Diego Colmenero and Charlie Porchetto, the savvy young developers behind Urbanica The Hotels, have been creating a splash in the Miami hospitality scene since 2016. The Meridian Hotel, located in the prestigious pocket of real estate that is the South of Fifth area, was the duo’s first project in the United States. In the wake of its success, Colmenero and Porchetto are planning to open not one, not two, but three more hotels in the sultry coastal city.
We recently spoke with the developers to learn more about their professional partnership, the promising future of Urbanica, and exactly what it takes to succeed in the massive juggling act of work and personal life.
You are both from Argentina, where you worked in residential and commercial real estate before turning your attention to the hospitality industry.
Colmenero: Yes, we are both from Buenos Aires.
How did you both meet, and what launched the decision to start working together?
Porchetto: We met while studying at St. Andres University. We partnered to study and that became a friendship that eventually led to this solid partnership. Our parents were architects and developers, so we were both exposed to real estate since early on. As a logical step we decided to move into the real estate sector and created Urbanica as a real estate development company.
Your first hotel was the Suites Hotel in Buenos Aires. What was your vision for that venture?
Colmenero: We began with commercial buildings, but due to the favourable economic climate and the need for hotels in Buenos Aires at the time, we decided to transform the project that we were working on at the time into what would become The Suites Hotel.
What did you see as being the unique stamp that you both wanted to put on the hospitality industry?
Porchetto: We wanted to offer unique style and design, but with a sense of culture and a feeling of belonging. We ran our 30-room hotel as a true boutique experience; we made every guest part of our family and that became the Urbanica philosophy.
You launched your first U.S. project in 2016 with the Meridian Hotel in the exclusive South of Fifth area in South Beach. What prompted the decision to migrate your business Stateside?
Colmenero: After opening and advancing with The Suites Hotel, we opened The Libertador Hotel and experienced tremendous success. That was when we decided to roll out our successful model to The United States. We chose Miami because of its international nature. It is a major international hub. All the nationalities can be found at any one time. We chose the South of Fifth location because of its exclusivity. Being a residential neighbourhood, SoFi complemented our philosophy of home and family.
Following the Meridian, you have three more hotels in the works, with the plan being to create a hospitality district.
Porchetto: Yes, we are currently working on 3 new projects, all along the Fifth Street corridor, which many now refer to as Urbanica Way. The hotels have culinary and entertainment experiences. Our newest project, Orilla, is an upscale bar and grill, and then there’s Minibar, which is the local watering hole and a Miami Beach favourite.
The Kaskades Hotel, which opened this past April, was a renovation of a pre-war building. Design-wise, how did you seek to honour those existing bones while creating something that is distinctly Urbanica?
Colmenero: Actually, we had the same challenge with The Meridian. We believe in preserving the integrity of historic properties. The Meridian and Kaskades afforded us those opportunities. Our advantage is that we come from design families and therefore are knowledgeable in architecture. We created the glass box lobby to interfere as little as possible with the aesthetic and maintain the original architect’s vision. It was made to resemble the existing part almost identically. We are fortunate to have been raised around design. We always strive to create different hotels based on the surrounding environments. We are not the typical hotel chain, so we always implement new concepts and ideas with each location. We look to create experiences not only in design but through exceptional service.
You’re also set to open the Biscayne in Miami’s Edgewater area next year. What is it about this area that captured your attention as developers?
Porchetto: We believe that Edgewater is poised to be the fastest growing area in Miami and will have similar, if not more growth, than Wynwood, the Design District, and Brickell. As developers we have the inside scoop on new projects. There are a great deal of new and exciting ventures coming to the area — office towers, residential, commercial, and entertainment projects that will make it a very sought after area. Urbanica will not only be a great fit for the neighbourhood, but a great destination as well.
Is your vision for an aesthetic a collaborative one, or is that one partner’s area of expertise or interest?
Colmenero: We are both very integrated in every aspect of the project. Although we employ very talented designers and architects, we are involved in every phase of design and construction. We work very closely with our planners and builders and foster our vision from conception to completion.
When you collaborate with outside designers, how do you seek out those partnerships?
Porchetto: Depending on the district and the city, we look for locals that understand and recognize what the area demands and how our project will match but stand out as well.
You’ve enlisted some impressive chefs and restauranteurs for these ventures. What do you look for when it comes to creating an ideal dining experience for your guests?
Colmenero: We chose to partner with Fernando Trocca because we are able to work together with him to curate special things, and he has helped us choose the right partners for each location, such as Martin Pitaluga for Orilla and Frankies Spuntino for The Fifth Hotel.
If you had the opportunity to take your business to further countries, which part of the globe would you set your sights on? Would you consider crossing the border and coming to Canada?
Porchetto: As a proven model, we are ready to move into other markets and have contemplated Europe as our next global destination, but Canada is definitely something we would consider.
You’re obviously both young and driven entrepreneurs. How do you carve out downtime for yourselves when you aren’t working? What does a “day off” look like?
Colmenero: On our days off we work in t-shirts instead of dress shirts. But seriously, we always carve out time for an exercise routine and of course, most importantly, spending time with family.