Most real estate developers have hit pause. Why Terra’s David Martin is forging ahead.

August 17, 2020   |   Miami Herald

By Rene Rodriguez

Most college students use coffee to power through all-night cram sessions. As a University of Florida undergrad, David Martin used coffee in a different way — to launch his business career.

Starbucks had started sprouting up around the country in 1995, but none had yet reached Gainesville. So Martin signed onto his AOL account and went online to find out why so many were buzzing about the company.

“I had always been very entrepreneurial as a kid, so I took out a $50,000 line of credit from SunTrust Bank and opened a coffee and bakery shop on campus called Java Lounge,” he said. “It was open from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. and it grew so fast I ended up with 25 employees. I learned a lot about operating a business and having a responsibility to your customers. It also taught me how to deal with city government and getting permits.”

Two years before he graduated in 2001, Martin sold the coffee shop for $450,000 to Einstein’s Notes, a local Gainesville business. 

“That coffee shop is a good example of what makes David a successful developer,” said Keith Kurland, Senior Managing Director & Co-Head of New York Capital Markets for the financial firm Walker Dunlop. “He saw a need for a coffee shop and he filled it. That’s akin to what he does as a developer — understanding what his end users want and need, from office to retail to residential.” 

In the ensuing 19 years, Martin, 43, has become one of the most prolific and respected developers in Miami’s real estate market. His firm Terra, co-founded in 2001 with his father Pedro Martin, a former partner at the Greenberg Traurig law firm, has completed or is currently developing 8.6 million square feet of residential, commercial and retail spaces throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties, valued at a total of $7.24 billion.

“Under David’s leadership over the past 10 years, Terra has grown into an internationally respected development firm that is reshaping the face of South Florida’s communities and the broader real estate landscape,” said Pedro Martin, who remains active with the company. “I am incredibly proud that David has stayed true to our founding principles even as the company has grown. He understands that the work we do at Terra can be a part of the solution for the many challenges our city faces, and I know he will be making an impact in this community for decades to come.”

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