Florida Bill Aims to Put Construction on a Fast Track

By staff writer

April 2019

The Commercial Real Estate Development Association’s (NAIOP) South Florida chapter is making the Fast Act a legislative priority for 2019 — and its efforts are gaining steam in Tallahassee, according to supporters. The Fast Act, or Florida House Bill 1139, aims to provide relief to commercial real estate owners and developers who face long delays in getting the construction permits they need to start construction.

Industry leaders fired off another wave of letters supporting the Fast Act, which successfully passed its first senate committee on April 9. The legislation drafted by NAIOP’s lobbying team has already cleared two house committees.

Supporters of the Fast Act and HB 1139 argue the solidification of permitting timelines in the bill as well as the creation of a separate, expedited process would greatly assist in construction by incentivizing local municipalities to meet pertinent deadlines.

NAIOP South Florida president Darcie Lunsford said the delays in permitting are “deal killers and a major drag on local businesses and our economy.” She indicated the onerous process is so bad sometimes that “it can take longer to get the permit than to build out a new office space.”

Current Florida law mandates decisions over construction permits in 120 days. However, there are no consequences if a local jurisdiction does not adhere to that timeline. As a result, the permitting process can become exceedingly lengthy, sometimes taking more than a year. Owners and developers who require inspections often also have a difficult time scheduling the right personnel.

If passed, the Fast Act would institute certain rules to speed up the permitting process. Local governments would be required to establish an expedited processing system that would carry a charge of no more than double the current rate. In addition, local governments that do not meet a hard permit deadline would see the permit fee reduced by 10 percent per ten business days of delay. If the delay is long enough to where the fee gets reduced by more than 50 percent before the permit is approved, the local government must refund all fees to the applicant.

Supporters of the Fast Act argue local governments could boost their revenues by utilizing an expedited permitting process that would give exposure to more owners and developers. As HB 1139 has made its way through Florida’s legislative process, leaders across NAIOP’s South Florida chapter have corresponded closely with local lawmakers to urge their support and passage of the legislation.

Lunsford hopes the bill “continues to gain momentum” so that it can soon provide needed relief to owners, developers and tenants “who need to get into spaces in a more timely fashion.”

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Experience Aventura Mall

By staff writer

March 2019

With over 300 stores ranging from luxury retail to mass market, an onsite resort and golf course, seemingly limitless dining options and museum-quality art, it should come as no surprise that the Aventura Mall ranked number two on Travel + Leisure’s list of “America’s Most Visited Shopping Malls.”

The mall is the largest in Florida, and with a whopping 28 million annual visitors, it is a testament to the value of experiential retail and how it can be utilized to draw in customers and capital.

As the e-commerce industry continues to rise nationally, malls such as Aventura highlight the value behind experiential retail — i.e., offering customers a multifaceted and immersive retail setting that allows them to do much more than simply shop.

“The stores that need to be experiential tend to cater to the higher-end demographic. Cocowalk and the Aventura Mall’s expansions are examples of this,” explained Hue Chen, president of Saglo Development, in a recent conversation with Invest: Miami. “Retailers need to continue to add to their offerings in ways that make their businesses unique to their customers. It’s important to be memorable.”

What sets the Aventura Mall apart from other large, experiential malls is its emphasis on sophistication and cultural enrichment.

“The Collection,” a collection of sculptures and art installations found throughout the mall, showcases work from world-renowned international and local artists such as Robert Indiana, Claire Fontaine and Brian Butler. The Collection is so expansive that visitors can sign up for guided tours of the mall to learn more about the art featured.

In addition to art, visitors to the mall can take advantage of its many events scheduled throughout the year, ranging from fashion shows, to launch events for major clothing brands such as Lacoste, to food festivals.

As if the mall wasn’t already well equipped to attract tourists, there is also a luxury hotel — the JW Marriott Turnberry Resort and Spa — onsite that offers a golf course and free transportation for visitors to and from the site.

