Entrepreneur Profiles: Andrew Frey of Tecela
July 11, 2017
Name: Andrew Frey
City: Miami, Florida
Product Types: Small-scale urban, mainly multifamily
What did you do before you were a developer?
I was a development manager for another company that developed multifamily housing, but much larger, typically suburban projects. And before that, I was a zoning lawyer with a couple of large firms in Miami.
What motivated you to make the leap into development?
I wanted to see if I could pull off projects where not only was I executing on the vision but also the vision was mine from the beginning.
In dealing with the day-to-day operation of your enterprise, what do you find to be the most difficult to accomplish?
The most difficult thing to accomplish is shifting gears between all the different skills and tasks that are required of a developer. For example, the singular focus of executing on one development project, versus the scatter-shot approach you need to take, say, for sourcing deals, where you have many irons in the fire at once.
Where do you turn to get a fresh perspective on or experienced insight into a prospective or existing deal?
I turn to my peers in the real estate development industry in Miami. There are a lot of very talented young people in south Florida. They make me excited to be part of the industry.
What gets you out of bed every day to do what you do?
The chance to build better urban neighborhoods. Neighborhoods that are made up of more smaller buildings and fewer larger buildings, that are full of diverse people and a mix of uses while being oriented toward transit.
What does being a successful real estate developer mean to you?
It means being able to feed your family while you build projects that are not just above average, but on par with the best urban prototypes around the world. I look to great neighborhoods where people like to spend time, and I look at the buildings they’re made up of. So, art deco prototypes from South Beach, or historic brownstone prototypes from New York, beautiful townhouse prototypes from Amsterdam.
How’s the work you’re doing today different from work you may have done with your past employer?
For my previous employer, the projects that I developed were anywhere between 200 and 400 units, but the one project I have under construction right now is only eight units. It’s going up in a neighborhood where there’s an existing fabric of similarly sized apartment buildings. Two- to three-story, five- to 15-unit buildings, but there are also some larger buildings that have been built in the last 20 years.
In looking at the next one to two years, what do you see as the biggest challenges to your business and projects?
I think the biggest challenge will be to maintain a consistent deal flow through the ups and downs of the real estate cycle to always have a handful of construction projects going on at once.
What skills or traits do you think are most important to make the leap into real estate development?
I think the most important skill is to be able to envision what a great neighborhood is, and then you have the skills to execute on that—financial modeling, raising capital, putting together a great consultant team, and managing construction.
What skill or trait did you lack at one point, and how did you overcome it?
I lacked a lot of skills when I first started for my previous employer, and I learned them from my boss. Specifically, financial modeling and construction were the two big ones. But he showed me how to run a financial model and the importance of being on site as often as possible monitoring construction and paying attention to the details.
What was a memorable mistake?
When I was trying to get my first apartment community open for residents, we had an issue with getting a certificate of occupancy. Miami-Dade County wanted a traffic signal installed before they would give us the certificate, whereas our understanding had been that we would be able to open our first building and deliver the traffic signal later. It was quite a fire drill to get that traffic signal completed and accepted in time to open our first building.
How has your involvement with ULI played a role in your career?
The Urban Land Institute has played a big role in my career. I’ve been an active member since I moved down to Miami. It’s been fantastic for networking and career development, and it’s also given me an outlet for my civic impulses—helping lead the Young Leaders Group, and now being chair for policy at the district council level. On the national level, I’ve enjoyed helping when I can with the Small-Scale Developer Program.
What’s your favorite city to visit and why?
My favorite city to visit right now is Cincinnati, Ohio, because of the revitalization they’re doing in Over-the-Rhine, bringing small-scale new investment while revising existing historic buildings and maintaining the diversity of the neighborhood. It’s a model that I hope to emulate in Miami.
About Entrepreneur Profiles
Entrepreneur Profiles are conversations with real estate development professionals who, in most cases, have recently made the leap into the industry whether as young individuals fresh out of school or as mid-career transitions.
With a focus on small-scale developers often doing incremental and transformative work, these are quick and easy to read profiles to raise awareness of these professionals. By telling their stories, the Urban Land Institute hopes to inspire the next generation of small scale entrepreneurs to transform their own communities. See the most recent Entrepreneur Profiles.