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Nearly Out of Vacant Land, Broward County Embraces Redevelopment

Builders Turning to High-Density, Multi-Use and Transit-Oriented Projects
June 11, 2018

An aerial shot of the 140-acre site around the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL. Broward County is looking for a designer and developer for the land.
Credit: Broward County.

Wedged between the Florida Everglades and the Atlantic Ocean, Broward County is one of the most land-constrained areas in the Sunshine State.

“It’s a geography problem,” said David Cobb, regional director of the Metrostudy research firm. “For all intents and purposes, Broward is built out as far as raw land is concerned.”

After decades of developing pristine, vacant dirt, commercial and residential builders are mostly left to compete for the scraps – small, infill parcels in various pockets of the county. Experts say future growth in Broward will depend heavily on redevelopment tied to high-density, mixed-use and transit-oriented projects.

The lack of land also affects, to a lesser degree, the neighboring counties of Palm Beach and Miami-Dade. But unlike Broward, those two counties have vacant property in the far-western reaches that developers have slowly started to access.

Triple Five Worldwide and The Graham Cos. received final approvals last month to develop a $4 billion retail and entertainment center and a 3 million-square foot business park on 511 acres in northwest Miami-Dade.

In Palm Beach County, two massive housing projects, Arden and Westgate, are sprouting in far-flung western areas. Commercial development there to support the thousands of new rooftops isn’t far behind, analysts say.

It’s much different in Broward. In a county with an urban area of 420 square miles, fewer than 10 square miles of vacant, developable land remains, according to county planner Henry Sniezek. He said redevelopment costs are driving land prices higher.

“Land is probably the most expensive part of a development deal now because there’s the added cost of cleaning up what’s already on the site,” Sniezek said.

What land is vacant is primarily smaller parcels that can accommodate only modest multifamily projects, market observers said.

A developer in Davie, FL, for instance, built 55 townhomes on a five-acre site along Hillsboro Boulevard in Coconut Creek, FL. That project is next to a 50-unit community.

“Assembling urban infill sites previously was less attractive,” said Stuart Kapp, a real estate attorney based in Boca Raton, FL. “Today it’s a necessity.”

Last week, Broward County officials announced a request for proposals to design one of the last remaining large, vacant tracts: 140 acres surrounding the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL, west of Fort Lauderdale.

An Urban Land Institute study determined that the best use would be a pedestrian-friendly development featuring offices, homes, hotels, shops, restaurants and entertainment.

After the master planning is complete, the county will turn to a private developer to build and own the project.

Anthony Trella, a real estate consultant in Deerfield Beach, FL, said one obvious concern is the effect a sports and concert venue would have on the new community. Still, due to the county’s severe land shortage, he expects the opportunity to draw plenty of interest from developers.

“Oh, they’ll jump all over it,” Trella said.

The $350 million Plantation Walk in Plantation, FL is the kind of redevelopment that will be taking place in Broward in the years ahead, analysts said.

Encore Capital Management has demolished the former Fashion Mall along Broward Boulevard and University Drive.

Once one of the most-crowded shopping centers in the county, the mall suffered damage during Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Macy’s closed after the storm and never reopened, and the mall was shuttered two years later.

A Chinese investment firm never fulfilled plans to redevelop the run-down, 35-acre site, and an affiliate of Encore bought it at a bankruptcy auction for $37.7 million in 2015.

Encore’s plans called for a renovated hotel and 160,000-square-foot office building, more than 200,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, and 700 apartments.

The offices are due to open later in the summer, according to Encore. The developer hasn’t announced tenants yet, though Aetna is negotiating for about half the space, brokers said. The balance of the project is due to follow next year.

“That area is starved for this kind of support,” said Jonathan Kingsley, executive vice president of Colliers International South Florida. “It will be a huge boon for Plantation. This is a great example of taking an old, functionally challenged asset and making it into something better.”

Credit: Paul Owers for CoStar Group.

Stiles is razing two Broward College buildings in downtown Fort Lauderdale, FL to make way for a new office tower.

The same scenario is playing out in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

The Stiles real estate firm assembled an entire city block from Las Olas Boulevard to Second Street, along Third Avenue. It's tearing down two old Broward College buildings at 201 E. Las Olas Blvd., and replacing them with a 355,390-square-foot office tower, the largest in the downtown corridor in more than a decade.

That project is next to a parcel at 212 SE Second Ave., where Fort Lauderdale-based Stiles is turning what was an old bank drive-through into more than 300 apartments and retail space.

Two blocks away, Miami-based Property Markets Group is redeveloping the former Las Olas Riverfront site west of Andrews Avenue into two towers featuring 1,200 apartments, shops and restaurants overlooking the New River.

Stiles' Norm Adams said zoning changes in recent years have given developers the density needed to repurpose these older sites.

"There's an appetite to develop in the downtown, and it's very exciting," Adams said. "But you've got to be creative and clever to see what's possible."

Paul Owers, South Florida Market Reporter  CoStar Group   
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