Moishe Mana arrived in New York from Israel in the 1980s and turned his “man with a van” delivery gig into one of the city’s great moving and storage companies. Trucks bearing the Moishe’s Moving name rumbled everywhere on Manhattan streets.
Today, the 59-year-old Mana has little to do with the business that helped make him a billionaire. The man who claims to have once faced down Mob boss John Gotti Jr. would rather talk about art, specifically the abandoned warehouses and dilapidated properties in run-down parts of New York, New Jersey and Chicago that he snapped up to convert into urban arts and cultural meccas.
Now the Israeli immigrant wants to do the same in Miami, but on a far more ambitious scale. He’s become the single biggest landholder in Miami’s Wynwood section, a gentrifying area north of downtown. Here, he’s proposing a massive, high-rise development of residential and office space to lure technology companies and international trade businesses -- built around museums, art spaces and dance studios.
Mana insists his focus on cultural attractions distinguishes him from a typical developer, a term he rejects with almost as much scorn as he reserves for a certain better-known builder, Donald Trump.
“I don’t take a building and just do condos,” he says in a thick Israeli accent. “I bought 45 buildings in two years in Miami because I build lifestyles around neighborhoods. My business model is a bit different.”
To that end, he says he will experiment in Wynwood with solving the problem of artists getting priced out of neighborhoods where real estate is booming: they would pay rent for micro apartments with their work. That happens to fit his endgame of accumulating an art collection that one day is more valuable than his land.
Mana’s fortune is valued at $1.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the first time he appears on a global wealth ranking. And most of it today is in real estate.
Often seen wearing dark sunglasses and T-shirts or collared shirts with a couple buttons undone, Mana drives a Mercedes sedan, which is not saying much in America’s luxury car capital. He doesn’t indulge in all the excesses his wealth could afford him, his friends say.
“He could, but he never would, own a private jet," says Eugene Lemay, his longtime business partner.