The Early Days – Courtesy of Viera
Building a Legacy: Three Developers’ Stories
Founding and growing a successful business is not for the faint of heart. It requires unparalleled focus,unswerving attention to detail, and a clear-eyed sense of one’s goals—as well as the commitment to see them through. Often, getting such a business off the ground—not to mention keeping it running strong—means spending time away from family. In the case of these three incredible developers, however, running their own business is just the contrary. The Viera Company, Logan Homes, and On Top of the World are all family affairs—and they’re much the better for it. All three companies have created business models with room to incorporate family members at every level of involvement—from board members to sales directors, managers to CEOs. When it comes to building a legacy to remember, for these three developers, it’s all in the family.
The Viera Company: A Family Affair
In 1926, Slovak immigrant Andrew Duda and his sons produced their first cash crop of celery—an event that laid the foundation for the establishment of the Duda family legacy. Two decades later, those sons—the “three seniors”—
purchased a 43,000-acre tract of land in Brevard, FL, on what would become the Sunshine State’s Space Coast, with the intent of creating a major cattle operation. Today, that tract of land is Viera, the 15th top-selling master-planned community in the United States. With a deep-rooted commitment to environmental preservation, dedication to philanthropy, a wide range of education and worship opportunities, and stellar amenities, Viera has evolved a great deal over the years. But one thing hasn’t changed: It remains a family affair.
“There are currently 27 Duda family members working for the company,” says C. Scott Miller, VP of Sales and Community Management, who has been with the company for 25 years. “There are 19 fourth-generation family members in roles ranging from the CEO/President position to leadership roles across all major business units, and we have eight fifth-generation family members involved in various facets of the company, from western vegetable operations in California to homebuilding and land development here in Viera. We also have six family members serving on the board of directors, including a third-generation family member serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors.”
With all that The Viera Company has already achieved, company President Todd J. Pokrywa believes there is still a lot of room for innovation. “While today Viera currently has over 23,500 residents, 10,500 homes, three million square feet of commercial space, and 10,000 jobs across 350 businesses, at buildout the community is projected to be home to over 60,000 residents, up to 31,000 homes, over seven million square feet of commercial space, and over 25,000 jobs across 600 businesses,” says Pokrywa, who wrote his thesis on Viera while studying urban and regional planning at the University of Waterloo.
Pokrywa has nurtured an interest in Viera since childhood, when his family traveled from Canada each year to vacation on Florida’s Space Coast. “I was intrigued about the community from the very beginning, given the long-term vision and commitment to stewardship that the family expressed when unveiling and pursuing the vision for Viera. From early on in the development, the community has enhanced the quality of life for its residents and provided an environment for businesses to be successful,” he says.
Given that he’s been with the company for a quarter of a century, C. Scott Miller has a unique perspective on Viera’s growth over the years.
“I suspect that the three seniors likely did not envision that their Cocoa Ranch would transform to the major master-planned community that is Viera today, but I am equally confident that they would be proud of the fact that the project has been successfully built with attention to detail and an overarching sense of ethical stewardship,” Miller says. “I find it humbling when I look back at the boldness that the third-generation family leadership took in electing to develop a master planned community over an enormous parcel of land. Viera means ‘faith’ in Slovak, the native tongue of Andrew Duda, and the success of Viera lies on the back of the same foundation of faith and hard-working perseverance that the three seniors and their father exhibited in starting the company in the early 1900s.”
Logan Homes: Like Father, Like Son
In 1986, Logan Homes built its first luxury home on the southeastern North Carolina coast. The seeds that gave rise to the company were planted three years before, though, when president and owner D. Logan, Sr. was still a teenager. “My dad kicked me out of the house when I was 16, which led to a career digging ditches,” says D. Logan, Sr. with typical humility. “I worked for a contractor for a while. Then I started Logan Homes when I was 19.” D. Logan was introduced to the world of custom home building by starting first as a carpenter’s helper where he assisted in building some of the finest homes along Wrightsville Beach and Figure Eight Island, after which he turned his dream into a reality and began Logan Homes.
Many 19-year-olds wouldn’t have the savvy to start their own business—much less one that is still thriving 32 years later—but D. Logan, Sr. is the exception. Honesty and integrity along with determination and dedication to excellence have kept the company going. “We did custom building for about 15 years. Then, 15 or 20 years ago, we started developing our own land,” he says.
With a wide range of plans in their portfolio for personalized and move-in-ready homes in both North Carolina and the South Carolina lowcountry, including new master-planned communities in Bluffton, SC, Logan Homes has come a long way since those early days.
