The Estate Cos. has emerged as one of the region’s largest multifamily developers, but success was hardly an overnight sensation for Managing Principal Robert Suris.
The company completed its first Soleste-branded apartment complex in West Miami in 2012, and has now finished eight of them, with three more South Florida projects under construction and a rapidly growing deal pipeline.
The South Miami-based developer, which employs 73, has been quick to sell most of its projects, having unloaded four Soleste buildings in 2021 to Dallas-based Westdale Real Estate Investment & Management for a combined $332 million.
That’s a hard-hitting impact for Suris, a former free safety on Belen Jesuit Preparatory School’s football team. Leading the Estate Cos. is the culmination of his family-owned business, now with son-in-law Jeffrey Ardizon on board as a principal.
Roots in Cuba
Suris was born in Cuba, where his family owned a women’s fashion magazine before the government seized it. He moved to the U.S. with his family at age 5, in 1967.
Suris attended the University of Miami, hoping to join the football team, but never played because of injury. He graduated from Florida International University.
“Football, for me, was a great lesson in life,” Suris said. “It’s almost like a war. You rely on your teammates and they rely on you to protect them.”
His father became a general contractor and started a concrete shell construction company. Suris joined the business, which built many churches and Catholic schools around Miami-Dade County. That company transitioned into a full-service developer.
During the Great Recession, Suris teamed with Arnaud Karsenti to start 13th Floor Investments, buying distressed assets from lenders. Eventually, the partners went their separate ways in what Suris called a friendly split. While Karsenti grew 13th Floor, Suris established the Estate Cos. in 2012, naming it after a Miami-Dade County housing community he bought out of foreclosure. However, the company ultimately focused on apartments.
Ardizon married Suris’ daughter in 2011, but didn’t think of joining the company at the time. A CPA, he led the real estate tax division for Kaufman Rossin, and The Estate Cos. was one of his clients. He left the firm to lead a family investment office for a wealthy individual and direct investments in real estate.
“I realized I wanted to be on the other side of the table, on the developer side,” Ardizon said. “That’s where my passion was.”
In 2018, Ardizon joined The Estate Cos. as a partner, helping the company ramp up development.
Suris focused on the construction side, as the company still serves as a general contractor and does the shell work. Ardizon focuses on deals and finding new development. One of his more creative deals was the acquisition of a former hotel in Hialeah, which The Estate Cos. is converting into apartments under its new Alture brand.
“He’s younger and he knows what the younger generation is looking for [in an apartment],” Suris said of his son-in-law.
The company started building under the Soleste brand after Suris decided to shift from small apartment complexes to large, institutional-quality buildings. One of his key strategies was building smaller units, which kept the monthly rent down. He also added high-end amenities and interior finishes found in more expensive apartments. Instead of building in prime areas such as downtown Miami and Coral Gables, the company built in West Miami, Overtown, Palmetto Bay and Blue Lagoon.
He called it a “Class A product in a B-minus location.” That allows Soleste to draw renters from more expensive buildings in the urban core as rents increase, he added.
“We aren’t looking for new people moving to Miami-Dade County,” Suris said. “We are picking up tenants locally.”
Another feature The Estate Cos. uses to save on development costs is tandem parking, in which two vehicles share spaces situated one in front of the other. That reduces the overall footprint of the parking garage and allows the developer to provide one space per bedroom. It can even charge extra for a second parking space.
The next wave
For its next wave of development, The Estate Cos. is focusing on emerging South Florida markets, the growing cities many locals settle in because they are priced out of the urban core. Ardizon said it’s increasingly focused on development in Broward and Palm Beach counties, as many people can no longer afford Miami-Dade. Rising home prices also boosted its business.
“More people priced out of homeownership means we have households with higher incomes as tenants,” Ardizon said. ”The quality of our tenants is much stronger now.”
The company has 13 apartment deals in its pipeline that would deliver over 4,000 units and 153,000 square feet of commercial space. That includes two projects each in North Miami Beach and Hollywood, and one each in Riviera Beach, Dania Beach, Lauderhill, West Palm Beach and Pompano Beach.
Don’t be surprised if some of those projects are sold within weeks of being completed, as The Estate Cos. has done in the past.
“You will see other trades happen at TCO [temporary certificate of occupancy] because firms want to get into South Florida now and not wait to bid up the price,” Ardizon said. “And they know the quality of our product.”
March 2022. South Florida Business Journal.