Steven Feller P.E., LLC is a mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) consulting engineering firm based in Florida, with offices in Fort Lauderdale, New York, Tampa and India, with project experience nationally and internationally. The firm works with some of the biggest developers and real estate entities in the world.
From the Porsche Tower to Armani Casa and the Hard Rock Stadium, Steven Feller has developed a niche in residential, mixed-use high-rise developments and hotels, built nationally and internationally. Its projects’ towers are from 12 to 85 stories and as much as 858 feet, the most recent, Panorama Tower, being the tallest residential tower south of New York City today. The firm has over 70 hotels and more than 90 high Rise projects in its portfolio, and we spoke with Founder and President Steven Feller to find out more.
It began in 1979 as Steven picked up a little work here and there. He brought on a couple of part-time people and worked out of his house. After acquiring a few more jobs, he rented an office space on Cyprus Creek Road in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Residential work followed including some small apartments locally.
Steven shares, “I got very lucky and met an architect at a function; he introduced me to a developer building a sizeable project which turned out to be ‘The Venetia’, which is now called The Grand Beach Hotel, down in Miami.” The year was 1982. The vision Steven had was coming to life!
While in Atlanta, Steven met the production architect for the Venetia and was hired on the spot for the project. At this point, he had five employees for a project that turned out to be the largest construction venture in the state of Florida at that time. The firm’s growth was evident; this project’s scope was six hundred units, two hundred hotel rooms, a shopping area, and a parking garage. The work was completed, the firm became extremely successful, and people noticed.
There were then twelve people in the office, and the company continued to grow. That project led to a host of others that turned into a couple of hotel projects. Steven Feller met with a few more architects, and the firm grew to fifty people by the year 2000. The vision had now come to life!
Steven shares, “I met a man that I had worked with at an engineering firm in New York, straight out of college back in 1976, Carlo Marzot, and he proposed opening an office in New York, and we did. It went well because not before long, we were awarded a project called ‘Turning Stone Casino’ that needed additions.”
Two hotels followed along with an energy plant and exhibition center, which brought the total number of employees in the New York office up to twenty-five, but with the Global Financial Crisis looming, it was short-lived. However, the team opened an office in Fort Myers because Steven had a good client there, so ten more employees were added. Around 2006 to 2007, Steven predicted the slowdown in the industry.
“Sure enough, the construction industry went dry and things slowed down in 2008. In two to three years, we went from 60 people to eighteen and were only working four days a week,” says Steven.
Happily, Steven sensed things about to change. His developer contacts were getting restless and had property they wanted to develop. Some of them, who had avoided bankruptcy, wanted to get going and connected with Steven Feller. A well-known firm, The Related Group of Florida, reached out to his firm and together they built fifteen high-rise projects. And over the next seven to eight years, the firm built up again from eighteen people to fifty employees very swiftly.
“The employees we let go really enjoyed working here, so it was easy to bring back thirty in a relatively short period of time; we were back on track, and a family again,” says Steven.
From 2013 to 2015, the construction industry was booming and Steven Feller P.E., LLC grew back up to ninety people. During all these times his team of Carlo Marzot, Bob Raynor, Tony Averbach and Mike Torrey all remained, ever present on all projects. They have now been there for over 30 years plus assisting in the firm’s growth with Steven Feller, PE, not to mention all the other dedicated engineers and project managers still here just as long.
Again in 2017, everything slowed down, reducing staff numbers to about fifty-three, where it stands now. The impact did not match that of the 2008 recession, and the firm had a substantial backlog of work and several good clients, including The Related Companies of New York who continued to need Steven Feller’s services.
Some examples of the work done by Steven Feller PE., LLC include a project called Panorama in downtown Miami on Brickell Bay Drive developed by Tibor Hollo. This is the tallest residential project south of New York at eighty plus stories, with six hundred apartments, a 150-room Hyatt Hotel, retail, and a state-of-the-art gymnasium. “They are renting to millennials as a rent-to-buy situation. There is also a spa and health club,” says Steven.
