February 23, 2016
Tony Cho thinks Wynwood is about to get even hotter. One of its key pioneers, and founder of Metro 1 brokerage and development, he drove us around yesterday afternoon, pointing out the potential unleashed by the creation in November of a Neighborhood Revitalization District, intended to promote small-scale development while preserving the area’s character. Tony established his firm there 11 years ago, helped create the BID, and is now a principal in 5 acres of property.
Among his assets: the Wynwood Gateway Complex at 29th and NW 2nd Avenue, an adaptive reuse retail center that’s home to Ducati, Boxelder, and the soon-opening Cake Contemporary Kitchen, relocating from MiMo. Tony says the upzoning is gaining international recognition and investor interest, causing developers to start plotting new residential and mixed-use projects. He predicts numerous announcements ahead this year.
Adjacent to Gateway, on other land he owns, he’s creating the 15k SF Wynwood Greenhouse, an open air butterfly and bird sanctuary that will also offer cultural and educational programming to the community. He expects to complete it by the end of the year.
Behind his office on 27th between north Miami and NE 2nd Avenue, Tony shows us tracks being laid for All Aboard Florida that will whisk visitors from up the coast to downtown, and says an additional local commuter line due around 2020 will be even more of a game changer if it delivers folks to nearby stations. He was attracted to the location originally because he likes urban grit and says the setting reminds him of the often overlooked infrastructure that’s the backbone of great cities.
Anticipating the creative office wave, Tony years ago designed the interior with 12 to 14 foot high glass dividers and exposed concrete columns and floors. The building was originally a Woolworth warehouse built in 1962, and an adjacent space in it used to be Lenny Kravitz’s rehearsal and design studio.
We passed Tony’s first house, which he bought in Buena Vista in 2003, immediately north of the Design District, for $150k. (You can add nearly another zero to estimate its current value.) Raised in Sebastian near Vero Beach, Tony moved to Miami 18 years ago. He says pricing pressures in Wynwood, the Design District, and elsewhere are forcing residents, commercial tenants, and investors to explore new frontiers in Little River, Lemon City, Little Haiti, and Allapatah. (Tony is a principal in 16 acres in the first two and bought his first building in Lemon City over 13 years ago. His firm is also expanding into Broward with the opening later this year of a new office in Flagler Village.)
At Michael’s Genuine yesterday over lunch, Tony tells us some other things you probably didn’t know about him:
Spanish: learned it partly from an MTV Latino internship on Lincoln Road, then a year in Buenos Aires at age 19
Favorite restaurant: Mandolin, 27, Pao
Weakness for: peanut butter, as in ice cream or cupcakes
Vacation destination: Tulum
Music: progressive, deep house, reggae, i.e., eclectic from Bob Marley to Bob Moses.
Startling fact: 3rd degree black belt in taekwondo at age 15 and competed in Junior Olympics. [Editor’s note: so don’t cross him.]
Check out some of Metro1 Best Wynwood Commercial Properties for 2016.