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It’s a good for a city to be called a “magnet,” so long as it’s attracting the right things.

In the case of Fort Lauderdale, business leaders just took heart after PwC, the national auditing and accounting firm, released an annual commercial real estate survey of 80 metro areas that for the first time ranks the city as a top “18-hour city.”

It’s a loosely defined term that refers to smaller cities with amenities, public services, and job opportunities that are comparable to those in larger places such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. But Fort Lauderdale is a place where it’s cheaper to live and do business, and where many entrepreneurs and investors find it easier to set up shop. Years ago, the city would button up and workers would go home at 5 p.m.

“Now you have more of an 18-hour city,” said Steve Hudson, president and CEO of Hudson Capital Group, a Fort Lauderdale-based real estate investment firm. “Young people are being attracted here — there are more jobs. People are catching on that this is very laid-back place to live that has a lot of benefits.”

Others cities the category include Charlotte, Denver, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Portland, Oregon, Salt Lake City and San Diego.

The PwC report also said Fort Lauderdale’s downtown is at the leading edge of the nation’s top 10 metropolitan areas that have workers returning to their offices from COVID -19. In addition, retail vacancy rates this year were 4.8%, the lowest in a decade and down from 8% in 2020.

All of it bodes well, according to real estate analysts and leaders of the Downtown Development Authority, for a local economy that is likely to continue a run to the upside in 2022.

The Migration Behind The Magnetism

Much of that optimism is based on a continued surge of population growth as thousands of people moved into South Florida from northern urban areas during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You’re seeing a pretty strong migration of talent into this area, and the companies are paying attention,” said Ken Krasnow, vice chairman of Colliers Florida, the commercial real estate service firm.

Jenni Morejon, president and CEO of the DDA, said net migration into the city this year was 4,900 people, many of whom took up residence in new apartment towers that are sprouting in Flagler Village. Business leaders expect those numbers to grow in 2022 and 2023, and base their expectations in part on continued inquiries from out-of-town companies looking to expand.

“A rise in the number of downtown retail and restaurant operations is largely attributable to owners noticing a boost in the local population, and taking advantage of rents that are lower than elsewhere in South Florida,” Morejon said. “The downtown population has eclipsed 21,000. Many of the new restaurateurs that came to Fort Lauderdale have seen success in Miami and other places around the country and recognize rent is not as expensive as it is in Miami and West Palm beach. It’s really encouraging. New retailers are coming to downtown Fort Lauderdale. The movement has driven retail vacancy rates in the city’s core downward to 4.8% this year, which is lower than pre pandemic levels.”

Many of the newly arrived residents, Krasnow said, have the ability to work remotely from new homes in Fort Lauderdale while keeping their jobs in their original cities.

“People are free to effectively work or live wherever they want and increasingly they are choosing to live down there,” Krasnow said.

Aside from the well-documented flight from northern cities to the Sun Belt for tax and weather-related reasons, professionals in the legal, financial, technology and engineering fields are looking for more walkable neighborhood spaces and diversified cultural activities.

“The talent is choosing to live in places that have all of those dynamics,” Krasnow said. “We rate very well on all of those scales.”

Tim Petrillo, co-founder and CEO of The Restaurant People, operators of a dozen restaurants in the area, said the pandemic “put gas on the fire” of migration into the city, with many of the new residents being remote workers.

“I know we see all the time these people in the restaurants,” Petrillo said of the demographic. “Before, talent used to follow companies. Now we’re seeing companies following talent. Now companies are looking to establish a presence in our market. One challenge facing the city is that there has not been a lot of office space built in Fort Lauderdale. The 25-story The Main Las Olas which contains 1.4 million square feet of office, retail and residential space at 201 Las Olas, is the only new building with major office space to rise since the Bank of American tower a decade ago.”

Petrillo and Alan Hooper, through their Urban Street Development firm, are in a joint venture with Hines, the Houston-based office development giant, to add to the commercial mix with an expansive mixed-use project in the Flagler Village area, scene of multiple high-end apartment rentals towers.

A key proposed component is a Hines concept called Timber, Transit and Technology [T3], a seven-story structure aimed at attracting technology and financial service firms. The developers expect to complete the project in 2024.

Developers Jockey For Position

The influx of new residents and ensuing demand for places to live hasn’t been lost on developers, who seem to be working overtime at their drawing boards.

“We see that a lot,” said Stephen Chang, chief operating officer of Suffolk Construction of West Palm Beach, which is involved in a variety of commercial projects regionwide. “There is a definite boom going on right now for South Florida,” he said. “You have a lot of out-of-town developers very interested in South Florida because of the climate and its business acumen and how the government has kept the doors open. Financially it’s relatively cheap, when you compare to older cities like New York or Chicago.”

Areas Poised For Prominence

Fort Lauderdale has some areas that developers seem particularly keen on, based on their existing amenities, Brightline among them. For example, the Kushner Companies of New York and Aimco of Denver have proposed a joint venture to build a 540-foot mixed use project at 300 West Broward Boulevard, slightly to the west of Brightllne’s downtown train station. It would be comprised of two 38-floor towers atop a 10-floor podium, with 956 residential units and 23,752 square feet of ground level commercial space, according to the companies’ development application with the city.