It is totally self-contained, right in the heart of downtown Miami, with access to all the restaurants. It required unusual engineering with a mid-height mechanical room due to the pressures on the building and the piping systems due to the height of the building.
“We specialize in high-rise and mixed-use projects, whether residential, office or hotels. That’s been our calling card for many years. Our portfolio has 90 towers and 70 hotels. Another type of project in our portfolio experience is malls; we were awarded engineers for Phase 1, 2, and 3 at The Sawgrass Mills Mall, which is a several-million-square-foot mall in Broward County. We have also been on the teams of assisted living facilities, corporate offices, high-end dining facilities and country clubs; our portfolio is very diversified,” says Steven.
Steven Feller PE was awarded the Miami Dolphins Stadium renovation project; coincidentally, the firm had worked on this building when the Marlins were there and built a 10,000-square-foot office addition to the stadium. The Dolphins and Marlins parted company, Steven decided to renovate the twenty-five-year-old stadium completely, and Steven Feller was awarded the $550 million project. The building was completely gutted and redone. This project led to another, the New Biscayne Open International tennis stadium.
“We are building a new center for tennis; the scope includes ten outside courts. The grandstand court will be temporary, constructed inside the stadium and taken down each year when football starts,” says Steven. “Currently, we are designing a new state of the art training facility for the Dolphins at the stadium.”
The Porsche Design Tower was a unique project. It is a sixty-story black cylindrical tower designed by Sieger Suarez Architects. The project consists of high-end condominium units, and it was extremely successful as the developer sold eighty percent of the apartments and kept the rest for an after-market situation.
What is unique about the project, besides its shape, is that there are three elevators built to transport the owners’ cars. You drive your car into the elevator, stay in it, and are brought up to your floor, your parking garage. The project has all the amenities, including a spa.
In September of 2016, Steven sold eighty percent of the business to an investment fund. The aim was to expand into a larger marketplace, but the economy took a downturn from 2016 to 2018, so the plan was somewhat derailed.
“I have been out to California and marketed some architectural firms, so there is some potential there. Fort Lauderdale is moving along nicely, and the office in Tampa is booming. We hope to expand to Orlando, which is a fast-growing market, and there is a project in New York that will get that office going,” says Steven.
The company also has a client with offices in Nashville, so that is another possibility. Steven Feller PE., LLC is hoping to do Marriott’s new Miami World Center hotel. “We are also working with Marriott on a new limited service hotel concept with units in Minnesota, Indiana, and Virginia.” It looks like the national market is close to becoming a reality.
Expanding nationwide and internationally can only work with the right kind of employees who have experience dealing with clients. Recently, Steven Feller opened an office in India which has helped with production because of reduced labor costs.
“We have four people in this office in India, and one of our valuable experienced engineers from the Fort Lauderdale office is a native of India. She moved back to open this office for us,” says Steven.
The firm has a project where two-thirds of the work is being done in India. It is slowly working the India office into its production routines, and the hope is that it will help with labor costs and finding qualified labor for these projects. “It is very difficult to find good engineers in the U.S., so this is of benefit to our production,” says Steven.
“One of the things that sets this firm apart from others is our employees’ commitment to excellence. We at Steven Feller are a family-oriented firm. Every Christmas, there is an office cruise for all the employees and their spouses; this truly is a family organization.”
Steven adds, “I’ve been to many employee weddings, and it has been incredibly rewarding to see the company and these folks grow personally with their new families. We have one or two picnics over the course of the summer with huge gatherings of people and their kids. We usually have one sponsored fishing trip weekend down in the Keys. We have created a family environment as opposed to this being just a ‘place to work,’” says Steven. “We pride ourselves on our innovative design and collaborative design approach along with our experienced staff.”
He concludes, “We would like to thank all the parties that have worked with us in the past and look forward to continuing to work together into the future.”
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Vice President of Business Development