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Despite an undeniable slowdown in 2023, optimism still permeates Miami’s commercial real estate sector — buoyed by the Federal Reserve‘s recent signaling that rate cuts are on the horizon.

“The problem is not South Florida real estate,” said Arnaud Karsenti, managing principal at 13th Floor Investments. “We’re probably way better off than our peers around the rest of the country.”

The city has settled into a new normal and is positioned to see continued growth in 2024 despite challenges in office supply, multifamily dynamics and construction costs, nearly a dozen industry insiders told Bisnow in interviews this month.

“Out of all the markets we’re in, and we’re at a decent amount across the country, South Florida is far and away the healthiest,” said Ryan Shear, managing partner at PMG.

The rapid growth spurred by the pandemic — with corporate behemoths from Citadel to Microsoft moving to the region and an influx of $7.4B in wealth in 2022 — has slowed, but it remains the driving force behind the city’s expansion.

Investment volume has also tailed off, but the latest signal from Fed Chair Jerome Powell that 2024 could see as many as three rate cuts has buoyed the expectation among investors, developers and brokers that Miami will see an increased flow of capital next year.

“2023 was a throwaway year,” said Michael Fay, managing director of Avison Young’s Miami office and chairman of the brokerage’s U.S. Capital Markets Group Executive Committee. “People are looking for reasons to be back in the market and looking for opportunities, but to do that they need to have rates participate in that look.”

‘We Feel Like We’re At The End Of The Cycle’

Miami was far from immune to a rate-driven slowdown. The office sector saw 12 transactions through the first three quarters of 2023, compared to 26 deals over the same period a year prior. But even as volume plummeted, the sales that closed signaled confidence in the market, with the price per SF dipping only slightly from 2022 and outperforming 2019, before the pandemic helped boost the city’s profile.

Investors and brokers told Bisnow deal volume across all asset types is poised to rise again next year. But there is some debate as to when capital will begin flowing more freely, with some expectation that any rate cuts from the Fed will take time to percolate down to banks and loan originators.

“A lot of us are expecting some rate decreases in the first half of next year, which will lead to a more attractive forward curve,” Karsenti said. “Banks will start to lend on that curve and will ultimately provide loans at lower rates.”

The presidential election in November is likely to increase the political pressure on the Fed, said Fay, who described rate cuts as “candy” for the market. He said the beginning of 2024 will likely see a few deals before deal volume picks up in the back half of the year.

“We feel like we’re at the end of the cycle,” Fay said. “We’re hopefully going to be at a point that will mark stability. When you have stability and clarity, people can price in risk in a much better way.”

Investors across the country are raising billions of dollars to target distressed assets facing loan repayment hurdles, especially in the office sector, where an estimated 44% of properties have more debt than value at this point.

But South Florida’s office market has been an outlier to national turmoil, with Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach all among the top five markets for annual rent growth through October. South Florida office asset values are expected to grow in 2024, according to CoStar, while most of the country is still in correction mode.

Miami’s apartment market is also ranked as the most competitive in the country, with a 97% occupancy rate and the fifth-highest rents in the country.

The $5.5B in CMBS loans on South Florida properties set to mature in 2024 account for only around 5% of the national total, according to CoStar. Falling interest rates are expected to spur acquisitions, but assets trading in South Florida are unlikely to be facing debt challenges.

“I am concerned that rates are going to come down and everybody that’s been on hold, waiting and delaying, they’re all going to try to run through the same gate at the same time, which will just drive prices right back up,” Shear said.

‘They’re Not Massive HQ Moves’

Office buildings in Miami are forecasted to grow in value in large part because the pandemic-era leasing boom has waned, but not abated.

“There’s around 3.8M SF of pent-up office demand among tenants touring in Miami,” said Tere Blanca, the CEO of Blanca Commercial Real Estate.

Around 20% of those companies are new to the market with much of the remaining activity being driven by firms that opened offices in Miami during the pandemic that are now looking to expand their footprint.

“Every lease that we do today in our existing buildings, that’s a record for the highest rate in that building,” said Brian Gale, vice chair at Cushman & Wakefield in Miami. “I think office rents could rise another 25% in 2024.”

Office development remains the third rail of real estate investment, even in South Florida where the sector has continued to perform well. Few new office developments are expected to break ground next year, leaving tenants that are engaged in an ongoing flight to quality with limited options for space.

