An influx of affordable housing is coming to Orlando

An influx of affordable housing is coming to Orlando

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read September 2020  — Affordable housing has been a major cause for concern in Florida for decades. Homes in the sunshine state are overpriced by almost 20%, the highest level in eight years, according to a study done by Florida Atlantic University. The pandemic has served as a reminder of just how fragile the line between having a place to live and experiencing homelessness is for families. This past year, Central Florida added seven affordable rental options for low-income households, which has raised the total count to 20, in an effort to subdue this crisis.  

On Dec. 17, 2019, Orange County commissioners signed off on a 10-year plan to create new affordable housing projects, injecting $160 million into a fund with a goal to build 30,300 units by 2029. Among other grants and strategies, developers and nonprofits can seek financial help to build or upgrade low-income properties. “In the end, all those things are going to help, but they are going to have to have dedicated resources,” Shannon Nazworth, CEO of Jacksonville-based Ability Housing, previously told Orlando Business Journal. “There have been communities like Los Angeles that have gotten permission from their populous to do a bond issue to develop affordable housing and meet the need, and if Orange County were to do that, I think the return on investment would be demonstrative.”

Residential Communities LLC and New South Residential LLC are the most recent developments to undertake an affordable apartment complex. Construction on the 77,473-square-foot senior housing facility is set to begin in early September at 5800 S. Rio Grande Ave, according to Orlando Business Journal. This project is one of the many that are needed to help bring more affordable housing options to the region. Families are struggling, perhaps now more than ever, to simply pay rent. To put things into perspective, a minimum-wage worker in Florida makes around $445 per month while the average one bedroom apartment costs around $1,027 per month, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Rent at that price point is simply out of reach even for median-waged workers like nursing assistants, janitors and cashiers. 

While paying rent is difficult, for some people owning a home may seem unfathomable. However, renting a single-family home provides the experience of owning without the costly fees and obligations associated with purchasing a property. As a result, the single-family rental sector is booming in Orlando. “If you can find single-family housing that you can rent that’s within close proximity of multifamily housing, the single-family housing is going to beat it out every time,”  Brad Hunter, managing director of real estate consulting firm RCLCO, told Orlando Business Journal

The rise of rentals could be another form of relief for low-income families. The increase in occupancy will eventually lead to more single-family rental communities being built that then provide more affordable housing options. However, when it comes down to it, the majority of the responsibility to help reduce the burdens of housing costs and minimum wages falls on elected officials. Without the support of the local and state government, deploying a plan to promote affordable housing is left in the hands of developers and the community. 

Industrial investors eager to pounce on faltering retail properties

Industrial investors eager to pounce on faltering retail properties

By: Beatrice Silva 

2 min read August 2020 — Before April, e-commerce was already a booming business but COVID-19 has skyrocketed digital commercial transactions to a whole new level. Despite the current flash recession, the demand for industrial real estate has grown in almost every market. As a result, industrial real estate investors are eager to pounce on faltering hospitality and retail properties. Vacant or unprofitable large-acre facilities are being eyed up as potential warehouses and distribution centers. 

Businesses like hotels, theme parks, restaurants and others in the hospitality industry have taken the greatest hit financially among all major sectors. In Orlando, tourism disparities are now trickling down to those industrial companies that succor these industries. “Orlando’s weakness is that we’re a community built on tourism and convention services. When those industries suffer, typically our market suffers too,” Bo Bradford, industrial expert and co-president of Lee & Associates Central Florida, told Orlando Business Journal

However, with every crisis comes opportunity. If building vacancies do start to emerge as a result of the current economic slowdown it will give new operations a chance to plant roots in Orlando’s limited industrial market. One example is the area around the Orlando airport. In July, two flex industrial warehouses were proposed on 61.8 vacant acres at 6249 S. Goldenrod Road, according to the Orlando Business Journal. Orlando Office Center LLC are the property owners and Kelly Collins & Gentry Inc. are reported to be the project engineers. 

The increase in demand for industrial properties is making real estate investment companies get creative. Simon Property Group Inc. is considering converting vacant Sears and JCPenney stores into distribution centers, according to the Orlando Business Journal. However, in early June, the group decided not to proceed with an agreement with Taubman Centers that could have added various retail properties to its portfolio. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a uniquely material and disproportionate effect on Taubman compared with other participants in the retail real estate industry,” Simon Property Group said in a press release. The real estate investment company has four properties in Orlando and if it does decide to transform even one of its properties into an industrial building, it could be a win-win for both parties involved in the transaction. 

