How I Started Building Smart Condos w/Real Estate Developer Santiago Vanegas

Santiago Vanegas is theFounder, CEO and President of Habitat Development, a leading Miami-based real estate asset management firm. With over 18 years of real estate experience, he is the Developer for Smart Brickell, where he oversees the vision, direction, development and overall marketing for the project.

How did you get started?

I arrived to Miami in 2000,beginning my career in the real estate industry as Financial Manager forFortune International Group. I founded Habitat Development in 2005, eventuallyexpanding the firm’s portfolio to include four branches offering specializedservices, including: Habitat Development, an expert in the construction andremodeling of properties; Habitat Realty, which focuses on analyzing the realestate market in search of the best properties and investment opportunities;Habitat Management, which focuses on the management of company assets; andHabitat Hotel, which is owned and operated by Habitat Group.

What about your current project are you most excited about?

I am excited to give people theopportunity to experience Smart Living. This project is going to focus on SmartUse, Smart Design and Smart Tech. Smart Brickell will offer a seamless livingsolution to buyers and guests. This project has a goal of creating efficientsolutions to everyday problems which will make life easier in the long run.Everything you need to live, work and play will all be within reach.

How do you feel sustainability and innovation can be appliedto new construction?

Sustainability is a big factorin not only our development process, but the design of the project itself. Weare choosing to deconstruct the current structure that is at the site of SmartBrickell, rather than demolish it. We will make sure the materials are reusedappropriately. Also, Smart Brickell is a LEED certified building and willadhere to the silver level certification.

What has been the most challenging moment in your career?

The most challenging moment inmy career was during the real estate crisis where I was currently developing abuilding. I quickly took the decision to change the concept of my developmentand turned the project into a condo hotel, which today is Habitat Residence, avery successful hotel in Brickell.

What was the most braggable moment?

Being able to develop foursuccessful boutique hotels in a row: Habitat Residence 1, Habitat Residence 2,the Miami River Hotel, and the Jefferson Hotel. Soon we will hopefully behaving our fifth successful hotel, the Smart Brickell Hotel.

What would you say is your biggest weakness?

I would have to say that mybiggest weakness is that I am so passionate about my work that it is often hardfor me to find time in my busy agenda for myself to find hobbies that I like orspend more time with family and friends.

And your greatest strength?

I find that my strength isbeing a specialist in the West Brickell and Little Havana area. I have focusedmany years of my expertise in these areas and I know the property values, theareas needs and its limitations. By not analyzing other areas and fullyfocusing myself on this area, this has helped me to become the specialist thatI am today.

What was the greatest lesson you’ve learned from a mistake?

I have learned to solve all ofthe minor details of a project at the beginning stages of the project toprevent having any mistakes in the final product. Although this is verytedious, I prefer spending more of my time on minor details having to do withspace and design today and not leave anything for the future. I don’t want toever feel regret that something in my project could have been done better if Iwould have paid more attention in the initial stages.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love being able to create asolution to a problem. I am successful when I am able to help people and maketheir lives easier. The ultimate goal is to give people more time. If everyonewho experiences Smart Brickell finds one more hour in their day because of theSmart Living initiatives we have put in place, then I will have done my job.  

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I once asked a very successfulman that I knew, “How are you so successful?” He answered, “throughout yourpath, always continue to follow the light.” The phrase is a metaphor where thelight is my goal and how I want to see myself in the future. The path can takemany turns but if you continue to keep your focus on the light, then you willreach your goals.

How do you define happiness?

Happiness is being able to havethe time to do what I want to do in life. For me, that’s spending time with myfamily and the people I love. My goal is to live smart and simplify life sothat I can focus my energy on my relationships and making the most of life.

What book are you currently reading?

I am currently reading “EvolvoSkyscrapers, part 2” since I already finished the first. I love this bookbecause it shows me ideas that architectures are visualizing for the futurewhich helps me visualize what will happen with architecture and urbanism. Thisbook has helped me with many of the concepts for my project, Smart Brickell. Iam also reading “2 Billion Under 20” a book about millennials. This book hasgiven me a lot of insight about how millennials are envisioning their futuresand working towards their goals.

What’s a personal habit that you believe contributes to yoursuccess?

Every morning, I walk,meditate, and practice Tai-Chi. Doing this helps me focus and prioritize whatis most important for me to accomplish in my day and it helps me to assigngoals and tasks to my team.

Have you collaborated with artist in the past?

I am currently in collaborationwith an artist for my development project in Colombia called Le Parc. I adopteda park from the city and I am developing a residential and commercial areaaround this park. This artist is helping me create art around the complex and Iwould like to find a similar collaboration for Smart Brickell. I am currentlylooking for a wood artist for the interiors of the building such as the lobbyand a modern contemporary artist for the wall facing the private park we haveat Smart Brickell.