When Invest: Miami spoke with Jackie Soffer, CEO and chairman of Turnberry Associates and principal owner of the Aventura Mall, she highlighted the mall as one of the reasons Aventura itself has become a “well-known shopping destination” that continues to draw in vacationers.

“Weve grown the mall, which is now easily one of the top malls in the country and has over the years changed for the better in terms of its sophistication and quality of tenants,” Soffer told Invest:. “We are continuing to expand Aventura with plans for new hotels and an office building.”

The mall expanded in 2017 and opened a new three-level wing that features retail outlets such as Zara and Topshop Topman, as well as modern architecture by Carlos Zapata. This speaks volumes for the innovative and forward-thinking nature of the Aventura Mall and its leaders, as that same year 7,000 malls closed their doors nationwide. There’s no question the nature of American retail is changing, but the Aventura Mall is staying well ahead of the game!

To learn more about the mall and its offerings, as well as our interviewees, visit the following websites:

Aventura Mall: https://aventuramall.com/
Turnberry Associates: https://www.turnberry.com/
Saglo Development: http://www.saglo.com/


Affordable Living

By staff writer

March 2019

By Urban Land Institute Atlanta estimates, the Metro Atlanta region needs 5,000 new units of affordable housing annually just to accommodate the area’s growth and 10,000 homes annually to start mitigating the affordability problem. To really solve the problem, it’s estimated that the area would need about 250 million units per year over a 10-year period, which is equivalent to a $2.3 billion investment to preserve and produce affordable units at this scale.

While not quite on that level, in January 2019 Invest Atlanta and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms approved millions of dollars of funding for three new affordable housing projects along one of Atlanta’s most important emerging commercial corridors and in the Westside neighborhoods of Vine City and English Avenue.

The first project, CityPlace, received a loan of $1 million from the Vine City Housing Trust Fund, which will allow developer Place Properties to build five new single-family residences with price tags ranging from $135,000 to $160,000. The second project, Urban Oasis, secured financing of $250,000, also from the Vine City Housing Trust Fund. Sims Real Estate Group plans to renovate three old homes and build a fourth in this community. The renovated homes will be available to families who earn 80 percent area median income (AMI) or below, while the new home will be offered for sale to families earning 100 to 120 percent AMI.

The third project is a 130-unit multifamily development, Hartland Station, that was approved for up to $1.3 million in pay-as-you-go grant funding from the Metropolitan Parkway tax allocation district. This development will offer 40 units for families earning 50 percent AMI and below and 70 units to those earning 60 percent AMI or below.

These three new developments underscore the efforts of the mayor and the city’s economic development arm to bring more affordability to Metro Atlanta. It’s an issue that city leaders don’t take lightly. When our team at Focus: Atlanta sat down with Mayor Bottoms last year, she pointed to several important initiatives designed to broaden the conversation about affordable housing.

“We named the city’s first-ever chief housing officer, Terri Lee, whose singular focus is developing a citywide affordability strategy, including coordinating policy initiatives with our agencies and partners and helping us reach our $1 billion affordable housing investment goal,” Mayor Bottoms told Focus:. “We also brought together our planning department, the head of the Atlanta Housing Authority, the head of Invest Atlanta and the head of the BeltLine, and what we learned is that a conversation with those leaders around the table had never happened in our city. I think this really speaks to how much work needs to be done.”

There’s no question that the affordability issue will take more than just conversations to effect real change. “Affordable housing is a passion of mine, and it’s probably a bigger problem today than it was a year ago,” Matthew Shulman, CEO and managing partner at Ardent Companies, told Focus:. “Projects like the Gulch are planning on 20 percent affordable housing, and it would be great to see a lot of development going that way. I’m hoping there can be more engagement between the public and private sectors to solve the issue of affordable housing.”