Since the pandemic began, retail stores have suffered as more and more people shift to online shopping. Within a few years, traditional malls and outlet stores could become a thing of the past. For companies like Amazon, large vacant retail properties provide vital space in a limited market. 

South Jersey, Philly Industrial real estate a hotbed for investors

South Jersey, Philly Industrial real estate a hotbed for investors

By: Beatrice Silva

2 min read August 2020 — Even before the pandemic, billions of consumers had already been shopping on e-commerce sites like Amazon for years. But the pandemic is accelerating the platform’s growth as more and more people pivot away from physical stores. Shoppers say that there is something extremely gratifying about clicking a button and having a product delivered to their door the very next day. That’s music to the ears of those in the industrial real estate segment, as companies see an increasing need for distribution space.

When COVID-19 started to rapidly spread around the world, digital buying was no longer just a trend but a necessity. U.S. online sales grew 76% in June, reaching $73.2 billion that month, according to Digital Commerce 360. As a result, industrial real estate became even more of a hotbed for investment. Warehouses and distribution centers provide companies like Walmart and Target the local space they need to get purchase orders out to their customers quickly and efficiently.

To offer consumers fast shipping, a large majority of the industrial real estate is located near key transportation hubs like seaports, highways, railroads and airports. That’s one of the reasons why a handful of out-of-state investors like Peter Lewis, president and founder of Coastal Realty LLC, have started building their industrial portfolios in the Northeast. Lewis explained to the Philadelphia Business Journal why his firm has increased their industrial properties in South Jersey: “These middle-market companies are going to start transitioning to becoming much more sophisticated online,” he said. “They have to. What that means is they’re going to require more warehousing, which is what our property offers. I continue to see a real demand for warehousing in densely populated areas. It’s going to be all the way from the 4 million-square-foot guys to the 2,500-square-foot guys,” said Lewis. Coastal Realty recently teamed up with Walton Street Capital to buy a 32-building industrial portfolio in Pennsauken. 

 

South Jersey and Philadelphia are lucrative areas because of their unique placement between Washington and New York. “The overall demand for warehouse space has continued to remain strong, especially with the uptick in e-commerce and the expectation by the consumer to have goods in their hands as quickly as possible. When Amazon Prime was introduced, two days for delivery seemed fast and quickly became the norm. We are now finding that next-day delivery, if not same-day delivery, is an integral part of the supply chain that is driving a lot of companies to look for warehouse space in South Jersey. The new speculative and build-to-suit development in our market has been mostly in the northern parts of Burlington County and the southern parts of Gloucester County,” Ian Richman, senior managing director of Southern New Jersey Colliers International, told Invest: South Jersey 2020. 

As long as there is a continued increase in consumer spending, the demand for retail space and other commercial activities like distribution centers, in theory, should rise. 

To learn more, visit: 

https://www2.colliers.com/en

Real estate development is booming in Fort Lauderdale

Real estate development is booming in Fort Lauderdale

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. 

 

 

Spotlight On: Sandi Bargfrede, Managing Partner, ACRE Commercial Real Estate

Spotlight On: Sandi Bargfrede, Managing Partner, ACRE Commercial Real Estate

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read May 2020 — The real estate market will know a before and after COVID-19 as soon as activities resume. Sandi Bargfrede, managing partner of ACRE Commercial Real Estate, talks to Invest: about what to expect from Orlando’s market as the pandemic unfolds. 

 

How did ACRE Commercial Real Estate close 2019? 

2019 was a stellar year as not only did we see a tremendous increase in volume, but we also saw an impressive uptick in new retail concepts entering the Central Florida/Orlando market. ACRE specializes in retail third-party leasing, property management and tenant representation and we had never seen such a stronger increase in all aspects of our business than we did in 2019. In addition to strong growth in tenant representation, in the last year we also secured a significant stronghold in the Downtown and surrounding area in the mixed-use sector. 

How does your company capitalize on being an all-female commercial real estate firm? 

Women provide a different perspective on retail as we are typically the shoppers and we usually plan the family social activities. We are able to use this to our advantage as we can bring a different point of view to a project. ACRE did not set out to be an all-female firm. That said, we are all-female-owned but we are always open to hiring exceptional professionals, male or female. My business partner and I have been in this business for 20-plus years each and we have witnessed the industry evolve with more 

professional women entering the historically male-dominated field now more than ever. We believe this trend will continue and we will continue to provide the required mentorship platform for all in the business looking to thrive. 

