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Alex Akel Has a Master Plan

At 32 years old and a second-generation homebuilder, Alex Akel really means business. A native of Delray Beach, the president of Akel Homes learned the ropes from his dad, Ramsey. The elder Akel founded the company in 1986 with a focus on master-planned communities. To date, the Palm Beach-based business has sold more than 4,000 homes throughout the region and since 2015, Alex has led day-to-day operations.

His time away from Florida has been sparse. He attended George Washington University in Washington D.C., earning an undergraduate degree in finance and international business. Shortly thereafter, he attended Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, earning a master’s in real estate. While in Massachusetts, he also dabbled in coursework at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard Business School and MIT.

“I did leave for a bit, but I knew I was always going to come back,” he tells SFBW. “The South Florida community is really deeply engrained in my heart and core values. It is home for me, and I want to see this community thrive.”

His company is currently delivering approximately 50 homes per year, with expectations to deliver 200-plus per year in the near future. On the volume, he says “we’re in a unique position because there aren’t that many higher volume private builders in South Florida anymore, as the market is challenging to bring a new supply of homes.”

Among the company’s largest current projects, Akel says it has approximately 8,000 home sites in Port St. Lucie’s Sundance development (formerly Wilson Grove). He anticipates breaking ground on its first community of 1,100 homes this year. Port St. Lucie is “not just the fastest-growing city in the state of Florida, but one of the fastest growing in the country. It’s a great market and we’re really excited to be there,” he says.

In addition to smaller infill developments and townhouse projects in Palm Beach County, Akel Homes is selling and building Solana Bay, a community of 118 homes within the 3,000-acre master development of Avenir in Palm Beach Gardens. The first residents are moving in later this month. “The homes are stunning – they’re very contemporary and from the exterior elevations to the included premium features, they’re really complete homes,” Akel says.

On the rental front, Akel Homes is close to breaking ground on Mosaic Palms, a 187-unit rental property on Hypoluxo and Lyons roads in west Boynton Beach.

Solana Bay,

SUBHED: Meeting the homebuilding challenges

Amid these diverse projects, Akel is finding ways to navigate current homebuilding complexities.

The challenges for all area homebuilders include bringing new communities online to match the population growth and navigating the entitlement process, he says. “There needs to be broader discussions about how we can make the process of getting projects approved, more streamlined, how we can create more affordable and market-rate housing, and having initiatives that don’t increase the cost of housing.”

On inventory, he says, “We need to continue to work with county or municipal leaders to streamline the process of bringing new housing inventory to the market faster. It starts with alleviating some of the red tape. But there is a very fine line that we need to navigate where we make sure that our schools, our roads, and our water and sewer treatment plants all have sufficient capacity. Oftentimes, when we build more houses, there is a new tax base that we can tap into to fund any of these new services, and developers themselves contribute to those services through impact fees.”

Technology has become a major priority for Akel recently. One of his pride points is the launch of the myAkel.com portal for customers. The portal provides real-time updates and imagery on construction progress of every home, particularly to the benefit of out-of-state buyers. It’s all part of a concierge-style, white glove, home-building experience.

“We see buying a home as not just a ‘sign the contract and see you in 10 to 12 months’ opportunity,” he says. “We see it as an opportunity to really engage with the buyer. I’m really proud of our team and how, in really a short amount of time, we’ve become so focused on enhancing the customer experience. We are doing things that no other builder is doing from the quality of our homes to the ways in which we engage with our customers throughout the entire homebuilding process. Our goal is to provide the white glove experience you get while staying at the Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons, but for homebuilding.”

Solana Bay,

Beyond his daily business happenings, Akel is frequently out and about in the community. Habitat for Humanity remains a favorite partner and Akel has participated in CEO builds. He’s also active with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in Palm Beach and the Treasure Coast, recently raising $110,000 for its “Man of the Year” campaign.

Under the Akel Homes umbrella, he’s also proud of a donation incentive he helped launch for the company, in which $1,000 of every home sale gets donated to a nonprofit of the buyer’s choosing, including Feeding South Florida, the Wounded Warriors Foundation and St. Jude’s. He says, “this is all just the tip of the iceberg of what we’ve been doing in the community. We’re always looking for new organizations to support.”

Beyond business, Akel calls his family “my biggest priority in life.” He is married and has a son and daughter, both under the age of five. He says, “It’s all about being there for my kids and focusing on them and their future. And that’s why we’re committed to everything we do and giving back to our community. We want our kids to have a great future.”

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky

Editor-in-Chief

BIOGRAPHY

Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.