The effort would result in the tallest structure in the city, reaching higher than the 499-foot 100 Las Olas building tower and serve, the developers say, as “an urban gateway to the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale.”

The proposed building follows an earlier proposal Kushner submitted this year for four other high rises called “Broward Crossing,” also near the Brightline station.

Both companies declined to comment. But their application echoed what local analysts say about why developers want to build here: to leverage nearby existing civic and cultural amenities and build momentum toward more growth — and profits.

“The site is located at an important junction between major transportation hubs, civic and cultural institutions, and commercial attractions,” the application says.

It goes on to note the nearby Brightline and the Broward Central Bus Terminal, the civic and cultural landmarks including the future Joint Governmental Campus, the Museum of Discovery and Science, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, and Esplanade Park.

“The proposed building is an opportunity to create not only an icon for the city, but also a new community space that contributes to the life of the neighborhood and enhances the pedestrian connections from around the city,” the application adds.

The companies also think the project would inspire further development westward along Broward Boulevard.

“The hope is to add new energy to the neighborhood, supporting the local economy and the lives of those throughout the local community,” the application says.

 

Source: SunSentinel

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South Florida’s industrial market fundamentals, particularly for bulk warehouse space, blew through the third quarter of 2021 on strong leasing demand and new construction

The region’s healthy consumer market and growing population helped push investor and occupier confidence in the industrial market, which is likely to continue through 2022.

The backlog at West Coast ports is causing weeks of delays for goods that need  to travel to East Coast markets, making warehouse/distribution space in South Florida an attractive and faster alternative from a distribution standpoint. Bottlenecks in the supply chain are realigning how many firms view real estate needs locally with a shift in philosophy for inventory management.

Previously, companies focused on lean supply chains where materials and goods arrive “just in time.” In a market like South Florida, that meant limited amounts of warehouse space were needed.  Now, companies are turning to an inventory strategy that follows a “just in case” model, where more goods are stored closer to customers to minimize fluctuations in demand. South Florida, with three deep-water ports, has the capacity to address the immediate logistics needs for companies with changing inventory strategies.

In the last year, 18,200 new industrial and warehouse-related jobs were created in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. They were added because of big-box expansion by e-commerce firms, together with a push into last-mile facilities. Hiring also occurred with traditional retailers, plus new-to-market entrants, which increasingly viewed the tri-county as a strategic location to serve the immediate needs of customers.

New inventory and aggressive development captured some of the new employment. In the first nine months of 2021, 5.4 million square feet of new industrial space was delivered in the region. As the industrial inventory and deliveries grew, so did the occupiers’ space requirements for square footage, but new construction could not keep up.

As of the end of the third quarter, 6.6 million square feet of industrial space was under construction, with three projects representing 1.8 million square feet of new inventory. Still, overall industrial vacancy in South Florida fell to 4.4 percent in the third quarter. Both Miami-Dade and Palm Beach County were even tighter at 3.3 percent, with Broward County coming in at 5.9 percent as available space throughout the region decreased year-over-year.

While not a record-setting year yet, new leasing activity year-to-date of 11.6 million square feet was only 18 percent less than the full amount for all deals done in 2019. Net absorption, or the amount of space absorbed by tenants, was 7.8 million square feet in 2021. That represents a 250 percent increase in the amount of space absorbed when compared to 2020.

yc37i south florida industrial absorption The South Florida Answer to West Coast Logistic Bottlenecks

In Miami-Dade, leasing reached more than 6.8 million square feet year-to-date, an increase of 15.5 percent compared to the same period one year ago. For that same period, Broward County recorded more than 3.6 million square feet, a 36.1 percent rise from 2020. Palm Beach County had 1.0 million square feet in new leasing activity so far in 2021.

Limited availability on heightened demand allowed landlords to push asking rates to all-time highs. Overall average asking rents for all South Florida were at $9.87 per square feet, triple net, the highest amount recorded. Rents in Miami-Dade were at $9.17 per square foot, a 7.1 percent jump from last year. And Broward County also reached an all-time high of $10.27 per square foot in the third quarter. Palm Beach County topped out at $11.07 per square foot with the asking rate rising steadily over the last three quarters as construction picked up.

AfGHE south florida industrial rents e1637699131823 The South Florida Answer to West Coast Logistic Bottlenecks

Confidence in South Florida’s economy and potential for growth will only be enhanced by the lifting of U.S. restrictions on foreign travel. The influx of travelers and investors from overseas, starting over the holidays, will contribute to additional optimism in industrial market fundamentals in the region. The longer that challenges remain at West Coast ports to efficiently move goods into the United States means that South Florida becomes the better, more reliable strategic alternative for companies. The region’s positive fundamentals post pandemic,including solid population growth and rising incomes, make South Florida an attractive market for investment.

 

Source: Commercial Observer