What unique business opportunities does Orlando offer to your business and operations? 

Seventy-two million people per year visit Orlando, bolstering a strong service and hotel industry, where retail spaces are required to provide for these visitors. The retail opportunities are therefore exponential. We are seeing a significant wave of people moving here due to recent job growth figures, with close to 12 percent overall job growth in Orlando itself. With all of this growth, we are seeing a surge in new development from shopping centers to urban mixed-use communities. These new developments provide ACRE the opportunity to use our experience to work with developers before they break ground. Utilizing our extensive background in leasing, tenant representation and development allows us to create a project with not only the proper infrastructure but also the ability to create the synergistic tenant mix required for a project to be successful for the retailer and developer alike. 

What is your assessment of Orlando’s commercial real estate market? 

It is very strong as there are many vibrant areas that are growing in the Metro Orlando market, such as Hamlin, Lake Nona, Apopka, Clermont and downtown to name a few. We are seeing a housing boom in Orlando and these areas are all creating retail destinations for services and amenities along with community-driven gathering spaces for their residents and visitors. 

How has the COVID-19 outbreak altered the Central Florida real estate market? 

We do not believe it will resemble the 2008 crash, especially if we can get back to work sooner than later. It will definitely change the landscape considering the ever-changing social distancing guidelines and measures. These will certainly have a lasting effect on retail and restaurant margins. However, it will also open the door for reinvention and creativity toward preservation. 

We have always been outside-the-box thinkers. Recession-proof and Amazon-resistant have been part of our vocabulary and now we added pandemic and social distancing to the mix. We will find new ways to create tenant mixes that reflect the changes in our “new normal.” We offer consulting and advisory services to our clients and believe these services will be more valuable than ever to assist with navigating this new unknown landscape together. We have always treated our projects like they are our own and will continue to do so. 

What is your outlook for 2020-21? 

There will be a slight correction in the retail portion of the commercial real estate landscape. This will translate into greater inventory of second generation space available, which will most likely result in a reduction of rental rates until the absorption of inventory is stabilized. We do have a positive outlook as we head into 2021 and businesses start to recover. That said, it is difficult to predict as the COVID-19 effect is still unknown. All in all, we believe there is room for a fast recovery and in the end, Orlando will be stronger than before. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.acrefl.com/

Spotlight On: Steven McCraney, President & CEO, McCraney Property Company

Spotlight On: Steven McCraney, President & CEO, McCraney Property Company

By: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read April 2020 —  The strength of the commercial real estate sector relies on the major roadways that run in and around Orlando, Steven McCraney told Invest:. He also notes that the location of Orlando is a great anchor to position his business as it provides ease of access to everywhere the company needs to be, as well as how the primary growth of his company has clearly been the warehouse and distribution space. 

How connected is the strength of the commercial real estate market to the major roadways in Orlando? 

The strength of the commercial real estate sector relies on the major roadways that run in and around Orlando. The last 50 years in Florida were all about the I-95 corridor, from Jupiter to Coral Gables. If you were to drive that route today there is not an available parcel of land on the roadway. We believe the next 50 years for Florida are going to be primarily focused on the I-4 corridor, from Tampa Bay to Lakeland to Orlando and onto Daytona Beach. While Daytona has not started to pop yet, the thing that we know is that there are two major roadways in Daytona, I-4 and I-95, which leads us to believe that it will be a good market at some point in the near future.

 

Why is Orlando the most ideal location for your operations? 

The Orlando economy continues to thrive. It’s attracting new residents, it’s generating new jobs and the increased interest is driving industrial users into the market because of the ability to distribute out of the state of Florida from the region on a one-day basis. We relocated to Orlando because the area places us right in the middle of the state. We operate throughout the Southeast and Orlando, which anchors us in the middle of everywhere that we need to be. It also provides the ability to move easily throughout the Southeast because of the region’s dynamic airport.

 

In regard to your business operations, where have you seen the most growth?

We are industrial developers. That is our mainstay and focus. This is complemented by third-party property management. As of late, the growth has clearly been the warehouse and distribution space. The total industrial space in Orlando is 123 million square feet, which breaks down into roughly 100 million square feet of warehouse distribution, 13 million square feet of manufacturing and the remainder is made up of office, flex space and distribution product. Here’s what we know: warehouse is the new retail. If a person is ordering online, whether it’s products,  clothing or food, the merchandise is likely not coming from a store, it is almost certainly coming from a warehouse. This is attributed to e-commerce growth and third-party logistics. Over the next few years, we are going to see the markets continuing to change and expand. From an industry perspective, I believe we have a trajectory that is at least 15 years long. While the product may continue to change, that product is coming from somewhere and that somewhere is a warehouse. As social distancing is ever more important and various markets are now under a “shelter in place” order, it is clear that suppliers, like Amazon, are still delivering essentials through package products to each and every home.

