-lying, limestone geology, this project yielded valuable geotechnical and environmental knowledge.
The Porsche Design Tower required a deep elevator pit, a four-foot thick concrete plug 25 feet below grade, sheet piling some 60 feet below grade, and a mat foundation that sits on 145 piles about 150 feet deep. Richards’ previous experience on below-ground engineering and construction was invaluable in shepherding this key stage of the development. When Richards stands on the ground and looks up to the top of the 641-foot tower, he can cite past projects that featured elements similar to those of the Porsche building—cylindrical shape, hurricane-resistant glass walls, and balcony railings to name a few. Among the notable projects he references are construction of Miami’s iconic Fountainebleu II, the exclusive Bath Club resort and historic renovation, and the 55-story Jade Ocean condominium tower design by world renowned architect Carlos Ott.
“On large real estate development projects, it’s all about steering consultants while having a comprehensive understanding of what it is you want. To lead effectively, you need to create clear and concise objectives to achieve your goals.”
Andrew Richards, VP, Development & Construction
Richards’s career choices have been guided by a strong desire for new challenges and the chance to continually bolster his skill set. “I’ve always thought it was a good idea to put as many tools in my toolbox as possible, understand all components of a project, and differentiate myself from my peers,” Richards says. On a project like the Porsche Design Tower, he doesn’t have to be an expert on all aspects, but he needs to know enough to ask the right questions and push the right buttons to ensure that the schedule stays on track and the quality remains top-notch.
“On large real estate development projects, it’s all about steering consultants while having a comprehensive understanding of what it is you want,” he says. “To lead effectively, you need to create clear and concise objectives to achieve your goals.”
On the Porsche Design Tower, for instance, Richards engaged Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to help obtain Accredited Elevator/Escalator Certification Organization (AECO) certification for the vehicle elevator, which deviates from code. “I worked hand-in-hand with numerous UL engineers for two years,” he says. Although elevators themselves are commonly used, combining it with the horizontal transfer device was a unique application, which is now patented as the “Dezervator.”
The complexity of a project like the Porsche Design Tower requires skillful orchestration and consistent scheduling vigilance, particularly in the early stages.
“On a project like this, you’re dealing with a vast cross-section of people and functions,” Richards says. “It’s critical to keep the early focus on devising the most concise, comprehensive construction documents that you can.”
Richards’s skills toolbox contains an MBA in finance—an unusual accreditation for someone of his background. It has helped make him a valuable contributor beyond the nuts and bolts of construction including the development of the Porsche Design Tower’s financial pro forma and budgets, while enabling him to work successfully with banks and investors.
Indeed, his imprint is everywhere on Miami’s latest architectural icon. Richards is always seeking new challenges to stretch his abilities, and that is just the way he wants it.