In the spirit of public-private collaboration, in January 2018 the public-private taskforce HouseATL was launched to promote a collaborative, cross-sector process for expanding the supply of affordable housing in the region. In August of last year, HouseATL set a goal of investing $500 million in public resources and another $500 million in private resources to build or preserve 24,000 affordable homes in Atlanta over the next eight to 10 years.

Some metro area residential builders are also stepping up to the plate to provide housing options at affordable price points to Atlanta residents. “We’re really excited to reintroduce the Centex brand in Metro Atlanta,” Will Cutler, Georgia Division president at PulteGroup, told Focus:. “It has not been a part of this market for about six years or so. Our newest community in South Fulton County, Princeton Village, is opening up as we speak. Centex is focused on the first-time buyer who is very conscious about price point. Many first-time buyers walk through the front door and truly don’t understand what it means to be able to buy a house. Can they afford it? That’s where the strength of the Centex brand comes into play. A lot of teachers and police officers have a hard time finding affordable homes in the Atlanta market right now, so we think it’s important to make sure that we focus on delivering a quality home that is consumer inspired to that buyer. We’re excited to bring that into this market again.”

The BeltLine could also be welcoming new below-market-rate housing as early as the summer of 2019. The Madison Reynoldstown development includes plans to set aside 116 apartments for affordable housing. This project would be the first in a private partnership between Atlanta Housing and the BeltLine.

Atlanta has a long way to go to ensure affordability and quality of life for its residents, but leaders in both the public and private sectors are taking important steps toward providing viable housing options to all. Focus: Atlanta will be keeping a close eye on these developments throughout 2019.

For more information on our interviewees, please visit their websites:

City of Atlanta: https://www.atlantaga.gov/

The Ardent Companies: https://theardentcompanies.com/

PulteGroup: http://www.pultegroupinc.com/home/default.aspx


Navigating Miami’s Opportunity Zones

By staff writer

February 2019

Credit: The Beacon Council.

One of the hottest topics regarding our current economy is opportunity zones (OZ), a designation that came about through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that allows special advantages for investors who choose to invest in designated low-income areas throughout the country.

When Invest: Miami recently sat down with Ronald Fieldstone, partner at Saul, Ewig, Arnstein & Lehr LLP, he explained the three primary benefits of opportunity zones for investors.

“First, if you invest capital gains from the sale of any source — it could be real estate, stocks or business sales — that capital gains tax is deferred until December 31, 2026. Second, if you keep the investment in the OZ for seven years, you get a 15 percent reduction in the tax,” Fieldstone told Invest:. “Third, if the deferral is done properly, the entire appreciation in the investment as a capital asset is tax-free and the term limit is 30 years. In other words, you could invest in an OZ in 2018, build an apartment project, hold it for up to 30 years and then that entire appreciation in value is tax free.”

Florida is home to 427 opportunity zones. With 68 of those being located in Miami, it’s no wonder that the local business ecosystem is abuzz with talk of the legislation and how it can both promote economic development and ensure investors’ long-term capital gain.

Last week, Invest: Miami attended the local Bisnow event Opportunity Zones 101, which showcased panel discussions geared toward educating local businessmen on how to navigate this new and promising legislation. One of the featured speakers at the event was Don Peebles, CEO of the Peebles Corporation,  who offered his insights on how OZs can encourage economic growth.

“The power of establishing the zones is at the local level,” Peebles said. “For example, in Miami, if you look at where the zones are — they border Wynwood, they border Edgewater, they border Downtown with Overtown — they are areas that would ordinarily, over time, be recipients of economic growth and development. Opportunity zones stimulate that and make it happen faster.”

