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Property Manager Spotlight: Deirdre Ashe finds her Palace

Colombian-born Deirdre (“Didi”) Ashe’s globe-trotting childhood prepared her well for Miami’s cultural diversity. Born to an English father and German mother, she recalls traveling extensively as a youngster including visits to Key Biscayne. During her primary and secondary school years she studied in Italy and France and then moved to New York to study at Columbia University. She married an American from Boston and when they divorced, found herself in Miami.

“I never imagined I would end up in Miami, but at the end of my divorce, I moved into my mother’s apartment at The Sands in Key Biscayne as she only used the apartment a few weeks of the year,” she said.

DeirdreAshe

Deirdre (“Didi) Ashe

Key Biscayne was the perfect place for her to settle, as she had fond memories of visiting the island often with her parents as a child. They used to stay at the Key Biscayne Hotel on Ocean Drive, a spot now occupied by the Ocean Club.

The Key Biscayne of Didi’s childhood was a quiet, remote paradise. The only access was a drawbridge, which she says often got stuck. Traffic consisted of a few cars leaving in the morning and returning at night. The island was so isolated and safe, she was allowed a lot of freedom as a kid.

“I remember bicycling around the island with friends, stopping at Vernon’s drugstore to have lunch at the counter, visiting the homeless camp in the middle of the coconut plantation now developed into Key Biscayne Park,” she said.

Her parents would take her and her friends to dine at the English Pub or the Jamaica Inn. They would go to the old Crandon Park Zoo with the child-sized railroad and ride around.

“However, even with all these great memories, I never imagined living in Key Biscayne permanently nor much less managing buildings in the area,” she said.

Afterall, she had studied political science and modern European history and had lectured at several prominent universities, as well as having helped open and run an advertising agency in New York with her former husband. It was the Board president at the Island Breakers, Miriam Consuegra, who encouraged Didi to study and take the test to become certified in property management.

She ended up managing Island Breakers and then Casa del Mar Condominium in Key Biscayne before becoming manager at the Palace Condominium in 2007.

Managing the physical buildings as well as the residents within is challenging work. At The Palace, residents range in age from retired to young professionals to those starting new families, meaning managers must be able to diplomatically mediate between the varying needs of those age sets. Like most of Brickell and Miami, Palace residents are ethnically and culturally diverse as well. Managers need to be able to communicate in a variety of languages and be sensitive to cultural differences of residents while appreciating the richness of that diversity. But these challenges do not dissuade Didi who has high praise for her new hometown and neighborhood.

“Brickell is electric! It is alive. It has become a multi-national, dynamic hub with a mixture of residents from many countries and varied ages. I remember this area when there were only a few large family homes along the bay. The land where The Palace is located was a catholic school where the parents of some of my friends had attended,” she said.

With all the new buildings sprouting up toward the heavens “one of the truly powerful tools we have in the Brickell area is BHA. It not only provides a venue for exchange of ideas and information, which is a great tool for building management, but also gives area residents immense political power to push issues of local concern,” she said.

To balance the daily demands of building management, Didi is a sculptor and painter who enjoys the cultural side of any city, and particularly loves Miami’s. She’s watched its growth and emergence as a cultural force.

“During my lifetime Miami has grown from a sleepy oceanfront resort town into a vibrant international city. It is marvelous to see the richness of culture and cuisine that are all around us. The construction of the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts has provided us with a wonderful venue which has enhanced our lives,” she said.

The only complication in her life is trying to see her family who are spread out around the United States, Central America and Europe. One silver living though: “I have been blessed by having my adult son Gordon move to Miami a couple of years ago.”

This, and the excitement of Brickell…she is happy. •