Florida Style

Downtown Tampa is undergoing a major redesign that is sure to generate work for VT companies; image courtesy of Visit Tampa Bay.

IGV and Otis share insight about the thriving market.

Florida is hot, and not just temperature–wise. It is also a bastion of construction activity, including that of tall buildings such as the luxury condominiums that continue to multiply in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach. The Miami skyline is transforming, and projects tend to share qualities such as an emphasis on art, brand consciousness and the region’s natural beauty. It is here one finds unique structures like the Porsche Tower with its own car elevators (ELEVATOR WORLD, September 2015), Casa Armani and Fendi Chateau, not to mention one with a James Bond theme (EW, October 2015).

It was no surprise, then, when Italy’s IGV Group chose to enter the U.S. market a few years ago in Miami (EW, February 2015) — specifically, the Miami Beach neighborhood that hosts the internationally renowned Art Basel show each year. Thanking former Miami Beach Chief Elevator Inspector (and EW Technical Advisory Group member) John Antona for his support in opening IGV’s DomusLift Corner, Chairman Eng. Matteo Volpe says Miami is the perfect fit. DomusLift Corner offers home lifts featuring interiors with SWAROVSKI crystals and reproductions of famous works of art, ideal for the South Florida consumer.

Miami and its residents are internationally known for their cosmopolitan style. Volpe states:

“Some people describe Miami as ‘the city closest to the rest of the world,’ meaning that Miami is a tourist and international city where a huge number of Spanish-speaking people live, and this makes it different from the typical American city. Of course, this helps us a lot. In Florida, we really feel at home while being in an international and cosmopolitan environment.”

Many Miami condo properties prominently feature original artwork both inside and out, and have lush, landscaped, outdoor areas. In some instances, they can be accurately described as over-the-top. That is exactly how many would describe one of the pioneers of tall-building construction in Miami, flamboyant and controversial German developer Thomas Kramer. He is credited with negotiating with local government to pave the way for skyscrapers in the city, particularly in the South of Fifth area, where Kramer and his partners opened the 44-story Portofino Tower in 1997. Since then, Portofino has gotten lots of company. Florida has 19 buildings that are 560 ft. or taller, more than 85% in the Greater Miami area. A breakdown is as follows:[1]

  • City of Miami, 13
  • Miami Beach, two
  • Tampa, two
  • Sunny Isles Beach, one
  • Jacksonville, one

IGV is not the only industry player that finds Florida the perfect place to thrive. The major OEMs have large presences there, including Otis Americas, which has headquarters in Palm Beach County. Otis recently spoke with EW about the characteristics of and outlook for the Florida market — not just in Miami, but throughout the Sunshine State.

EW: Approximately how many employees does Otis have in Florida?

Otis: Otis has nearly 500 employees in the Florida subregion in the following locations: Jacksonville, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, Sarasota/Naples, Tampa, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

EW: It appears that almost all, if not entirely all, skyscraper construction is taking place in Miami, rather than Jacksonville, Orlando or Tampa. It seems like those cities had their most robust tall-building activity in the 1980s and 1990s and have been quiet since. Is that an accurate assessment?

Otis: While it’s true that construction in the South Florida market (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach) is active right now in terms of tall-building construction, there is also a lot of activity in the Tampa area. The city is undergoing a major redesign downtown, and those plans include several 30-story-plus buildings. Orlando is a different type of area, with a lot of land, and we are seeing an increase in resorts/hotels being bid.

EW: Miami high-rise, high-end residential construction seems very artistic and, often, brand conscious. How does this translate into elevators (i.e., in the form of finishes and features clients want)?

Otis: Gone are the days of the elevator simply serving a functional purpose. Customers today want an aesthetically pleasing elevator that not only reflects the building’s image, but also provides an intuitive, efficient passenger experience. Our new units achieve higher speeds, and we are able to offer our customers highly customized finish options, as well as integrate technology to streamline a passenger’s ride.

To that end, we offer the CompassPlus® destination-management system, which uses Smart Grouping technology to direct individual passengers to the elevator in order to provide the fastest, most-direct route to their destinations.

EW: Brickell, obviously, but which other Miami neighborhoods are hottest for tall-building construction right now? Which ones have the brightest outlook?

Otis: Neighborhoods including Sunny Isles, Edgewater and Wynwood are seeing a lot of movement.

EW: Are there any challenges unique to building tall buildings (and installing elevators) in Florida?

Otis: Some of the challenges in Florida include a high water table and being in a hurricane zone. Otis has experts who work with developers and architects to address these issues and how they affect the vertical-transportation (VT) system.

EW: How healthy is the elevator industry in Florida right now?

Otis: The Florida market is very healthy across all major population centers.

EW: What are the industry challenges specific to Florida?

Otis: There can be a general lack of diversification. For example, the state used to be very condo driven, although this is changing. Of course, weather and its associated damage and delays are always a concern.

EW: What is a notable project in Florida in which Otis has been involved?

Otis: We provided the VT products for Panorama Tower, which will be the tallest tower in Miami when completed later this year. Otis products in Panorama Tower include our premier SkyRise® elevator, specifically designed for high-rise projects and integrating modern technologies for speed control, safety and energy efficiency, and our SkyBuildTM, high-speed, self-climbing elevator used to transport workers safely and reliably while on the job.

[1] wikipedia. “List of Tallest Buildings in Florida” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tallest_buildings_in_Florida).

Elevator World Associate Editor

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