Carrying on the legacy

The late Allen Levin's son has a passion for a better beach

Carlton Proctor
Thirty-eight-year-old Andrew Rothfeder grew up in Montgomery, Ala., and was reared by adoptive parents.

After graduating from Emory University in Atlanta, Rothfeder ventured into the commercial development business, and later earned his MBA from the prestigious Wharton School of Finance.

As he was discovering his "passion" for development with an Atlanta firm, Rothfeder's biological father, Allen Levin of Pensacola, was discovering his passion for the same business about the same time.

Levin died last month after a long and extraordinary battle with lung cancer.

While building a successful career in Atlanta, Rothfeder and his wife had twin boys, and that event triggered a renewed interest in finding his biological parents.

An adoption agency in Birmingham, Ala., provided the necessary information which eventually led him to Pensacola and an emotional meeting with Levin.

That the father and son were both successful developers may have been coincidence, but it also was the catalyst for Rothfeder making a life-changing decision. He was invited to join his father's business, Levin and Rinke, developers of Portofino Resort on Pensacola Beach.

Now, just weeks after Levin's death, Rothfeder is not only following in his father's footsteps, but trying to fill his shoes.

And he appears to be succeeding in that effort.

Earlier this month Rothfeder and his business partner, Robert Rinke, announced a major management deal with Intrawest, a huge resort management firm out of Vancouver, British Columbia. The deal involves a partnership to build two new condo towers, a conference center, and possibly a four-star hotel.

Here's what Rothfeder said recently about Pensacola and the development business:

Q: How did you get into the development business?

A: I started in an entry-level job working in the real estate department of a national retailer based in Montgomery. I then put myself through college leasing shopping center space for a developer in Atlanta. I learned that I had a passion for the business and continued after graduating Emory University, rising through the ranks of a publicly held REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust).

Q: What particular expertise or strengths do you bring to the Levin and Rinke team?

Well, it's tough to say what I bring to these guys, given their track record of success. The foundation of the development business is like anything else: live for your customer, be creative, solve problems"ยป and work your tail off. In my previous job, I redeveloped shopping centers and managed a large team, and nothing was more important than understanding client needs, and inspiring my team to manage every detail with a process-philosophy until the work that supported the developer's initial vision is complete.

Q: How long have you lived in Pensacola, and what's your impression of the city?

A: We moved to Gulf Breeze 18 months ago, and we love being a part of a small community. Our 9-year-old twins can ride their bikes around our neighborhood and walk to school -- something unheard of in a large city like Atlanta. I truly believe Pensacola will emerge as the nicest beach recreation area on the Gulf Coast.

Q: What is your sense of the current state of the local economy, and do you see the condo market improving over the next year or two?

A: I'm incredibly bullish on the beach. Pensacola is a fantastic place to live, and the beach is the crown jewel. There are so many other areas along the Gulf Coast that are over-developed, and so much credit goes to the visionaries that have preserved the natural beauty of the island.

Interest rates are very attractive for borrowing, and the beach has a relatively limited supply of existing product. Going forward, very few new projects can be developed on the beach, and the redevelopment of infrastructure and storm-damaged homes will further boost property values. Combine all that with another calm season, I see the market getting much better in 12-18 months.

Q: What are some of the types of projects (shopping centers, etc.) you've worked on in the Atlanta area, and also along the Gulf Coast?

A: We developed many community and regional shopping centers in the Southeast - mostly Target, Wal-Mart, Lowe's, and Home Depot-anchored projects. In the late nineties, we developed the Wal-Mart/Lowe's project in Gulf Breeze, as well as the Lowe's in Pensacola that was formerly Mariner Mall. We also did two urban mid-rise projects in Atlanta, which had high-end condominiums above ground-floor retail.

Q: What is your educational background and business training experience?

A: I hold a BBA from Emory University, and an MBA from Wharton at University of Pennsylvania.

Q: Was it a difficult decision to leave Atlanta, move your family to Pensacola and begin a new endeavor with Levin and Rinke?

A: The tough part of the decision was leaving the community and close friends we had developed over 18 years. We imagined ourselves growing old there, and also knew this was a unique opportunity that was well worth changing those plans. Coming to work with seasoned, successful, and community-minded developers like Allen (Levin) and Robert (Rinke) was an incredible chance to stretch me professionally. We also moved closer to lots of family, which was a huge draw as well.

Q: What do you and your family like to do with your leisure time?

A: Sara and I have 9-year-old twins, Cassidy and Austin, and I have a 19-year-old son, Hunter. Most of our free time is spent with the kids and all of their activities - gymnastics, soccer, and baseball. We also spend lots of time with our family her.

New Development on line to start Mid 2007 get info hot off the presses!