By: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read January 2020 — The Broward County Convention Center and Hotel is one of the largest projects underway in Broward County. A project of this magnitude requires the utmost care in regards to design and architecture, as well as the foresight to plan for future environmental challenges. Invest: spoke with Andrew Burnett, the senior principal for Stantec, which is working on the Convention Center project. Burnett addressed the company’s ongoing projects, how shifting demands have changed its focus and the National Flood Insurance Program.
What are some of your most significant projects in development within Broward County?
We have multiple projects throughout Broward County, including the Fort Lauderdale region, Pompano Beach, Sunrise and Miramar. For instance, we are the architect of record and landscape architect for the Broward County Convention Center and Hotel, which is around a $1 billion project. This is an extremely large and involved project requiring integrated services from Stantec that also has many resilient aspects being built into it that we hope to use as a model for future growth and development throughout the county. As we are expanding the convention center and building the new hotel, we have done a series of wave-height analyses. These are not just focused on the floodplain and how high we need to build the building to stay out of the floodplain, they also address storm surges and how to design the building to be more resilient in those situations. It has been great to have the county’s support on these matters. Our other projects in Broward County include the new AC Hotel by Marriott in Sawgrass Mills, Manor Miramar, Las Olas Walk and 1380 South Ocean Boulevard.
How have you seen demand shift in the last couple of years and how are you adapting to this shift?
Historically, we would see the demand for smaller residential units in the Downtown urban core because of the density of the population. As we moved away from the urban areas, the units were constructed bigger to attract more people, but now we are starting to see smaller units becoming attractive away from the urban centers. This indicates that people are looking for alternative solutions that are more affordable. It may also be partially due to having more flexibility and adaptability in the way that we live and the way that we engage the community as Broward becomes more connected and dense. We foresee more of these deals for smaller units outside of the main urban areas making sense for investors.
We are seeing more residential projects that want to permit themselves as or like a hotel. There is some gray area with the rise of services like Airbnb and WhyHotel that can allow owners to operate as a short-term rental while they’re leasing up their building. Owners and investors are starting to take advantage of this. This is shifting how we design our projects. For instance, if we need to design for things like ADA bathrooms, which you would find in a hotel, we are starting to look at an earlier stage how we might design the spaces to be more flexible to do this.
How have you seen Opportunity Zone legislation affect your business?
We have seen an increase in requests for test fits on properties that fall in Opportunity Zones. The market is starting to ask questions on sites and locations that they hadn’t previously. There are a lot of regulations that are being finalized and released in the near future that are going to help increase investor confidence to go forward in these Opportunity Zones, but it may be too early to see the fruit of the test fits in these sites. We are expecting to see more of this in 2020.
How much of a focus do you place on possible future changes to the National Flood Insurance Program?
We are looking more broadly at what is happening with the National Flood Insurance Program and what may happen in the future in terms of how we go about flood insurance regarding how much of it is subsidized by taxpayers. At some point, taxpayers are going to say that they do not want to be subsidizing flood insurance for landowners who may not be doing enough to protect their buildings. As risk starts to shift from insurance entities to owners, they are going to be asked what they are doing to make their building more resilient. What we are trying to do with our integrated team is to find solutions to this so we can go back to our clients and suggest to them what they need to do to mitigate this risk.
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