 

What market trends have had an effect on your business? 

We are always looking for ways to leverage technology in our business. Whether it’s roofing systems, lighting or super-flat floors, we want a logistics facility to be plug and play for a customer. The biggest challenge in recent years is rising costs. This can be broken down into the rising labor cost and the cost of materials. For example, the cost to build out a 1,500-2,000-square-foot office space within a warehouse space today can easily run around $250,000. That number exceeds $100 per square foot. At the same time, we have seen strong rent growth and because of that we have been able to keep pace. As we presently enter an economic downturn due to this pandemic, one would expect the cost of goods – both labor and material – will correct. Most of us in the industry went through the last recession and we know how debilitating it was. Moving forward, we have to be cautiously optimistic as we enter this challenging economic cycle and be mindful of our leverage, occupancy, quality of tenancy and our construction exposure.  

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.mccraneyproperty.com/

Spotlight On: Danny Jackson, City Manager, City of Mount Holly

Spotlight On: Danny Jackson, City Manager, City of Mount Holly

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read February 2020 — Situated west of the Catawba River, the city of Mount Holly in Gaston County is known as one of the best bedroom communities in the Charlotte Metro Area. The city is experiencing residential growth as it aims to be a place where families can live, work and play. Its proximity to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport and to I-485 are great assets that will serve as a catalyst for the city’s growth, City Manager Danny Jackson told Invest: Charlotte. As part of its vision plan, the city is expanding its water and sewage systems and preparing its workforce for future tech-based jobs, Jackson said. 

How has Mount Holly grown in the last few years?

Mount Holly is in a great location. It is in proximity to Charlotte and the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Interstate-485 has spurred development and as a result people have been discovering Mount Holly, as manifested by our population growth. These factors have been the genesis of our growth. We have been seen as a bedroom community for a number of years. Through our vision plan, we have launched efforts to make Mount Holly a place where residents can live, work and play. 

 

How is the city preparing for future growth?

Based on the growth that we are experiencing, people are approaching us for development opportunities, primarily residential and some commercial. Within that process, the infrastructure is constructed by the developers, then they turn it over to us for perpetual management. Sometimes, we add to existing projects to accommodate future growth. Also, we have connected our water and sewage plan to the city of Charlotte across the Catawba River to increase our capacity to accommodate future growth. Additionally, all of our local chambers of commerce have been working together to bring businesses to Mount Holly and boost the economy. It has been a good, collective effort. We believe we have the elements to support businesses. Not everyone wants to have the hustle-and-bustle of the large jurisdiction. We are not that, but yet we are close to one as well.  

 

What does the city’s updated vision plan entail?

In 2019, Mount Holly adopted its updated vision plan for the next 10 to 15 years. At the forefront of that plan is economic development, job growth and a diverse tax base. These are the nuts and bolts of it in terms of growth in the Gaston County region. I think the main sector growing in the region is technology. That is where the emphasis will be for this region, and with that comes the education component that is being addressed in Gaston County. Workforce development is a key component of this. We are making sure that our employee base is prepared for the next level of tech-based jobs that are coming to the area.

 

How is the city preparing itself in the event of a future economic downturn?

We have been working on worst-case scenarios. In 2008, the nation experienced an economic downturn, but Mount Holly continued to grow. Construction was still happening and people were moving to the city. I expect the same in case of another economic downturn. Our infrastructure is such that we are prepared for growth. We have done what we believe we need to do to stay economically sound, such as updating the vision plan and expanding our water and sewage systems. I think we have all of these mechanisms to continue to grow and grow positively.”  

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://www.mtholly.us/

Commercial Real Estate to Remain Steady in 2020

Commercial Real Estate to Remain Steady in 2020

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read February 2020 If there were ever a time or place to consider investing in commercial real estate, now would be that time and the Tampa Bay region would be that place. 2019 proved to be another banner year for the real estate sector and with interest rates remaining low, consistent inmigration into Florida and the Tampa Bay region, rising rental rates and ongoing outside investment into the area, all indicators point to 2020 being just as strong if not better for the commercial real estate sector. 