Miami had 1.6M SF under construction at the end of the third quarter, according to Blanca, half of which is the fully leased 822K SF 830 Brickell tower.

“The lack of new construction will hinder leasing activity next year with the new-to-market tenants pausing and sitting on the sidelines because the new product is not in place,” Blanca said. “For a new office project to get financing, lenders often want to know an anchor tenant has signed on, and the companies currently in the market are generally looking for spaces ranging from 5K SF to 20K SF. A lot of these deals are not getting done, because they’re smaller transactions than the Citadels of the world,” Blanca said, referencing the 90K SF lease the hedge fund signed at 830 Brickell last year. “They’re not massive HQ moves.”

‘I Can’t Imagine A Multifamily Project That Would Pencil Out’

Apartment development is also expected to face headwinds in 2024. Rent growth has tapered off amid a wave of new supply — there are around 30,000 luxury apartments alone under construction in Miami — and cuts to interest rates won’t be enough to offset the high cost of construction, developers told Bisnow.

“I can’t imagine a multifamily project that would pencil out, and I can’t imagine a lender that’s going to lend money to multifamily,” said Armando Codina, executive chairman of Coral Gables-based developer Codina Partners. “That space is going to go down significantly.”

The state-level effort to spur apartment construction through the Live Local Act generated a wave of interest, but those proposals are also facing financial hurdles. The law created tax abatements and other incentives for projects with at least 40% of units set aside for workforce housing, but those tax savings have so far been outweighed by the high cost of debt and construction.

“In the meantime, the projects that are expected to move ahead are those near mass transit stops, which can leverage county-level zoning to achieve the needed density to make projects financially viable,” said Iris Escarra, co-chair of the land use practice at Greenberg Traurig.

Miami-Dade County has been adding to its Rapid Transit Zones as it encourages the use of rail and bus lines to alleviate growing traffic congestion and increase density around transit stops before an expected push for federal funds to expand the rail system.

“There’s always a chicken or an egg with transportation and rail lines,” Escarra said. “For the county to extend the line north, for example, they need to show that there’s enough density on the line to qualify for federal dollars.”

“Condo development, by contrast, has remained attractive for developers. Financing for condos can be easier to secure because the deposits on units that are pre-sold can offset the size of construction loans and the shorter-term investment horizon is more attractive for lenders,” said Edgardo Defortuna, CEO of Miami-based developer Fortune International Group.

Condo sales have declined from pandemic highs, but the buyer pool has been boosted by international interest extending beyond Latin America. Many buyers see the purchase of a pre-construction condo at today’s pricing as a hedge against inflation and a way to avoid today’s high cost of debt.

“In a way, they have the best of both worlds, protection against inflation because they’re fixing the price, and also potentially getting lower interest rates when they need to close on their acquisition and finance,” Defortuna said.

Contractors ‘A Little More Hungry’

A slowdown in new development this year has reduced some of the upward price momentum on construction. With fewer projects breaking ground, developers said they have regained some leverage in negotiations with construction firms and contractors, even though material prices remain high.

“The numbers have gotten better but, even more important, I’m seeing the contractors being a little more hungry,” Codina said. “I’ve had [subcontractors] a year ago say to me, ‘I don’t want to bid unless I’m going to get the job, I’m too busy.’ Now, we’re breaking ground because we’ve seen a little bit of a different attitude.”

Jay FayetteSuffolk Construction’s president for the east coast of Florida, has seen the number of proposals coming across his desk decline but said he still expects to have a busy year as his firm moves through a backlog of projects that have been waiting to begin construction.

“We’re going to be very busy, and busier than last year,” Fayette said. “But that’s not necessarily due to the abundance in the market, it’s really due to the abundance that we had in the pipeline that we’re finally getting shovels in the ground. The shortage of workers that has plagued the construction industry is expected to continue, and Suffolk is investing resources into worker recruitment and retention to try to offset some of the challenges.”

Raw materials like wood and concrete have become more available, but switchgears, the backbone of a building’s electric system that became difficult to source during the pandemic, remain one of the largest hurdles for new construction.

“We don’t dare tell an owner it’s less than 65 weeks” to secure switchgears, Fayette said.

Construction costs have also begun to stabilize, but a crowded development pipeline in the region means strong demand for materials will keep prices from falling significantly in the year ahead.

“I think there is a world where construction costs come down. I can’t say that it’s in the Southeast region,” Fayette said. “We’re in nine regions nationwide, and we are seeing some softening of construction costs in other regions, but the state of Florida is a robust construction market.”

