South Florida’s Construction Boom Heads North
Known for years as little more than a retirement community with a racetrack and a few pastel-hued motels that had seen better days, this small oceanfront town is not the first place that comes to mind when wealthy Brazilians and Russians seek out expensive condominiums.
But the construction boom of recent years south of here, in Miami Beach and its neighboring areas, has used up almost all the best lots. So developers are migrating north to Broward County locales like Hallandale Beach, Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale that do not have as much cachet but which, because of their beachfront locations, are seen as having great upside potential. The land is cheaper, too, which makes for relatively good deals — at least for now.
“It’s very, very exciting,” said Joy F. Cooper, the mayor of Hallandale Beach, who views the luxurious residential projects here as a transformative shot in the arm. When she was elected a decade ago, Ms. Cooper said, development was “stagnant” and the median age of the city’s residents was in the 70s. Now, it’s 47.
“We’ve seen a total gentrification of our community,” she said. “We took the playbook right out of Miami Beach.”
The development along this stretch of the coast includes not only residential complexes, but hotels and retail space that promise to change the face of this region.
Even as the post-recession boom in South Florida shows signs of cooling — evidently because the strong American dollar is eroding the purchasing power of foreign investors — prices in coastal Miami-Dade County remain largely stratospheric, prompting prospective buyers with somewhat less disposable income to cast their nets elsewhere.
“People who are financially comfortable should be able to get something fantastic, and it gets harder and harder in Miami,” said Ryan Weisfisch, the developer of the Oceanbleau tower in Hollywood, scheduled to open in early 2017 with 48 units starting at $1.6 million. “They’re coming here not because of the allure, but because people are priced out of Miami Beach.”
On Broward County’s 24-mile coastal strip, 83 new residential towers, with 7,901 units, have been announced or are under construction — 37 of them in the last year, according to Peter Zalewski, a real estate consultant who tracks local trends on the website CraneSpotters.com. In Fort Lauderdale alone, he said, 44 such projects are in the works, 29 more than last year.
Adding to the appeal of the new Broward developments are prices per square foot that are often half or less of what similar condominiums have been fetching in Miami Beach, Sunny Isles, Bal Harbour and other coastal communities in Miami-Dade County. Value for money, Mr. Zalewski said, is especially important for cost-conscious foreign investors who plan to rent out their units.
“These are people who previously wouldn’t have considered going to Broward County,” Mr. Zalewski said. “People are getting more comfortable with Broward than they were a few years back.”
till, it has not necessarily been an easy sell. Crawford Sherman, the regional director for COMO Resorts and Hotels properties in Miami Beach and the Turks and Caicos Islands, and who has worked also in Paris, Hawaii and New York, notes that it usually takes a long time for a place to be known as a hot commodity.
“You can go anywhere in the world and mention Miami, Palm Beach or even Fort Lauderdale and there’s immediate recognition,” Mr. Sherman said. “I don’t think those other places have the cachet,” he went on, referring to Hallandale Beach and Hollywood, “although I’m sure the developers are hoping they do.”
Jorge Perez, South Florida’s most prolific condominium developer, is one of the optimists. “It’s exploding,” he said of the Broward coastline, which until recently had barely registered with builders who were busy cashing in on the Miami Beach rush.
Mr. Perez’s Related Group is responsible for several projects in Broward County, most of which have sold out quickly. They include the 22-story Apogee Beach in Hollywood, completed in the fall of 2013, after which Mr. Perez himself moved in; Beachwalk Resort, a 32-story condominium-and-hotel tower that opened this year on the Intracoastal Waterway in Hallandale; the Hyde Resort and Residences, which straddles the border between Hallandale and Hollywood and is set to open in late 2016; the Hyde Beach House across the street, recently announced; and, on the site of the old Ireland’s Inn motel in Fort Lauderdale, the 171-unit Auberge Beach Residences and Spa, under construction.
“If that building was in South Beach, it would probably command close to $5,000 a square foot,” said Carlos Rosso, head of the Related Group’s condominium division, referring to the Auberge. “But because it’s Fort Lauderdale, spectacular luxury units with 20-feet-deep terraces are selling for $1,100 a square foot.”
Finding oceanfront sites in South Beach — the most chic part of Miami Beach — “is close to an impossibility these days,” Mr. Rosso said during a tour of the firm’s developments in Broward. “It’s a different scene up here. It’s more quirky — you need to discover it. It’s not like South Beach, where everything is so obvious. The market will get here because there’s nothing left. Up here, you can still get a place for $600 a square foot. Buyers want access to the beach, but at a fraction of the price.”
Driving on Hallandale Beach Boulevard, the town’s main east-west thoroughfare, Mr. Rosso said, “This whole avenue is going to be developed.”
He cited a plan by the Chateau Group to build a mixed-use development on the boulevard that will include more than 140,000 square feet of retail space, almost 100,000 square feet of office space, 280 hotel rooms in a pair of eight-story buildings and 727 residential units in two 53-story residential towers.
The 22 other “major development” projects listed on the Hallandale Beach city government website include not only residential and hotel buildings but office complexes, commercial and medical buildings, a retail plaza, a new fire station and emergency operations center, and an enlarged Bluesten Park, with a new pool, baseball field and community center. In addition, retail stores, speculative office spaces and other “minor development” projects are being planned in the shadows of the larger ones, said Keven Klopp, Hallandale Beach’s director of development services.
Similar commercial development is in sight for Hollywood, where both the Jimmy Buffett-themed Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort and the Meliá Costa Hollywood Beach Resort are expected to open this fall.
After long battles with an entrenched anti-development movement in Fort Lauderdale, city officials have in recent years managed to approve a number of projects. They include a $1 billion plan for the Galleria Mall that includes homes, apartments, hotel rooms and a 45-story tower; the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences, a 23-story structure expected to begin construction next year; and two projects set to open in 2017 — the Paramount Fort Lauderdale Beach, a 95-residence tower, and the Gale Boutique Hotel and Residences, with 128 condominiums, 96 hotel rooms and suites and pre-construction prices from the low $400,000s to more than $1.2 million.
In Sunny Isles, just south of Hallandale Beach and the tiny waterfront community of Golden Beach, Louis R. Montello, a lawyer turned developer, was asking $45 million for the penthouse of Regalia, his newly completed, 39-unit condo tower. Over canapés and croissants at poolside, he was dismissive of all that excitement a few miles south on the shores of Miami-Dade County.
“The people who come here don’t want the chaos of South Beach,” Mr. Montello said. “The parking problems, noise, traffic — all that stuff you get with South Beach.”