By: Beatrice Silva
2 min read – Real estate development in Fort Lauderdale is getting a jolt of confidence despite the lingering impact of COVID-19. On March 24, a majority of businesses were forced to shut down after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a statewide shelter-in-place order. However, construction companies, hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations and other essential businesses were allowed to carry on with work as usual.
Florida is just one of several states that allowed construction to continue despite nationwide shutdowns. Similar to many other regions in the area, development is a vital part of Fort Lauderdale’s economy. The construction industry is projected to have the largest industry increase in employment from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A strong signal of the confidence in the market is a recent move by Oko Group, an international real estate development firm founded by Vladislav Doronin. It is the first company to close a large deal since the beginning of COVID-19. The firm recently purchased 6.68 acres of land east of the county courthouse in Downtown Fort Lauderdale for $62.59 million. “Oko Group is excited to expand its portfolio of South Florida real estate with the acquisition of a mixed-use development site in the heart of Fort Lauderdale’s urban core,” the developer said in a statement reported by South Florida Business Journal. “The Oko Group team, led by Doronin, now looks forward to working with the city of Fort Lauderdale to finalize plans for an exceptional development that will help to further transform the Downtown district while adding significant amenities for nearby residents and businesses.”
The majority of developments in the pipeline for Fort Lauderdale will most likely be residential. Retail and office real estate have proven themselves to be the weakest sectors in the market during the pandemic. “Prior to COVID-19, South Florida’s real estate sector was very strong, propelled by the demand and low interest rates. I think the commercial office market may see a bit of a correction. So many people are working from home and I imagine that most of them are going to continue to do that the rest of the year. I think business owners are getting more comfortable allowing their employees to work remotely. So far, the industrial and residential markets have proven themselves to be the strongest sectors in the real estate industry during the pandemic. I don’t think we’ll see any correction there. Currently, at Touchstone Webb Realty Company, we are watching retail and commercial as we move forward. We think it is going to take a good year before we see this sector begin to correct. We are still purchasing industrial and flex spaces for our clients,” Susan Thomas, president of Touchstone Webb Realty Company, told Invest: Palm Beach.
As Thomas mentioned, CDC regulations like social distancing have compelled more people to want to work from home. As a result, business owners could require less office space. Fairfield Cypress Creek is just one example of this trend. The new mixed-use project is currently underway between 6500 and 6520 N. Andrews Ave. The land which was originally occupied by office buildings will now hold 295 residential units, shops and restaurants. A new downtown could be another exciting project on the horizon for Broward County. Broward is recruiting a large company to relocate to the 140 acres next to the Everglades in Sunrise. “It’s one of the last few pieces you could make a statement. We really want to market this site internationally, not just nationally,” County Manager Bertha told the Sun Sentinel.