MIAMI—In today's competitive real estate market, having aseasoned team of professionals on board is a key for long-termsuccess in investing and developing trophy assets. Miami-based 13thFloor Investments understands that principle and has attracted someof the country's most experienced professionals to help grow thefirm.

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Rey Melendi, a former executive ofRialto Capital Management and president ofLennar's southeast Florida land division, oversees13th Floor's development, construction and operational assetmanagement of the sponsor's investments. GlobeSt.com caught up withMelendi to get his views on strategies, market conditions andchallenges ahead in part one of this exclusive two-partinterview.

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GlobeSt.com: How many projects does 13th FloorInvestments have under construction at this time?

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Melendi: We have three assets underconstruction. In Sunny Isles Beach, we have 400 Sunny Isles, whichconsists of two 20-story towers with 230 luxury condos that arecompletely sold out. Central Parc consists of 427 single-familyhomes in Tamarac. Sierra Grande is a 273-unit garden style luxuryapartment community in Naples.

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There's much more on the way, across several asset classes. Forexample, 1010 Brickell is a sold-out 50-story luxury condo tower onMiami's Brickell Avenue. We plan to break ground in the next twomonths. We'll also begin work on two retail showrooms at 3650Design Plaza and 51 Northwest 36 Design Plaza in Miami's DesignDistrict. Another project we plan to start soon is Sereno, a40-unit boutique condominium on Bay Harbor Island.

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GlobeSt.com: How did four years as director ofRialto Capital Management and 13 years as president of Lennar'ssoutheast Florida land division prepare you for this new economyand your role at 13th Floor?

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Melendi: During my tenure at Lennar, I played amajor role in both the firm's acquisitions and developments. In2001, I launched the company's high-rise division, which preparedme for my role here at 13th Floor. Currently, I am overseeing thedevelopment of our firm's residential and commercial assets acrossFlorida.

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While at Rialto, I gained experience in the acquisition andmanagement of all asset classes, specifically related to commercialassets. One of the things that 13th Floor does really well is finduncovered value in assets and specific deal opportunities. Mybackground in development and asset management is helpful inidentifying hidden value in all asset classes.

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GlobeSt.com: You lived through several real estatecycles over your professional career, what is unique about thiscycle when it comes to 13th Floor's approach to getting deals doneand construction off the ground?

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Melendi: The real estate market has become verycompetitive as domestic and foreign investors see Miami as a safeplace to invest. For that reason, we had to develop a veryspecialized approach to getting involved in deals.

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We're very selective when it comes to investing, choosingpartners, and developing. We focus on class A and B locationsacross Florida, so there are many opportunities out there. Gettinga deal done in today's complex market means staying creative,mitigating risk, and identifying opportunities that offer optionsbased on current market conditions.

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We especially focus on income deals with developmentoptionality. For example, we recently partnered with Mast Capitalto purchase a fully-occupied office building in Coconut Grove. Thebuilding sits on a prime redevelopment site, but we haveflexibility because the asset is generating strong income for thetime being. We call this optionality.

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Be sure to come back this afternoon for part two of thisexclusive interview.

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