With its prevalence of designated opportunity zones and general reputation as a high-growth economy, legislation such as this will work to further ensure long-term growth and development for Miami.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:
Saul, Ewig, Arnstein & Lehr LLP: https://www.saul.com/
The Peebles Corporation: http://peeblescorp.com/

For more information on opportunity zones, pre-order a copy of Invest: Miami 2019 here: https://www.capitalanalyticsassociates.com/product/invest-miami-advance-purchase


Unprecedented Opportunity

By staff writer

February 2019

With foreign investment slowing and residential real estate values in Palm Beach County outpacing the region, investors, first and second homebuyers and young professionals are flocking to Palm Beach to snap up unprecedented opportunities in one of the nation’s most in-demand markets.

A 2018 South Florida Business Journal analysis of the region found that 10 of the 25 zip codes with the fastest double-digit percentage price growth were all located in Palm Beach County. Meanwhile, an analysis of Multiple Listing Service data found Palm Beach County luxury condominium home sales jumped 28 percent in December 2018 as $1-million-and-up homebuyers continued selecting Palm Beach’s incredible live, work, play lifestyle.

In December 2018 the median sale price of a single-family home in south Palm Beach County, where many of those fast-growing zip codes are located, rose 10.9 percent compared to the previous month and 8.6 percent year-over-year. The area has long boasted miles of pristine white sand beaches, luxury shopping, new construction and top-notch schools.

“We are seeing trends surrounding millennials and young professionals here in the region,” Chris Heine, Jr., president of Chris Allen Realty, told Invest: Palm Beach when he sat down with our team in December. “Young professionals in their late 20s and early 30s are renting luxury condos and buying million-dollar homes. This is something that we were not seeing a few years ago. As the Palm Beach business market grows, we are attracting younger professionals who are looking for their first homes and making investments in beautiful properties.”

The total number of year-over-year sales in December 2018 fell by 10.3 percent, which was attributed to a lack of inventory at lower price points. Helping to drive that trend was the fact that the average commitment rate for a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage decreased from 4.87 percent in November to 4.64 percent in December, according to Freddie Mac. As such, it’s not only the Palm Beach lifestyle that new and second home owners are looking for but also the investment opportunity given an ongoing — though perhaps limited — low interest rate environment and current price growth trends.

“We’re seeing a movement of capital to Palm Beach,” Lee Smalley, managing director of BBG, told Invest:. “Yields and cap rate compression in South Florida are becoming tighter. Investors looking for a good rate of return are moving north of Broward and Miami-Dade counties.”

The positive investment and buying climate all point to a shrinking pool of opportunities until a wave of new inventory hits the market in 2019. The remnants of the now more-than-decade-old real estate crisis have vanished, with short-sale transactions decreasing 57.1 percent in December 2018 from 21 to nine. At the same time, cash transactions comprised 44.5 percent of all closed sales in Palm Beach in December 2018, up from 44.9 percent in 2017. Palm Beach cash transactions are more than double the nation’s average of 22 percent.

“We’re seeing a lot of domestic buyers come to the market here,” Ari Albinder, owner of Mizner Grande Realty, told Invest:. “We’re helping these individuals find a new primary residence or second and third homes. We specialize in waterfront homes, oceanfront estates, country clubs communities, condominiums and brand-new construction.”

There’s no question that Palm Beach County real estate is hot, and savvy investors from across the nation and from a younger demographic are taking note. Invest: Palm Beach will be keeping a close eye on these trends as we move into 2019.

For more information on our interviewees, visit their websites:
Chris Allen Realty: https://www.chrisallenrealestate.com/
Mizner Grande Realty: http://www.miznergranderealty.com/



Bricks and Clicks

By staff writer

February 2019

According to a Statista report, in 2017 a total value of $2.3 trillion in sales were made on the global online marketplace. By 2021, those sales are projected to reach $4.5 trillion. Mobile commerce hit $700 billion in revenue in 2017, which was equivalent to more than 300 percent growth over the previous four years. There’s no question that e-commerce is rapidly growing its share of total U.S. retail sales; in fact, online sales currently represent nearly 10 percent of retail sales in the U.S., and that number is expected to increase by almost 15 percent each year.

