His impressive projects are scattered throughout Miami-Dade and beyond. He “started” the design district. He has appeared on HGTV. He built the house featured on Hogan Knows Best. Todd Michael Glaser’s name is one you should know, but he doesn’t necessarily want you to know it.
By Stephanie Wilson
Glaser works with virtually every big name that comes through South Florida.
Every profession has its own unique measure of a man. In the world of sports, the measure is the number of trophies won, the number of rivals bested; in the restaurant world, the measure is the number of stars earned. In the cutthroat world of real estate development, the measure is simply the number of properties sold, and at what cost. It is by this measure that Todd Michael Glaser stands alone. The measure of his manhood is (dare we say it?) simply enormous. Just as Jorge Perez has been heralded as the King of Condominiums, Todd Michael Glaser can be called the Heavenly Father of Homes, although if you are not yourself in the market for one of the top estates in the Miami area, his name may escape you.
Two of the many qualities required to be a successful real estate developer are foresight and timing, qualities Todd Michael Glaser definitely possesses. Another is the ability and desire to brand oneself, a quality that, up until this point in his career, Glaser avoided, simply because he hasn’t needed to: every property he gets his hands on triples in value and price. As he says, “I don’t promote myself as ‘Buy a Todd Glaser House.’ It’s always the project that’s important.” But as Todd Michael Glaser enters a new phase in his career, he allows Haute Living an exclusive glimpse into his elite world of home real estate dominance.
Glaser is a Miami Beach native, and alumni of Beach High, having resided here for most of his 42-years. His success story is not one that begins with a silver spoon; in fact, Todd’s parents never owned any property: his father was a hairdresser who rented until the day he died. Todd decided early on he wasn’t going to live that life. When Glaser was just four years old, he knew what the future held in store: he promised to build his babysitter a house when he grew up. The babysitter should look to cash in on that promise, because a house done by Glaser tends to claim more than just a few million dollars. In fact, the most expensive home ever sold in South Florida-The Fisher Estate on North Bay Road-had Glaser’s fingerprints all over it when it was bought by mega-developer Ugo Columbo. While other real estate developers are working with a plethora of inventory, buyers are lucky to get their hands on a property developed by Todd Michael Glaser, to the point where Ugo Columbo purchased The Fisher Estate when Glaser was only half-done with the renovations.
Glaser works with virtually every big name that comes through South Florida. He recently purchased Cher’s house with partner Armin Mattli for $9.7 million, renovated for three months, and put it back on the market for $14.42 million. He and Nelson Gonzales developed a property and sold an 1800-square-foot house on North Bay Road to Billy Joel for $3.6 million, making this sale the most expensive per-square-foot on North Bay Road history. Along with Alan Lieberman, Glaser also purchased land on North Bay Road for $2.4 million. He demolished the house that stood on the lot, and went to work building a 17,000-square-foot, nine-bedroom, 13-bathroom mansion designed by Chad Oppenheim. The home sold to Hulk Hogan for $12 million, and the Hogan family lived there while filming hit reality show Hogan Knows Best.
Our interview with Glaser takes place at his beautiful home on Flamingo Drive. The property is another testimony to what Glaser tends to accomplish once he gets his hands on a project. He, along with David Lombardi, purchased the house from infamous club-owner Chris Paciello. Todd explains, “Chris Paciello owned the house next door. He found out that some guys who owned another club were thinking of buying [this] house, and Chris said, ‘No way am I letting some guys who own a club live next to me!’…These guys were literally driving over here and Chris put the house under contract, and bought it for $1.2 million in 1997.” Todd continues, leaning back in his chair, “[Paciello] started renovating. This property was derelict. [While he was working on the renovation] he got arrested. He called David Lombardi and I and was like, ‘I need money,’ so David and I bought the place from him for $1.28 million.” Glaser continued to renovate the house, which is now 9000-square-feet. The estate also boasts a separate guesthouse, a three-car garage and maid quarters. Todd recently turned down an offer of $7.4 million for the property, which is where parts of the blockbuster Transporter 2 were filmed.
Todd bought out his partner David and moved into this home just five years ago with his wife, Kim, and their first child Levi. Before that, he built his own empire from the ground up. The first property he owned was a modest house in Coconut Grove, purchased when he was only 21-years old. It was that house that catapulted him into the real estate business. “One day, a woman was pounding a ‘For Sale’ sign into the ground across the street.” Todd approached her and asked what she would do with the money after the house sold. When she replied that she would put the money in the bank, Todd seized the opportunity. “I offered her $10 grand down, if she would hold $80 grand for a year.” The woman agreed, and Todd went to work on renovating. “I brought a friend of mine in as the contractor… He pretty much built it, and I watched and learned.” Todd sold the house after completing the renovations for three times what he paid, beginning an ongoing trend that has followed him throughout his red-hot career.