 

Source: Bisnow

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Brokers are giddy over the Fed’s announcement, while some caution fundamental challenges remain.

Commercial broker Jaret Turkell is ready to rock and roll. Turkell posted a GIF of Minions dancing with the tagline: “It’s time to PARTYYYYYY!” shortly after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell announced that the Fed was keeping interest rates unchanged, and signaled it would make three 0.25 percentage point rate cuts next year.

“We are back baby.  LFG!!!!!!” reads another tweet from Turkell, who focuses on multifamily and investment land sales at Berkadia in South Florida. (LFG stands for “let’s f**king go.”) The sentiment changed almost overnight,” Turkell said, tempering his initial enthusiasm a bit. “I’m not saying we’re back to 2021. Valuations will start to get a bit more attainable. Massive distress is going to be somewhat off the table, at least I hope so.”

The Fed’s decision is expected to boost confidence across commercial and residential real estate, especially in South Florida. The region has been somewhat insulated from headwinds in other U.S. markets since the Fed began hiking rates in the spring of 2022, but investment sales  volume is way down.

More than anything, the expected cuts are a sign of improving — not worsening — conditions. That could result in a boost of sales and financing in the second half of next year, brokers and attorneys say.

“Real estate is not a liquid asset, and it takes time for things to change. It takes time for that sentiment to build into transactions,” said Charles Foschini, senior managing director at Berkadia.

Still, the planned rate cuts won’t solve all problems, experts say. The high cost of insurance and construction will continue to hamper deals, brokers say.

“While South Florida maintains advantages over other major metros in the U.S., its biggest downside is insurance,” Foschini said.

Eternal Optimism Meets Reality 

Some pointed to the stock market rallying and the drop in inflation as breadcrumbs indicating that more good news is on the way.

“The signal that rates have stopped going higher and will go lower, psychologically is very impactful,” said industrial developer and broker Ed Easton. “But it’s not earth-shattering,”

In fact, most expected Powell would leave rates unchanged.

“No one was anticipating anything more than a standstill at this time of year,” said commercial broker and developer Stephen Bittel, chairman of Terranova Corp. The expected cuts are “not an enormously meaningful adjustment, but it does telegraph future expectations.”

Jaime Sturgis, CEO of Fort Lauderdale-based Native Realty, said he is already seeing that confidence translate into better terms.

“That will continue next year,” Sturgis said.

Still, asset classes like office and multifamily could suffer disproportionately, especially as suburban office tenants continue to downsize and multifamily landlords struggle to turn a profit.

“There will be pain and distress in that market, no question about it,” Sturgis said. “Some multifamily landlords and developers were already operating on razor thin margins to begin with. The smallest variations in that model can break it.”

Multifamily developer Asi Cymbal, who has projects in Miami Gardens, Fort Lauderdale and Dania Beach, agreed that rate cuts won’t solve major problems, such as if a developer overpaid for land.

But, Cymbal said, “the worst is over.”

Cymbal and others expect more groundbreakings in 2024, with some self-funding initial construction, expecting that they can secure a loan. He plans to self-fund the groundbreaking of Nautico, a $1.5 billion mixed-use development fronting Fort Lauderdale’s New River, in the next 90 days.

“The Fed news could help top tier developers get lower rates on construction. But not most,” Cymbal said. “Lenders will continue to be conservative.”

“Some prospective buyers who were ready to purchase may postpone their decision until rate cuts happen,” said Bilzin Sumberg partner Joe Hernandez.

 

Source: The Real Deal

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If one project can symbolize Boca Raton’s attempt to attract more corporate tenants, it’s Mutual of America’s plan for a large, new building in the Park at Broken Sound.

The New York-based life insurance company already has a regional office in the park. Mutual wants to tear down its existing office, nearly triple the size of its space and bring another 200 employees from Manhattan. That would bring the total in Boca Raton to 400, or rouighly one-third of the company’s workforce.

The 700-acre park, formerly the Arvida Park of Commerce, was groundbreaking when it opened in 1978. Under the wonderful acronym of LIRPLight Industrial Research Park—it created the employment cluster at the core of Boca Raton’s enviable commercial tax base.

In recent years, however, property owners complained that the park’s development rules had become outdated. They sought changes to allow larger and more varied projects. The city has obliged, as the city did for the owner of the nearby Boca Raton Innovation Campus, where IBM invented the personal computer.

