Q & A with Dev Motwani
By Samantha Rojas
Dev Motwani is managing partner of Chieftain Holdings LP, a Florida-based real estate investment fund focused on buying distressed commercial properties with significant redevelopment value or value-add opportunities for existing assets; as well as managing partner of Chieftain Residential LP, a distressed residential fund purchasing single-family homes in various markets throughout the southeast United States. Additionally, he serves as co-president and CFO of Merrimac Ventures and is a partner in the Lauderdale Air Show, having helped bring the event back to Fort Lauderdale after a five-year hiatus.
Prior to his current role, Motwani worked at Credit Suisse in New York City and has spent time working in politics in the White House in the office of the Vice President in 2000, with the Gore/Lieberman Campaign and the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign. Today, he plays an active role in the South Florida community through his involvement with numerous charities and business organizations. He serves on the boards of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts Foundation, Fort Lauderdale’s Economic Development Advisory Board, Business for the Arts of Broward and the Downtown Council.
Motwani graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and public policy and from Columbia University’s Master of Science in real estate development program. He has also studied at the London School of Economics.
As a businessperson, what makes you passionate about the arts?
When you look at some of the most interesting cities in the world (not necessarily the largest), there's usually a strong sense of art that is associated with each. That art can take many forms, traditional forms like painting and sculptures, but also music, architecture, food and the performing arts - all of which add to making those destinations unique and desirable. The major cities around the world usually contain a combination of a number of interesting art forms. So being in real estate locally, and interested in economic development here in Fort Lauderdale, it's hard not to appreciate the importance of art to our community. When you look at which cities are flourishing in the U.S. today (Austin, Portland, Charlotte, etc.) it's clear that the current generation not only appreciates, but actually flocks to those areas that have a strong sense of art and culture.
How do you feel that arts and business should intersect in general?
There's an obvious benefit to the local business community from having a strong arts community, particularly for attracting talent. For that reason, I feel it's beneficial and crucial for the business community to support the arts. In terms of how they interact, that can vary from business to business. There are certainly businesses that can benefit directly from supporting the arts and those where the benefit is less direct. I don't know that there's a formula for how they interact, but I am confident there's a clear benefit to the business community. I hope more businesses realize this and put more effort into supporting local arts organizations.
And in Broward County specifically?
Again, I think it's less geographical and more specific to each individual. But let’s take our two most popular industries, tourism and boating. Having strong local arts and cultural offerings will no doubt enhance the experience for tourists as well as those deciding into which ports to bring their yachts. Both industries have far-reaching impacts on our local communities from hotels, to restaurants, to yacht brokers, to boat repair facilities. The more enticing we make our destination, the more those industries flourish, which benefits many in our community.
Tell us about your business in Broward County, and how you see it growing and developing?
We are primarily in the real estate and hospitality businesses, and fortunately both industries are on the rise after a number of tough years. More and more people are moving to, or visiting South Florida, and we expect that trend to continue. We are confident that our business will do well over the long term. But both businesses are cyclical and so we need to ensure our community is doing everything it can to help alleviate the downward cycles in each business; having a strong local arts and culture community will certainly help achieve that goal.
What are ways you feel we can forge this relationship between your business and the creative industries on a continual basis?
Right now we are filling up one of our largest properties, the Las Olas Riverfront, with various arts and culture-related organizations and businesses. Eventually we plan to redevelop the property and we certainly expect to have a strong connection to the arts since we are in the heart of the arts and entertainment district. In the interim, we felt as though we could help the immediate neighborhood and the community as a whole by utilizing our location and vacant spaces to support the arts.
What can we do - we, the local arts agency; we, the citizens?
Bring us ideas. We have a website, PopUpLasOlas.com, where we invite people to visit and share ideas with us on how to populate our vacant spaces with interesting and exciting ideas that will attract people to the downtown and Riverwalk area. We are even supporting local businesses that are looking for an affordable location to try out an interesting new business concept. Like Rhino Donuts & Coffee; this is opening soon and will be serving unique, gourmet products.
How have the arts impacted your life, personally and professionally?
Personally, I joke that my brain just doesn't get the arts. Good with numbers, but terrible on the piano. But I do appreciate the performing arts and music, which is why I chose to become a board member of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts Foundation. I've already stated my strong belief in the economic impacts that a strong arts community has on my business, but getting to support the Broward Center was really more about my personal appreciation for what their performances bring to the community.
Business for the Arts of Broward
Business for the Arts of Broward is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) engaging businesses and business leaders to advocate and educate about the importance of the County’s art and cultural community as well as to recognize the connection between cultural vitality, creative success, and economic development.
For more information contact Lois Marino at 954-940-6373