How I started building smart condos w/Real Estate Developer Santiago Venegas

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Santiago Vanegas is the Founder, 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 for Fortune International Group. I founded Habitat Development in 2005, eventually expanding the firm’s portfolio to include four branches offering specialized services, including: Habitat Development, an expert in the construction and remodeling of properties; Habitat Realty, which focuses on analyzing the real estate market in search of the best properties and investment opportunities; Habitat Management, which focuses on the management of company assets; and Habitat 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 the opportunity to experience Smart Living. This project is going to focus on Smart Use, Smart Design and Smart Tech. Smart Brickell will offer a seamless living solution to buyers and guests. This project has a goal of creating efficient solutions 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 applied to new construction?

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

What has been the most challenging moment in your career?

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

What was the most braggable moment?

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

What would you say is your biggest weakness?

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

And your greatest strength?

I find that my strength is being a specialist in the West Brickell and Little Havana area. I have focused many years of my expertise in these areas and I know the property values, the areas needs and its limitations. By not analyzing other areas and fully focusing myself on this area, this has helped me to become the specialist that I am today.

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

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

What do you love most about what you do?

I love being able to create a solution to a problem. I am successful when I am able to help people and make their lives easier. The ultimate goal is to give people more time. If everyone who experiences Smart Brickell finds one more hour in their day because of the Smart 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 successful man that I knew, “How are you so successful?” He answered, “throughout your path, always continue to follow the light.” The phrase is a metaphor where the light is my goal and how I want to see myself in the future. The path can take many turns but if you continue to keep your focus on the light, then you will reach your goals.

How do you define happiness?

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

What book are you currently reading?

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

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

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

Have you collaborated with artist in the past?

I am currently in collaboration with an artist for my development project in Colombia called Le Parc. I adopted a park from the city and I am developing a residential and commercial area around this park. This artist is helping me create art around the complex and I would like to find a similar collaboration for Smart Brickell. I am currently looking for a wood artist for the interiors of the building such as the lobby and a modern contemporary artist for the wall facing the private park we have at Smart Brickell.

To learn more about Santiago’s Smart Brickell projet in Miami check out

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