The Woman Behind Miami River’s Transformation

Lissette Calderon is known as a pioneer of development along the Miami River. Through her company, Neology Life, she managed to reshape the formerly industrial area.
Lissette Calderon. President & CEO. Neology Life Development Group. Image courtesy of Neology Life
Lissette Calderon, President & CEO, Neology Life Development Group. Image courtesy of Neology Life

Lissette Calderon is president & CEO of Neology Life Development Group—a firm that focuses on redefining urban neighborhoods in South Florida. She is one of the first developers who decided to focus her work on revitalizing the Miami River waterfront.

A decade ago, as the housing crisis struck, she returned to Related Group—where she had worked before, in the 90s—as the first female president of international and strategic projects division. Two years later, she went on her own again. With a portfolio of more than 1,500 completed units, she is seen as a pioneer of development in the Miami River district.

In the interview below, Calderon details her path toward waterfront development and explains what attracted her to the Allapattah submarket for the company’s recent project—No. 17 Residences Allapattah.

Neology Life is known as the most active company on the Miami River. Tell us more about what attracted you to the area.

Calderon: One of the greatest pleasures I find in life is traveling. And having traveled to some of the world’s greatest cities, the one thing I found they all have in common is that the river is at the heart of the city and here was Miami with this opportunity for riverfront living that had been consistently overlooked.

I also believe that the river’s authenticity is something that has always attracted me to the area and can be seen in some of Neology Life’s projects along the water, like our latest Pier 19 Residences and Marina.


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As a pioneer of development in the Miami River district, could you describe the area’s transformation over the years?

Calderon: Since I first developed NeoLofts on the river almost twenty years ago, the River District has certainly undergone a renaissance from a strictly industrial-focused area to a true residential and commercial district. With new restaurants, a major retail complex under construction and recently opened residential projects, the Miami River is emerging as one of the most desirable waterfront communities in Miami.

Additionally, as more residents look for living options in uniquely positioned neighborhoods, the riverfront is increasingly becoming an attractive option for working professionals and families.

How do you see the area changing going forward?

Calderon: I feel the river’s evolution is still ongoing and anticipate more of this growth to come going forward. Downtown Miami’s population has grown by nearly 40 percent since 2010, according to the Miami Downtown Development Authority’s demographic study. These young, hip renters are spilling over into adjacent markets such as the River District.

Our most recent project in the area, Pier 19 Residences and Marina, places residents near the most popular destinations including Wynwood Arts District, Design District, Downtown Miami, Brickell Financial District and Little Havana. It is also located in close proximity to major employment hubs, including the Miami Health District.

What’s your approach when developing a new project in such a prolonged cycle?

Calderon: Our mantra is holding for the long term. We take the cyclical nature of the market into consideration, as well as the patterns we are seeing not necessarily today or in four years, but we’re really developing for the next generation.

The Allapattah submarket continues to be a target for both investors and developers. Your most recent project in the area is No. 17 Residences Allapattah. Why did you choose this neighborhood?

Calderon: As more residents look for living options in uniquely positioned urban neighborhoods, Allapattah is increasingly becoming an attractive option for nearby working professionals and families looking to enjoy the same amenities as people living in Brickell and Downtown.

Allapattah is seeing significant residential and commercial real estate investment underway that will enhance the neighborhood’s appeal and quality-of-life offerings. Our project, No.17 Residences Allapattah, will play a key role in bringing this vision to life in one of Miami’s oldest neighborhoods. The 14-story, attainable luxury rental building will be comprised of 192 residential units, complete with seven ground-floor, walk-up units and is slated for completion in early first quarter of 2021.

Rendering of No. 17 Residences Allapattah. Image courtesy of Neology Life
Rendering of No. 17 Residences Allapattah. Image courtesy of Neology Life

Are you planning to expand your portfolio to other metros? Which ones and why?

Calderon: With a successful track record building condo projects along the Miami River, the launch of our latest projects mark Neology Life’s continued investment in Miami and its surrounding neighborhoods. Allapattah and the River remain our focus for the time being but are excited to continue to redefine and reimagine urban neighborhoods in South Florida and eventually nationwide.

The number of women executives in real estate is growing but very slowly. Tell us about your path in this challenging business.

Calderon: Often the only woman in the room, I’ve learned to view this as an advantage, rather than a hurdle. I often say that with enough passion, discipline and determination, your dreams will become reality regardless of whether someone is male or female.