Spotlight On:
Larry Baum, Managing Partner, Stellar Communities

Spotlight On:
Larry Baum, Managing Partner, Stellar Communities

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read November 2020 — Over the course of 2020, trends within all business sectors have been changed, altered, emerging or completely forgotten. The emerging trend in housing for South Florida is moving back to the suburbs and single-family housing as the pandemic has soured people on getting into elevators, developer Larry Baum told Invest: Miami.

How has the company adapted to 2020’s particular circumstances?

Our expectations coming into 2020 were pretty linear: our typical growth strategy, building more communities and finishing off the legacy projects. We were able to stick to our strategy. The only difference is that in one community in the Palm Aire Country Club in Pompano Beach, we decided to turn it from a for sale townhouse community into a for rent townhome community. We are also close to delivering a 200-unit multifamily project, the Stellar at Emerald Hills, in the first quarter 2021. Luckily, construction remained an essential business during the pandemic and we are able to continue building uninterrupted. Some of the for sale communities we are starting are in Florida City, which is going to be 359 units of entry-level housing at Federal Housing Administration (FHA) pricing, and that’s been one of the changes caused by COVID. There have also been the notable lower interest rates resulting in more people wanting to buy their first home. We like to sell to the entry-level buyer or move-up buyer and we’ve been able to do that because we control the land. We are also starting two other for sale communities in Delray Beach and Boynton Beach. 

We are starting two multifamily jobs next year, one in North Miami Beach, for a 588-unit market-rate apartment community with a workforce housing component, which is going through the entitlement process. That Community should start in the third quarter of 2021. The other community is a 300-unit project in Wilton Manors that is also going through entitlements. 

People have transitioned their tastes regarding housing. They want their feet on the ground, they don’t really want to get into an elevator if they don’t have to, so things have changed dramatically into less dense, more suburban types of developments. It’s tough in our county because there’s not a lot of land. That’s really the holy grail of development right now.

 

What other trends and demands have emerged for housing because of the pandemic?

Even pre-COVID, we were starting to build single-family homes and townhome communities for rent. We are building one in Pompano Beach, another one in Tampa and another in Orlando. COVID, basically, confirmed that the business strategy is good because not everyone is buying right now but they still want to live in a house or a townhouse. 

Pre-COVID, we were going to do a townhouse community for sale in Pompano on a golf course. Then COVID happened and we transitioned from for sale to for rent. We made this change because we saw what was coming and we were fortunate enough to have the land.

 

Have pandemic-induced factors such as lower traffic helped you get your projects off the ground faster?

There’s been a lot of productivity, to be honest. We’ve become more productive and permits are taking less time. We are getting things done quicker through hearings and permitting becoming online. In that aspect, this whole dynamic of virtual meetings is good because we are getting things from the cities and counties in a more expeditious manner. 

Construction remained essential in South Florida. We never knew if we were going to get shut down, so our jobs were all ahead of schedule. Now that things are getting back to normal, everything is no longer ahead of schedule but for a time, we were ahead of schedule on all jobs.

Regarding other situations, there’s a very strong law and order mentality in Florida. We think that we’ll go back to normal because Miami continues to be an exciting city, Florida is an exciting state and people continue to come to Florida. I have a friend who opened a hotel in Portland, Oregon, and he’s having a tough time because there are riots right across the street from him. In our state, as long as we keep that law and order mentality, that’s good for growth.

I would also like to highlight our company’s ethos of sustainable green practices; we have been at the forefront of building green communities in Florida and with this pandemic, people are gravitating to more healthy and wholesome environments, which we will continue to deliver.

 

What is the demand and need for workforce housing in the region and how can it be addressed?

We are not taking any government subsidies or tax credits for affordable housing. We basically do workforce housing for the likes of nurses, firemen, EMTs, policemen and teachers. The benefit we get is density bonuses; we have a 20% density bonus. We’ll get some savings there and we have to dedicate a certain percentage of our units for workforce housing. Our project in North Miami is our first workforce housing job completed. We are doing that with a workforce housing specialist. The positive impact of these projects is huge. 

For more information, visit: https://www.livestellar.com/