From the boardroom to the loading dock, Maile Aguila greets every person she encounters with a warm smile and lively hello. With her blazing blonde hair, exuberant style and emphatic presence, Aguila is a Miami real estate icon. But Aguila was never supposed to be in the business of buildings.
An accountant by trade, numbers have always been easy for her, until she realized closing deals also came naturally. In 1994, Swire Properties saw that potential and hired her. The pregnant Aguila was tasked with selling Swire’s next Brickell Key building, Tequesta One. “My daughter, Lian, was my lucky charm. I delivered her and the building within four days of each other,” she said.
Aguila affectionately calls the Miami-headquartered development company a gentle giant for its visionary insight and ability to execute the evolution of Brickell Key’s 44-acres and Brickell City Centre’s nearly five million square feet of retail, residential, hotel and office space.
“It is mind-boggling what Swire has done,” she said. “They created two major mixed-use developments that changed Miami forever. Being a part of both has been my lifetime achievement.”
Born in Cuba, Aguila immigrated to Miami with her family in 1960. Her fleeting memories of her native land spotlight her happiness among her grandfather’s horses. Equines have always played a major role in Aguila’s life, especially helping her get through the tragic, heartbreaking death of her husband Bernabe Oteiza.
The cataclysmic event of losing the love of her life to a rare aggressive cancer within weeks of diagnosis and becoming a widow with a 3-year-old daughter only made her stronger. She used her fiery passion for her career to find her balance and inner strength to keep going.
“Swire stood by me, and I don’t know another company that would do that,” she said. “Even the CEO sent me a handwritten condolence card. I’m part of their family, and they treat me that way.”
THE REAL DEAL
Aguila wakes every morning at 5:30 a.m. on her five-acre Redland farm where she lives with her 11 horses, 12 dogs, wild parrots, koi fish and until recently a family of donkeys — Margarita, Nacho and Martini.
For Aguila, the hour-long commute to her office is worth it. At times, she even carpools into town with her daughter, sharing their love for music. The former ballet dancer and singer, who now only performs concerts in her car, notes with a contagious laugh, “I don’t believe in happily ever after, but I do believe that if you gather great memories with great people, then you’ve had a great life.”