However, even as this massive game-changer disrupts the retail industry, brick and mortar stores are innovating and adapting to make sure they stay in the game. Some companies are even finding that e-commerce is simply amplifying an already successful retail model. For the Las Olas Company, a leading commercial real estate and hospitality company in Fort Lauderdale that owns and manages the Riverside Hotel and leases office space and more than 50 locations of retail space on the bustling Las Olas Boulevard, e-commerce hasn’t had a negative impact.

“E-commerce is not really impacting the retail we’re trying to attract because some of the retail companies that we’re talking to are market leaders in that area,” Michael Weymouth, president of the Las Olas Company, told Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale when he sat down with our team in October. “People come to the stores to sample the goods — whether it’s clothing, high fashion or something else — and then they order it and have it shipped to their house the next day. I don’t know very many people who go into a store, buy a shirt and literally wear it out. To have it delivered the next day to your house is almost more convenient; that way, you don’t have to carry the bag around.”

In a world where instant access, round-the-clock accessibility and lightning-quick turnaround are not only desired but also expected, retailers are turning to e-commerce to deliver. Millennials make 54 percent of their purchases online, and for non-millennials that number is only slightly lower, at 49 percent. More than three-quarters of these online shoppers report they would like their products shipped the same day.

In addition to augmenting service, e-commerce allows retailers to set up their brick and mortar shops in smaller spaces and encourages them to provide a more personalized in-store experience. Physical retail is far from dead, and even as its share of the market drops, it is still expected to be well over 80 percent five years from now. In fact, online giant Amazon is today one of the biggest players in the brick and mortar game.

E-commerce is disruptive, but with the right flexibility and foresight retailers can capitalize on the benefits of both the clicks and bricks spaces. The Las Olas Company sees this as opportunity.

“Overall, we are well-positioned with our new product coming online to attract national brands, along with our existing product, which is mostly boutique,” Weymouth told Invest:. “E-commerce is a way for a lot of these companies to be able to service downtown residents without having to take a huge retail footprint. What’s going on in the retail industry is disruptive, there’s no question about that, but there’s a solution to it. And we happen to be in a good spot to offer that solution.”

To learn more about our interviewee, visit http://thelasolascompany.com/.

Miami’s Affordable Housing Crisis

By staff writer

February 2019

Photo by Gunther Hagleitner / Flickr, taken from Miami New Times

While much of Miami’s real estate market has seen a boom in demand and production over the last decade, the city’s affordable housing market is comparatively stark and limited, leaving mid- to low-income individuals with few options for housing in nearly all areas of the county.

However, there are still areas of Downtown that are particularly ripe for affordable real estate development. A prime example is Omni Midtown, near the Adrienne Arsht Center, and the area’s Community Redevelopment Agency has taken note. When Invest: Miami sat down with Omni Midtown CRA’s Executive Director Jason Walker last year, he highlighted the shift in the area’s home prices and its need for more affordable development.

“Many people who lived here for years, myself included, can no longer afford to, so we are working to change that,” Walker explained. “Many people have a certain interpretation when they hear the term ‘affordable housing.’ Something important to clarify is that our focus is on affordable housing for mixed incomes.”

Walker’s latter point highlights the fact fact that the term “affordable housing” does not necessarily mean “low-income housing” but rather housing for people with varying incomes who simply cannot afford luxury living.

“Miami is currently in a crisis,” stated Matthew Rieger, president and CEO of Housing Trust Group in a recent conversation with Invest: Miami. “According to a JCHS Harvard University study, 61 percent of Miami renters are currently cost-burdened when it comes to housing costs, meaning they are spending over 30 percent of their income on rent. This makes Miami the number-one large metro area in the country for cost-burdened renters.”

Furthermore, Rieger explained that other areas of the county, such as Kendall, have seen increased demand for housing development as a result of prices in Downtown, Brickell and Miami Beach.

