As over 100 of her students boarded a boat in Downtown Miami on a sunny day in mid- November, Suzanne Hollander, Florida International University (FIU) College of Business faculty member, prepared them for a different kind of learning experience.
“This tour is designed to get you out of the classroom, onto a boat and into real life,” said Hollander, an attorney and real estate broker who teaches at FIU’s Tibor and Sheila Hollo School of Real Estate. “Think of what we learn today as a framework for urban development around the world.”
Hollander has organized an annual boat tour of the Miami River for the past four years. To enhance the real life lesson, she brings key players in Miami’s government and real estate communities to offer insights into projects, talk about what they hope to build, and explain how deals play out (or don’t).
This year’s Miami River Boat Tour guests included Wayne Hollo, executive vice president at Florida East Coast Realty, and Austin Hollo, vice president of the company. Wayne’s parents, Tibor and Sheila Hollo, helped establish the Hollo School.
Other guests included Paulette Acevedo, assistant to Deputy Mayor Hudak; Horacio Aguirre, chair, Miami River Commission; Brett Bibeau, managing director, Miami River Commission; Alina Hudak, deputy mayor, Miami Dade County and interim public works and Waste Management Director; Marti Mang, senior vice president, Total Bank, and president-elect of Commercial Real Estate Women, Carol Ellis Cutler, senior vice president, Colliers; Spenser Crowley, partner, Akerman Senterfitt and Commissioner for Florida Inland Navigation District; developer Ari Pearl, and architect/designer Stephane Dupox.
“We want to get you thinking about how property gets used,” Hollander said. “We’re seeing the rejuvenation of Miami taking place along the river.”
Getting an up-close look at development helps students learn.
Throughout the course of the two hour boat tour, students got an up-close look at several projects in the works, including the 444 Brickell building, recently purchased for $104 million by the Related Group, and the Brickell City Center project. They asked questions and interacted with developers and lenders, as well as officials who create and administer the regulations governing development.
Students also got an insider’s glimpse into what’s going on in one of the nation’s most intriguing real estate markets. Once a symbol of the unseemly side of Miami depicted on Miami Vice, the Miami River is now on an upward trajectory, with new residential and commercial development. It’s also home to a smaller yet still vital marine community. With many cargo ships now sized for the wider Panama Canal, the Miami River is a critical hub for smaller Caribbean ports.
The ability to use Miami as a learning lab is one of the hallmarks of the Hollo School, where networking with real estate professionals, many of them FIU graduates, is a key part of the curriculum, noted school director William Hardin. And on a sunny Miami day, students and dignitaries alike appreciated the opportunity to catch up on what’s new on the river, and enjoy the weather that has always brought new development to South Florida.
“This tour combines four of my favorite things,” Hollander said, “sun, fun, education and real estate.”