 

 

2 min read February 2020 If there were ever a time or place to consider investing in commercial real estate, now would be that time and the Tampa Bay region would be that place. 2019 proved to be another banner year for the real estate sector and with interest rates remaining low, consistent inmigration into Florida and the Tampa Bay region, rising rental rates and ongoing outside investment into the area, all indicators point to 2020 being just as strong if not better for the commercial real estate sector. 

“Around $17 billion has migrated to Florida, the No. 1 destination for capital in the country followed by Texas, at $2 billion. People are leaving states that are not tax friendly and coming to Florida, which is very tax friendly. Because the stock market can go up or down, hard assets are attractive. The returns investors can get in commercial real estate are attractive. People are looking at commercial real estate as a means for retirement, passive income,” Christopher Travis, sales manager for the Tampa office of Marcus & Millichap, remarked to Invest:.  

Perhaps the clearest indication of the sector’s continued success has been the large-scale mixed-use projects that are happening throughout the region. Larry Richey, the managing principal and Florida market leader for Cushman & Wakefield, spoke about what these developments mean for the sector. 

“The most talked about projects happening in Tampa Bay at the moment are in the office and mixed-use sectors. In the Hillsborough County market, we have four mixed-use projects that are all very active. Those four new projects are Water Street Tampa in Downtown, Heights Union just on the northern fringe of Downtown, the Midtown project that is being developed at the intersection of I-275 and Dale Mabry and fourth is the MetWest project in the Westshore District on Boy Scout Boulevard,” Richey told Invest:. “We are seeing the highest office rents in the history of the Tampa Bay area right now, and it is because we have the strongest demand for office space that we have ever had. This is good news because it means new development and jobs in the commercial real estate sector. It also means that buildings that were always below what they should have been charging are now charging rents that are justifiable based on the investment that people have put into these properties.” 

These projects, and ultimately the continued success of commercial real estate in Tampa Bay, are the product of taking note and early adaptation to emerging and developing trends within the industry and local economy. While basically all subsectors of commercial real estate are prospering, there are some that industry professionals are keen to keep a particularly close eye on. What may come as a surprise to some is that one of these prosperous submarkets is retail. 

“The retail market continues to be very strong here.  Demand continues to exceed supply in many of the strongest retail markets throughout Tampa Bay.  This continues to drive up rental rates and has limited cap rate decompression for stabilized retail assets,” Scott Dobbins, the founder and principal of Hybridge Commercial Real Estate, said. 

Travis agreed that retail remains one of the stronger segments in commercial real estate, touching on the fact that the e-commerce trend is not as bad as some may think. “Retail has remained strong during the real estate market recovery. Everybody was scared about e-commerce, but it only makes up about 14% of the overall market. Retail is going to be just fine, especially retailers like dollar stores, gas stations, and fast food.” 

While all indications point to another strong year for the commercial real estate market, it will not be without its challenges. Besides 2020 being an election year that could possibly send the national economy into flux, Tampa Bay must address unaffordability in the housing sector and ongoing challenges with transportation in the region. 

Nonetheless, commercial real estate professionals continue to have a positive outlook for the Tampa Bay Region. 

It has always been in the core submarkets, like Westshore and the Central Business District (CBD). Historically, they’ve been the focus of development and I think that will continue. We are seeing new developments in areas like the Heights and Water Street Tampa. Time will tell how these developments impact the marketplace. I think they are both going to be extremely successful, but they are on the outskirts of the Tampa CBD. Perhaps we will see the core of the Tampa CBD start to shift,” Gary Godsey the Managing Director for JLL, said to Invest in regards to the next year for commercial real estate. “Additionally if you just look at the rooftops in Pasco County and in South County, it makes sense for these areas to be considered for future commercial real estate development, despite the lack of transportation. I think we will see developers get creative and maybe look at areas like this. If you look at the I-4 corridor, that is going to continue to be a main driver in the industrial sector.”

To learn more, visit:

https://www.marcusmillichap.com/about-us/offices/tampa-florida

https://www.cushmanwakefield.com/en/united-states/offices/tampa

http://www.hybridgecre.com/

https://www.us.jll.com/en/locations/southeast

 

 

Spotlight On: Andrew Burnett, Senior Principal, Stantec

Spotlight On: Andrew Burnett, Senior Principal, Stantec

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. 

 

For more on our interviewee visit:

 

https://www.stantec.com/en