Terra Group Reveals its Secret Sauce

June 22, 2015   |   GlobeSt

Terra Group does commercial real estate differently. The result: it has sold over $2 billion worth of high-end residential, commercial, land and mixed-use projects. The question is, how is Terra thinking?

Founded by father and son Pedro and David Martin in 2001, Terra has developed projects like 900 Biscayne Bay, Quantum on the Bay, and Nautica on the condo side but the company is also working on retail projects that are turning heads in Doral, like Doral Commons, a 150,000-square-foot development that’s under construction there.

GlobeSt.com caught up with David Martin, president of Terra, to get inside his head. He shares with us what sets his firm apart, the origin of his “less is more” philosophy, and more in part one of this exclusive interview. Be sure to come back to this afternoon’s Miami edition, where he will discuss how his firm picks the right sites.

GlobeSt.com: Terra calls itself a responsible developer. What does that mean and how does it set your firm apart?

Martin: It starts with the premise that real estate development is a privilege, not a right. That means creating environments that enhance people’s lives.

We begin by identifying places where we can have a positive impact when it comes to design, the local economy, the urban fabric and nature. Some developers build in a vacuum and impart their vision on a neighborhood that already exists.

But at Terra, we are always looking for opportunities to listen to our neighbors, collaborate with likeminded partners, and enhance the areas where we develop. We’ve taken this approach in communities across South Florida—from Coconut Grove and Miami Beach, to Doral and Weston—and we’re proving the model can work.

GlobeSt.com: What is the origin of your ‘less is more’ philosophy and what are some examples of your low-density development approach?

Martin: Many people assume that bigger developments are better when it comes to maximizing value, but we find that less is sometimes more in residential real estate. We can often create more value for residents and a surrounding community over the long-term by delivering a project in scale with an existing neighborhood, even if it means reducing density.

You can find examples of this across our portfolio. At Glass in Miami Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood, which will be the first new residential building to deliver in Miami Beach this cycle, we initially planned to 45 units but downscaled to 10 units. At Grove at Grand Bay in Coconut Grove, we’re building 98 units on a site zoned for up to 440 units.

GlobeSt.com: In your experience, what role can architecture play in creating value for a community and for residents of a development?

Martin: Sophisticated design and planning can transform entire neighborhoods, and we’re seeing this trend unfold in South Florida. Terra is working with some of the top architects from South Florida and around the world, and in every instance we are planning projects and creating designs that complement our surroundings.

For example, Renzo Piano is creating a master plan for our 8701 Collins project in North Beach which adds new public green space and expanded beach access for the neighborhood. Bjarke Ingels’ design for Grove at Grand Bay is inspired by the outdoors and the relationship between interior and exterior spaces. This approach applies to our suburban work as well. At Botaniko in Weston, local architects Chad Oppenheim and Roney Mateu have designed single-family homes within a low-density, master-planned format.