“The home you build is only as good as the people who build it,” says D. Logan, Sr. Always trying to improve the building process, he has fostered the same passionate attitude throughout Logan Homes’ nearly 80 employees over two divisions. He has assembled and empowered a team with attention to detail that embraces cutting edge technologies to create homes and communities at competitive prices. He is quick to share the accolades of his success with his team who helped propel Logan Homes to its success, including Vice President, PJ Kelly, who has worked for Logan for over 23 years, and CFO, Patrick Lennon, who arrived in 2010 with a wealth of construction accounting expertise.
The founder’s son, D. Logan, Jr., now the company’s sales and marketing director, also followed an entrepreneurial path, Logan, Sr. says, “My son was a salesman from early on. When he graduated from high school, he came to me and said, ‘I don’t want to go to college with my sister … I want to join Logan Homes.’” Remembering his own beginnings, he decided to give Logan, Jr. a try. “He’d started out at an early age—13 or 14—working on job sites during the summer. When he was 16 or 17, he started out as an assistant superintendent. I put him in sales three to four years ago, and now he’s the sales manager. He’s an incredible entrepreneur,” Logan, Sr. says.
Logan, Sr.’s daughter, Mary Catherine Santos, also works for Logan Homes in pre-construction operations. “She is incredibly efficient in ways that I never was, and very good with permitting. She is excellent with the nitty-gritty details and working with municipalities,” Logan, Sr. says.
“My dad is extremely driven and extremely passionate,” Logan, Jr. adds. “D. Logan is no slouch. Yes, he’s built a successful $100 million a year company, but he’s in the details daily. He knows every single in and out of every single warm body in this office. It’s very rare for the president of the company to still be that intimately involved. It’s not that he’s scared—it’s that he loves it. He’s itching to be in every single detail.”
Logan, Sr. agrees. “I love what I do.”
On Top of the World: The Colen Family’s Legacy
In 1947, the late entrepreneur Sidney Colen founded On Top of the World Communities, Florida’s oldest privately-owned land developer. “As a child of the Great Depression, he wanted to build a good, secure life for his family. Development and building also fulfilled his own very entrepreneurial drive. (It was) a perfect match-up,” says Colen’s son Kenneth, who has served as president of On Top of the World since 1981.
Sidney Colen’s vision was to create “a community of great scale that would not only support expansive amenities, but would also support an arts and education component. He understood that the arts are the highest and most noble expression of human creativity,” Kenneth Colen says.
Even the greatest visionaries need to start somewhere, and Kenneth’s father “literally built his first home and sold it (to the chagrin of his in-laws, who thought he should move into it with his new bride and start a family).”
After years of quality homebuilding and development, in late 1975 Sidney Colen purchased 12,500 acres of land in Ocala, FL, based on a handshake deal, with the details written on the back of an envelope—and the company’s flagship retirement community was born. Today, On Top of the World’s Ocala community offers a stellar range of amenities, continues to fulfill its mission to protect the environment through conservation easements as well as partnerships with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and builds eco-conscious “Water Wise” homes and yards. The community also features Circle Square Cultural Center, The Ranch Fitness Center and Spa, a farmer’s market, and a range of retail outlets.
On Top of the World operates a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) educational foundation, Master The Possibilities, which “offers residents (and non-residents) the opportunity to continue to expand their educational discovery horizons, to develop skills in a range of arts, by active participation. It’s one thing to be passively entertained, and entirely another to be actively engaged as a creator,” company president Kenneth Colen says, echoing his father’s passion for arts and education. “There is a great give and take, a sharing of ideas and dialogue that can be very engaging. Participants take an active role in determining class offerings. If there is interest in a topic, MTP will make it happen.”
This resident-driven approach is also visible in On Top of the World’s “maker space,” home to a woodworking and metals shop, as well as their R/C Flying Field, another resident-led initiative. “We have the land, they have the interest, and it’s a beautiful marriage of the two. With over 140 R/C club members, the original concept of an airfield continues to evolve, and now includes a drone obstacle course as well as a radio-controlled car track,” says Colen, whose sister Leslee plays an active role in community management at the company’s Clearwater, FL, location. The siblings’ cousin, Robert Colen, serves as On Top of the World’s Director of Warranty Services in Ocala.
Under the next generation’s leadership, On Top of the World continues to offer thoughtfully-designed, energy-efficient homes in welcoming, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. Starting in late 2019, the company plans to return to its roots, with a new single-family housing development featuring green space and an extensive trail system.
“Home building and development are noble professions,” Kenneth Colen says of carrying forward his father’s legacy. “When done right, they have tremendous power to influence people’s lives for good and for many years.”