Diego Lowenstein, the CEO of Lionstone Development, has an explorer’s wanderlust, a rock star’s passion for music and a hotelier’s eye for hospitality. INDULGE’s profile of him appears in the August 2017 issue.
Lionstone Development has been a staple in the Miami hospitality scene for five decades, but building luxury hotels and condos was never really part of the plan.
After Diego Lowenstein’s grandfather escaped Nazi Germany and resettled in Argentina, the family patriarch created a flourishing beef business. He expanded the family’s holdings in 1966 with the purchase of the White House Hotel in South Beach. That deal sparked a hospitality and residential development business that’s now in its third generation, with Lowenstein in his 15th year as CEO.
“Our hotel business started a little by chance and not by design,” Lowenstein, 49, said from his sunny Lincoln Road corner office, surrounded by lion figurines and beaming with pride as he retells his family’s story. “Not a lot of families can say they’ve been in Miami for 50 years. It’s a testament to our values and our commitment to the market through good times and bad.”
Focus on Miami luxury real estate
Lionstone Development has helped shape Miami’s skyline and has restored some of the city’s most beloved buildings, gifting them back the grandeur they once embodied.
The company brought us the luxe Epic Hotel & Residences, built on the historic site of the Dupont Plaza. Lionstone also has cultivated a strong relationship with the Ritz-Carlton brand, restoring and remodeling the original 1953 DiLido Hotel into the Ritz-Carlton South Beach and renovating and rebranding One Bal Harbour Resort & Spa into the new Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour.
Outside of Miami, Lionstone’s interests include three hotels and two casinos in Curaçao, a hotel in Aruba, and a future development in Puerto Rico. Lionstone also has partnered with Sir Richard Brandon’s Virgin Group to establish Virgin Hotels in Chicago, New York and beyond.
People in the hospitality industry must adapt to technology and be prepared to meet the expectations of millennials, Lowenstein said. “In the future, it’s going to be less about the brand and more about guest experiences.” A few main concepts will remain, he said, including comfort, cleanliness, aesthetics — and community involvement. Lionstone Development partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Miami to engage with the city’s next generation.
Home in Coral Gables
At his home in Coral Gables, which he designed with his wife, Gisela, Lowenstein has borrowed a few design cues from his work, utilizing hotel sofas and fixtures as part of the décor.
“I take inspiration from great designers and what they have done,” Lowenstein said. “A home is a little hotel. It has to be functional, pleasing and evoke a sense of self.”
But Lowenstein also relishes being outside of his home or office. He skies. He tinkers with cars. He travels, having visited more than 100 countries and hoping to hit Mongolia or Madagascar next year, for his 50th birthday. And he rocks. Lowenstein composes music and plays guitar in a Latin rock band, Pampa y La Vía.
“It’s not all about work,” he said. “It’s about balance and enjoying life. Music is an important part of my life. It fulfills me, and it’s a great way to de-stress.”