“West Kendall is experiencing tremendous growth.” explained Rieger. “Demand for affordable housing developments in the county is incredible, and they tend to yield triple-digit waiting lists for leases almost immediately.”

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:

Omni Midtown CRA: http://omnicra.com/

Housing Trust Group: http://htgf.com/


Changing Tides and Market Resiliency in Philadelphia

By staff writer
September 2018 – 2 min. read

Some cities are currently booming, but there’s always a thought looming in the background that at any time the pendulum could swing in the other direction. Philadelphia’s industry leaders say that the city has recession-proof businesses, which were in full view 10 years ago during the economic crisis.

“Philadelphia is a dynamic market. It’s also a diverse economy; we don’t depend on just one thing. We’re slower and steadier than most,” Harris Heller, managing director – originations at Hunt Real Estate Capital, told Invest: Philadelphia when he sat down with our team earlier this year. “We never got too high, therefore we don’t get too low.”

While its real estate market has not traditionally been investors’ first choice when compared to other more glamorous markets like nearby New York City, there’s no denying that its steady growth creates low-risk investment opportunities with excellent potential for appreciation. Slow and steady is what will keep Philadelphia strong and sustainable.



Harris Heller, Managing Director – Originations, Hunt Real Estate Capital.

Jason Wolf, Managing Principal, Wolf Commercial Real Estate.

“This is a very positive and exciting time to be in real estate in Philadelphia, and we want that to continue,” Jason Wolf, managing principal of Wolf Commercial Real Estate, told Invest:. “Philadelphia is seeing a lot of investment coming from New York and New Jersey. Buildings that trade for $100 or $150 per square foot in our market are opportunities to make an investment at almost half the cost of what someone would spend in the New York market. This makes us an attractive market for investment, which is why we are seeing so much capital come in from these neighboring, more expensive markets.”

Innovations in technology and e-commerce that are upsetting the real estate industry in other cities have led to exciting trends in Philadelphia and increased investment from outside channels. As Credit Suisse reports, roughly one-fourth of the nearly 1,100 malls in America are in danger of closing. (However, it should be noted that the King of Prussia Mall, the largest shopping mall on the East Coast, is in no danger of shutting down and remains a huge economic driver for Montgomery County.) Moreover, a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that department stores have lost 500,000 jobs since 2002, while online retailers created only 200,000.


In order to make up for this deficit, one of the biggest shifts in commercial real estate has been the move to a more experiential retail model, hence the concept of “de-malling.” De-malling refers to the partial or entire demolition of malls to create a more dynamic kind of retail experience, placing a bigger emphasis on things such as restaurants and movie theaters.

“Take a look at the Gallery Project in the Market East neighborhood of Philadelphia,” John Adderly, executive vice president of NAI Mertz, told Invest:. “They are changing a mall-like space and bringing the focus back to the street. These are trends we are seeing in the region.”

“Industrial has much more development going on right now,” Adderly noted. “There is a demand for it, especially in this region. Philadelphia is in a great location: the least expensive primary market in the Northeast Corridor.”

Opportunities in this market are on the “value-add” side of things. Investors and developers are searching for old malls or large decommissioned shopping centers with large vacancy boxes and generating novel plans for revitalizing these spaces.

As Adderly notes, Philadelphia offers something that other dynamic cities do not: an affordable cost of living. As such, the city can retain a robust and talented labor pool; the skilled analysts, graphic designers and marketing professionals aren’t getting priced out. In Philadelphia, young professionals can live affordably, and that has fostered a healthy live-work balance. As long as existing structures can be co-opted for the times and the younger generations are encouraged to land here, Philadelphia looks to maintain its trajectory of steady, sustainable growth for many years to come.

John Adderly, Executive Vice President, NAI Mertz.

For more information on our interviewees, visit their websites:
NAI Mertz:  http://www.naimertz.com/
Hunt Real Estate Capital:
Wolf Commercial Real Estate: https://wolfcre.com/