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Your How To Source: Issues of Value, Ethics, Human Needs and Deeds       Edited by Heinz Dinter, PhD

Builder of a new lifestyle (2006-06-15)

I had just finished reading the profiles of three Miamians honored as visionaries in the holiday issue of Lincoln Road Magazine ( when my email inbox beeped. It was Diane, my daughter. “Dad, you might like this one,” she wrote. Then followed a quote by General George S. Patton: “Don’t measure a man’s success by how high he climbs but how high he bounces when he hits bottom.”

That brought back memories of a man I had the privilege of interviewing more than a decade ago. Lincoln Road Magazine honored that man, the recipient of Miami’s first Visionary Award for creating the Omni/Venetia complex.

The interview in 1988 resulted in my story that I would like to share again because I met a man who deserves the accolades of being the creator of today’s condo lifestyle. Here’s what I learned and wrote that long ago.

He creates. Omni. Venetia. The Brickell skyline. He philosophizes. “I perceive Miami as a truly international city.” He moralizes. “The word tri-ethnic means that there are three ethnic origins. By the end of this century, I believe Miami will be a poly-ethnic society.” But what he does best is to visualize.

He’s Tibor Hollo. Sixty-one years young. And what is not known about this man could fill tomes.

In the last thirty-two years Hollo has built much of the city of Miami without the help of deep-pocket partners. To some this may seem a foolish venture, an instant road to ruin. But to those in the know, Tibor Hollo is a man, not only of vision, but a person of great resolve, strong self-discipline, and above all, a remarkable sense of self-esteem and self-assuredness.

I LOVE MIAMI. Although Hollo was born in Europe he has embraced Miami as his own.

“I believe very deeply in greater Miami,” Hollo says. “I think the resources we find here are unique, and far excel any other part of the United States.”

He’s proud that he chose to move here. He’s prouder still that he’s been here thirty-two years.

“I’ve played my role in helping create the right fiber of downtown. I built in this area for almost fifteen years — buildings mostly visible downtown and near downtown. I am an urban developer and I feel I have made a significant contribution to this area.”

SUCCESS — LET ME COUNT THE WAYS. Hollo has his own notions about success. And they are varied. He might say, success to start with has nothing to do with material things. Or he may say, your bankbook is not in direct relation with success.

There are several successes: God, children who grow up to be honorable people. He’s even said that success is when one can realize his dreams.

But his true grit is when he defines success, thusly: success is when you are at peace with yourself.

HUMANITY. In the me-too world of the ’80s, it is customary to ask about motive. What makes a man take risks? Especially those running into the tens of millions of dollars. Suppose a venture fails? A lifetime could crumble.

“In my mind I am not taking risks,” Hollo says. “I am taking risks on humanity.”

Then, in the next breath, after a moment of reflection, Hollo says, “If I believe in something, I do it. If you are taking risks on humanity, you must expect a return.”

But what is that return?

“There are those who are pessimists — doom-mongers. They always expect the worst.

“I am sure the world will end someday,” he adds. “But hopefully, not too soon. Now me, I like to see the brighter side.”

GOOD CORN IS HARD TO MITE. How often the word ‘perseverance’ crops up in motivation cassettes. Don’t give up! Stay with the plan.

Well, Hollo believes in the affirmative. And if he has detractors, they grudgingly have to admit that Hollo has always hung tough. They simply have to look at the Miami skyline to see he had persevered.

Hollo studied to be an architect. Yet he’s more known for his expertise in financial maneuvering.

“That’s a misunderstanding,” he says. “You pay the financial institutions their due; you pay your interest and principal on time for many years, then you are a better commodity to those institutions than the United States of America. Because on treasury bills they make a few base points on a small fraction of return. On me, they make many, many points. Hundreds of base points. As long as they know that I have paid for decades my dues, my interest, my principal, they like me much better. So, it’s not skills. It’s just a long experience that many institutions have handed me.”

HANDS-ON. Hollo’s view to management is more old-fashioned than the streamlined, lean-mean businesses of today. He is a hands-on manager. When he finds an executive who is competent, Hollo lets him do the job, but keeps his nose in it.

“I want to know what’s accomplished on a more frequent basis than say a board member,” he says. “I keep after my executives. But I do let them do their own work. I let them initiate.”

THE ENVIRONMENTAL FLAP. When Hollo planned to build a marina the environmentalists commenced a battle. It was their position that a marina would stymie the spawning of the fish in that area.

“Keep in mind, a marina is an infinitesimal area in an ocean,” Hollo says. “But they did make a statement and I decided to look into it.”

The environmentalists had a valid point, but Hollo found their documentation incorrect. “I looked and studied,” he says. What he found: “In sub-tropical and tropical climates the inland fish cannot spawn unless it has shady areas because the sun rays are so strong.”

Then he smiles. “The marina piers provide a natural shade in the water. I pointed this out to all concerned.”

HISTORY BUFF. Tibor Hollo’s calling on the past has given him the key to the nation’s future. He remembers the GIs after World War II, using up their GI loans and building their little homes. This was the breaking of the agrarian hold on America. People were moving to the cities; surveying them, then coming to the conclusion that they were fine places to work, but not to live. They built their homes in small communities outside the cities and spent hours commuting back and forth. Now, two generations later, there is a migration to the inner core, as the city draws them in.

“It was the developer’s task to recreate urbia,” Hollo says.

“Not only Gropian (Bauhaus) buildings, office buildings, but also endowing those buildings with more than just one cycle of life working there.

“So I started to build by the latter part of the sixties,” he adds, “what I called, at that time, multi-use buildings. Buildings that were endowed with more than one shelter. And it started to emerge what I thought was the prototype of tomorrow.”

Hollo claims that The World of Venetia is that sort of structure. It consists of 1,800 residential units; 1,900 hotel rooms; 1,700,000 square feet of shops. More than 300 shops without ever having to walk outside. Forty-two places to eat, 15 movie theaters, a marina, and more.

 “I think this will be an acceptable lifestyle for this generation and the generations to come,” Hollo says in summation of that dream.

Now, nearly 16 years later, having experienced the setbacks triggered by economic slowdowns and a bout with cancer, the now 76-year-young visionary can proudly add these major developments to his distinguished list of accomplishments: Bay Park Plaza, Quayside Townhomes, The Club at Brickell Bay, Colonnade Plaza, One Bayfront Plaza, and Opera Tower.


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