After selling that property, Glaser moved to the Beach in 1988. “I started moving as fast as I could find a deal. I would buy it, renovate it, and sell.” says Glaser. He accomplished this by moving into every apartment and house he bought, starting with 928 Jefferson Avenue. “I was a master mover. I moved six, seven, eight times a year, and I was doing this up until I got married five years ago. I had a rhythm going. As soon as I finished one, I would find something else.”
Todd kept going at this pace for years, and hit the big time with a deal involving Scott and Craig Robbins, brothers and mega-developers, and their father Gerald. The deal involved buying ten houses from the Miami Heart Institute around 47th Street on Miami Beach for $1.4 million, or roughly $140,000 per house. The deal was an incredible one, as Todd recalls. “Some of these houses were four-thousand square-foot Mediterranean-style houses. It was unbelievable!”
Todd also claims responsibility for starting the movement to the Design District fifteen years ago. “In 1992, I moved into an 8000-square-foot warehouse that I bought on 36th Street and NE 1st Court, right under the Expressway, and I turned it into a NY-style loft.” The Miami Herald ran an article on Todd at the time, because Todd chose to store his elite car collection in his living room. At this time, the Design District was a virtual ghost town. Todd recalls, “I bought the warehouse from realtor Doris Suttin. She thought I was out of my mind to be living in the Design District.” As Todd tells it, Scott Robbins came to visit, and the two set out to explore the neighborhood. This led to Scott and Todd purchasing three buildings in the district before Craig Robbins even came in. (Since then, Craig Robbins has been actively involved in the Design District through his company Dacra Development, which recently announced a $220 million expansion of the district.) Todd says, “I was the one who brought Scott to the Design District… To make a long story short, Scott brought Craig and Gerald Robbins [Scott and Craig’s father] in, and we formed a company called Dacra Design, and it blossomed from there.” The group has since had a falling out, leading to Todd getting bought out of the Design District and of Dacra Design.
In 1999, Glaser and partner David Lombari were the very first developers to shift their attention to the up-and-coming Wynwood neighborhood. They purchased a 1925 industrial building at the at NW 1st Ave and 25th Street that they turned into eight 2500-square-foot New York-style lofts, with clay brick walls, which they rent as apartments. In the entire tenure of the building, there has not once been a vacancy.
While high-priced homes are Glaser’s specialty, he has also dabbled in other real estate ventures, including The Monteclair Condos, The Catalina Hotel, and 2228 Park Avenue Condominiums, located on Miami Beach.
At this point in his career, Glaser is ready to move on to new things. “I bought this little house for $700,000, and it will be interesting now that I have branded my name a little bit… People will be associating me with high-end luxury, so they will be very excited to be able to buy a house for $1.1-1.2 million… I am not compromising. [I am doing the same feel as a $25 million house] just in a smaller package. If it sells fast, I can find a new niche, which is, “I can renovate your house in 30 days!” I could do my own TV show!” he says with a laugh, but with the glint in his eye that lets us know he is entirely serious. And since everything Glaser touches sells, look for this show coming to a channel near you, although we can expect Glaser to not love the attention. He has been featured on HGTV series “I Want That Bath!” and that raised awareness about his overall brand name, something he says isn’t always the greatest thing. “[HGTV] put my phone number on, and I got a tremendous amount of calls from that, asking for ideas, and asking what I was doing, and it was interesting, but it took a lot of time.”
Glaser says that at this point in his life, he is ready to sit back and let someone else do all the hustling. “I want to switch hats now… [My cousin] David Solomon is involved with me now… I am teaching him how to run projects so I can just find it, put the deal together and let him have a piece.”
Maybe we can expect him to fade into the tranquility of New England with the love of his life Kim and their three children Levi Kole, Chloe Pearl and new baby Stone Davis. The family just bought a house on Nantucket, where, Glaser says, “there are people with real money… In Nantucket, you can be sitting next to a billionaire in flip-flops and a ripped t-shirt, and he is enjoying his family, not into being seen. He wants to enjoy the life he earned, and that’s where I am right now.”