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Florida-Bound? Consider Fort Lauderdale

As headline after headline has blared, wealthy people and companies have been migrating out of California and the Northeast to South Florida over the past year.

During Bisnow's Fort Lauderdale State of the Market webinar on Feb. 24, proponents of the city said that for newcomers, it is the best place to land.

“We’re the bull's-eye when you look at the market,” said Merrimac Ventures CEO Dev Motwani, pointing out its location between Miami and Palm Beach.

There are also advantages for real estate professionals looking for workers to fill jobs or tenants to fill buildings.

“There [are] 6 million people within a half-hour commute," said Fred Zutel, Willis Tower Watson head of corporate risk and broking.

The Society Las Olas apartment building in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

With an international airport, a port, cruise lines, miles of beachfront, the Florida Panthers NHL hockey team and a training facility for David Beckham’s soccer team, Greater Fort Lauderdale is more lively than Palm Beach County but has less traffic and noise than Miami, panelists said, arguing that it offers a better quality of life.

“I think people are going to pay for that quality of life when they find us,” said Motwani, who has developed numerous mixed-use, residential, hotel and commercial projects. He said he “couldn’t be more bullish.”

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis teased that “a friend of mine said he just sold a high-end condo to a chief executive at Goldman Sachs.” He heard about another sale, too: “Someone high up from Amazon.”

BH3 principal Greg Freedman was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale and has developed residential projects from Miami to New York.

“During the last downturn, we recently moved our offices from Miami to Fort Lauderdale,” he said.

Cymbal Development founder Asi Cymbal, who has also developed commercial projects in Miami and New York, said that he would be moving to Fort Lauderdale in the next 24 months and relocating his company headquarters there.

Edens Senior Vice President of Investment Nicole Shiman, who oversees a portfolio of shopping plazas and offices, said that national decision-makers have finally started to realize Fort Lauderdale’s potential. For example, after opening three Miami locations, Shake Shack opened another at an Edens shopping center in the city.

“[Retailers] are taking the position that given the densification and the growth that's occurring, that they want to participate in that growth,” Shiman said. “There's also a value orientation around it. There's an opportunity to land in Fort Lauderdale and rent levels that are a little bit more within reach relative to what you might see in some core Miami markets. And interestingly, in a lot of instances the sales that the businesses can achieve in Fort Lauderdale is equal or greater at a lower occupancy cost in terms of rent.”

Clockwise from top left: Colliers Vice Chairman Ken Krasnow, Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority President and CEO Jenni Morejon, and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis

The outlook for multifamily is strong. Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority CEO and President Jenni Morejon said 7,000 residential units have been delivered in seven years.

“We are predicting 7% rental growth in 2022,” CBRE Senior Vice President Chris Gallagher said.

“There are places just outside of the urban core, like Dania and Hollywood, that have tremendous upside, that can be the value to a lot of what's going on in Fort Lauderdale and that has not been tapped into,” said Estate Cos. principal Jeffrey Ardizon, who spearheads luxury residential projects.

Coastal Construction Executive Vice President Patrick Erin Murphy said the whole state of Florida is on fire.

“The one sector that hasn't picked back up is hospitality,” Murphy said. “If you would have asked me six months ago, nine months ago, about office, I probably would have said, ‘We're not going to build an office for two or three years.’ All of a sudden we're looking at three right now.”

“We're seeing the leisure market come back strong," Motwani said. "Especially in Fort Lauderdale, it's hard to even get a room at some of the hotels on the beach on the weekends.”

As for potential downsides, Ocean Land Investments founder and President Jean Francois Roy, who has been developing high-end residences tailored for seniors, said he is concerned about inflation.

Murphy said he’s locking in construction prices and subcontractors for jobs as the market is expected to stay busy.

“People will be chasing the same subcontractors,” he said.

Looking at the big picture, Ardizon said, “In terms of growth, we’re in the first inning."  

Other panelists included Colliers Vice Chairman Ken Krasnow; Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance President and CEO Bob Swindell; Tiktin Real Estate Investment Services President/Broker Adam J. Tiktin; Gold Krown Investments co-Managing Partner Ronald Krongold and Fat Village founder Doug McCraw.