Mayor Scott Singer especially has urged quick action on these changes, to make Boca Raton more attractive to corporate recruiters. West Palm Beach has drawn most of the moves by companies from New York during and since the pandemic.

City Councilman Mark Wigder called the Mutual project “a catalyst” for the park and city. In addition to space for those new employees, Mutual would lease some offices to outside tenants. In its narrative to the city, Mutual says the project would “facilitate new jobs added to the local economy.”

More employees and tenants, of course, would mean more traffic at one of the city’s busiest rush-hour chokepoints—Yamato Road just west of Interstate 95. Mutual is seeking a “variation” from city engineering standards that recommend 45 minutes to clear traffic at each end of the workday.

Instead, Mutual wants times of between 70 and 75 minutes. The six-story garage that will replace surface spaces, Mutual says, will allow “a more efficient allocation of land.” In addition, Mutual says, hybrid work schedules would mean that the garage is rarely full. No nearby buildings, the company claims, would have any problems.

The project is still going through staff review. No hearings have been set.

 

Source: Boca Magazine

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Downtown Boca Raton’s new Brightline station is being positioned as catalyst for growth — with the goal of building up a transit-oriented destination that will offer more new housing, stores and plenty more.

The Boca Raton station, at 101 NW 4th St., and a station in Aventura each opened in December last year, increasing the number of South Florida stations from three to five. Resembling the babies of the family, the newer stations are expected to mimic their sibling stations, which opened in 2018 in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. The older stations already have drawn growth and redevelopment around them.

“The Brightline is hugely instrumental into the growth of Boca Raton because now you can have somebody who’s working down in Miami who can live ‘in the suburbs’ up here,” said Scott Gerow, the executive director of luxury sales at the Cotilla-Beresh-Gerow Luxury Team at Compass. “Now it makes it more of a commutable region, like Long Island or Connecticut would be to Manhattan.”

Jenni Morejon, the president and CEO of the Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority, added, “Every city that has a Brightline station either today, or ultimately a commuter rail station in the future, is going to see tremendous mixed-use development because it is truly a driver for investment.”

Here’s a look at how growth is bound to come near Boca’s Brightline station.

A 13-Story Building Proposed

Evidence of a future defined by development already may be making an appearance: A proposal, recently filed with the city, calls for a 13-story multi-use project called Modera Boca Raton that would feature a 358-unit apartment building near the station.

The plan calls for about 6,500 square feet of retail space, as well as nearly 490 parking spots. The planned amenities would include a clubhouse, fitness center, courtyard, rooftop pool and sundeck.

The project would be located immediately south of the Brightline station specifically west of Northwest Second Avenue, east of Northwest First Avenue, south of Northwest Fourth Street, and north of Northwest Third Street. The Boca Raton Public Library sits nearby.

A Consultant’s Help

“The city is seeking a consultant to guide the creation of the transit-orientated development that the area currently lacks,” said Marc Wigder, chair of the Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency. “Such a consultant would help the city design a sustainable, transit-oriented district with a mixture of uses that would highlight the transit hub, would highlight the government center hub, and would highlight the ability to not be so vehicular dominated. That’s kind of what you want, transit-oriented development that enables neighborhood feelings without vehicular dependency.”

The aim is to achieve what Wigder said is called an “internal capture,” wherein people don’t have to drive everywhere, underscoring the live, work, play concept he and other members of the council have continued to push for in Boca Raton’s downtown scape. Public input will also play a role, Wigder said, and will be gathered over the next several months.

Other Stations’ Successes

Thriving examples of growth around Brightline stations exist both north and south of Boca’s station. Take Fort Lauderdale, for example: Since its station opened in 2018, the city’s downtown population has seen an increase of more than 10,000 people and 5,000 new rental units, according to data from the Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority.

In November, the Broward County Commission voted to build a new government center next to the Fort Lauderdale station, bolstering the potential growth there.

“A transit-oriented development takes care of any and all needs of the residents or employees living in that area,” said Morejon, the Downtown Development Authority’s president. “And while Fort Lauderdale experiences a similar issue to Boca Raton in terms of finding land to develop, a solution to that is developing more efficiently. You really have to go vertical. A lot of it is about redeveloping properties that already have existing development. And that’s not a bad thing because it makes for more compact cities, more walkable cities, cities that have a lot more amenities in close proximity.”

 

Source: SunSentinel