New construction, with its fancy amenities and luxury finishes, can bring down the value of older condos and lure away potential buyers. Towers that were built even 10 or 12 years ago are looking to renovate and upgrade their common spaces and amenities.
That’s created an opportunity for local contractors like Amicon. In 2005, during South Florida’s last real estate boom, the Miami-based company opened its own construction management firm.
Amicon Construction Management acts as a consultant and project manager for construction jobs. That means hiring a general contractor, overseeing work on the building site, making sure budgets don’t run over and schedules stay on track, and communicating the ins-and-outs of complex building jobs to clients.
It employs 12 people out of the company’s total workforce of 45. (The rest of Amicon is devoted to general contracting services.)
“We definitely identified a niche here,” said Amicon chief executive Adam Mopsick, who runs the construction management division and helped found the company in 1996. The division also manages high-end single-family home construction and does work for hospitality and restaurant groups.
Mopsick said the business will earn revenue of $2 million for 2015, double what it produced last year. He expects it to double again next year.
National companies like CBRE, JLL and Suffolk provide large-scale construction management services. Smaller local shops also offer consulting services for building projects. But Mopsick said his company, which he describes as a “boutique operation,” has few rivals in the middle of the market and is exploiting an under-served space.
“Our clients are generally expanding their business in a big way but don’t have the in-house capabilities to manage a major construction project,” Mopsick said.
Condo associations, for example, usually can’t handle running a construction project full time.
“The people who are on these committees are volunteers,” he said. “They don’t have the time or the skill set to manage this type of work. That’s where we come in.”
Rolling back the years
At Williams Island, an exclusive 84-acre private island in Aventura with a dozen condo towers, Amicon recently completed a $5.1 million renovation of the community’s spa and fitness center.
The 27,000-square-foot complex, built more than 20 years ago, was showing its wear and tear, said Jon Fels, a Williams Island resident who chairs the construction committee for the island’s property owners association board.
Fels knows construction in-and-out. He was the president of Avatar Properties, a home builder and subsidiary of publicly traded Avatar Holdings, for 13 years. But he’s retired and couldn’t envision himself running the renovations. And nearly 1,600 people live on the island part or full time and would want some say in the process.
“We needed another layer of professional oversight,” Fels said. “Amicon is serving as an adviser and a consultant. . . . When you come into communities as large as this and with as much politics as this, it helps if you have someone that is unbiased and professional to guide the project.”
Condo renovations need approval by association members because unit owners have to pay assessments to cover the costs. Boards send out glossy mailers to residents in English and Spanish urging them to vote yes on the projects. The packets detail the proposed improvements with renderings and blueprints.
“It’s different from working for a regular developer or homeowner,” Mopsick said. “Trying to gain consensus is probably the hardest part, and bringing all the residents on board is something we work very hard at.”
Amicon works on capital projects, meaning it focuses on common spaces such as lobbies, fitness centers, cafes, card rooms and other shared areas. Unit owners are responsible for improving individual apartments, if they so wish.
There’s no time to waste. New construction projects on Miami Beach and in Sunny Isles Beach are providing stiff competition for older buildings.
In Miami-Dade County, existing condo sales fell more than 8 percent in September compared to the previous year. A glut of new inventory is set to hit the market next year — 4,000 units in downtown Miami alone — and many of them are equipped with outlandish amenities, including car elevators, museum-quality artwork and 24/7 concierge service.
“The newer condos with more amenities, they do attract more buyers,” said Fabiana Pimenta, a broker with Fortune International Realty. “Everyone is looking for something new. They want a fresh home to live in.”
Jack McCabe, a housing market analyst based in Deerfield Beach, agreed that renovations make sense for older buildings. “If you can fix up these older buildings and add value, then you can bring them onto the market for less than what new construction would cost,” McCabe said.
The common areas are especially important for new buyers, Mopsick said. “These are the first places brokers take them when they’re trying to sell units,” he said.
Now that the spa is complete, the Williams Island board selected Amicon to manage a one-year, $5.5 million renovation of the island’s cafe.
“It’s going to be a complete gut and modernization,” Mopsick said. “New open kitchen, new bar, expanded deck, more indoor-outdoor space, higher ceilings.”
Construction started last week.
The company is also managing renovations at the Portofino Tower, a South Beach condo that opened in 1997; South Point Towers, another South Beach project that opened in 1987; and Atlantic One, an Aventura tower built in 2004.
Growing the business
Amicon works on more than just condo renovation projects.
During the recession, when the condo market was dead, it focused especially on high-end single-family homes, working with owners to maintain a high level of construction quality while keeping costs in line. Those homes generally start at a minimum of $15 million when they hit the market, Mopsick said.
A spec home Amicon worked on in Miami Beach has been listed for $35.9 million. The seven-bedroom, modernist mansion has a rooftop swimming pool 35 feet in the air.
The other line of business the company focuses on is hospitality and restaurant clients. Amicon is supervising the renovation of the boutique Lord Balfour Hotel in South Beach. For the past six months, it has also been managing the expansion of Miami-based restaurant company 50 Eggs, which owns brands such as Yardbird, Swine and its newest offering, Spring Chicken.
50 Eggs CEO John Kunkel is building three Spring Chicken locations in South Miami, South Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Kunkel said he’s more comfortable with a spatula than a hammer.
“To carry such large overhead for having our own in-house construction department, it really doesn’t make a ton of sense as an entrepreneur,” Kunkel said. “We’re leaning on Amicon instead of having an internal construction division.”
He traveled to Chicago last week with Amicon executives to scout out possible locations for a restaurant in the Windy City too.
“I hate to say this but Miami can be a sketchy place to do business,” Kunkel said. “Someone with Adam’s integrity is a rare bird. You can do a deal on a handshake.”
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