☀️ 1,000 New Floridians Per Day

A resident rush; Chicago builder tests Miami; bridge & tunnel debate

Happy Friday, Highest & Best! We broke out the scarves and hats here in South Florida as temperatures dipped into the 40’s, and weather reports forecast frozen iguanas falling from the treetops:

WPBF weather forecast, December 18, 2023

Anyway, there’s lots of hotter news to share about the pre-Christmas, South Florida real estate week:

  • 📈 Florida’s population grew at 1,000 per day

    ☀️ Chicago developer enters Miami office and condo market

    🚆 Fort Lauderdale’s bridge and tunnel crowds

    ⚡ Florida’s EV-charging highway

    🏠 Real estate brokers predict: more home sales in ‘24

And a note to Gmail subscribers: please be sure to move Highest & Best’s email to your Primary Inbox, if it happens to land in your ‘Promotions’ tab. I only send one email per week— so I’d hate for you to miss it!

Now, let’s get to it:

U.S. Census: Florida Was #2 in Population Growth Last Year

Florida added 365,205 new residents in the 12 months through July 1, according to data released this week by the U.S Census Bureau.

That means 1,000 new Floridians were minted each day.  

The new additions grew Florida’s population in the past year by 1.6% — tying the state for second place with Texas, which expanded at the same rate while adding over 470,000 residents.

The U.S. South continues to draw newcomers, while northern states shed people, though now at a slower pace, Census data shows:

  • South Carolina saw the biggest rate of growth, at 1.7%, while adding 90,600 people in the year through July 1.

  • New York shed nearly 102,000 residents, or 0.5% of its population. That’s a slower decline from last year, when it lost 0.9%, and the year before that, when 1.2% of New Yorkers left.

  • California lost 75,423 residents; and Illinois parted ways with 32,836.

  • The American Redistricting Project is forecasting — based on this week’s Census data —that Florida will gain three Congressional seats in 2030, while New York will lose three.

Chart by U.S. Census Bureau

From Chicago’s Chilly Office Market to Miami’s Office Sizzle

HUB Miami office rendering (Photo: Dark Room)

The John Buck Company is a Chicago developer that knows its way around a Windy City skyscraper. The firm has acquired, developed, and redeveloped more than 47 million square feet of commercial property — including prime Chicago office towers with tenants that included Facebook and UBS.

And here’s its next venture: an office and condo building in Miami.

It’s the first ever Florida investment for the 42-year old firm.

The project, called HUB Miami, will be a 41-story downtown tower, one block from Miami’s Brightline train station. It will be part office, part furnished condos, and all-in on capturing the demand for space in Miami by executives and firms relocating from elsewhere.

“It comes back to all the in-migration,” Ryan Lovell, managing director of investments at John Buck, said in an interview. “People who haven’t invested in, or historically have evaluated Miami, may have thought that this was one of those areas where it’s great in boom years but is very much driven by leisure or hospitality. That really changed during Covid.”

HUB Miami — which John Buck is co-developing with Florida Value Partners, BH Group, and PEBB Enterprises — will include 245,000 square feet of office space starting on the ninth floor, with floor plates that allow for column-free workspaces favored by financial and tech firms.

306 condos, fully furnished— and easily rentable by investors on Airbnb— will start on the 22nd floor. They’ll range in size from 394 square feet to 1,046 square feet, have floor-to ceiling windows, and prices that start at $450,000 Lovell said. Condo sales began in November.

Lovell declined to say how many have sold yet, but said that some of the tower’s potential office tenants have inquired about buying or leasing up blocks of condos for use by employees visiting from out-of-town.

The $400 million HUB Miami project will begin demolition this month and be complete by 2027.

“I have no doubt that new-to-market tenants are going to continue to come,” Lovell said of the firm’s outlook on Miami’s office market. “You look at the state’s tax system, you look at the economic incentives for South Florida, you look at the high quality of life.”

And you can look at relative office demand in Miami and Chicago. There’s now less office space available for lease in Miami than there was in 2019, before the pandemic, according to brokerage CBRE. In Chicago, by contrast, office vacancies set a record in the 3rd quarter at 23.7%.

That’s made Miami office towers a must-have asset for property investors.

“My Miami work is the highlight of my day,” Lovell said. “It’s happy, there’s good news, there’s activity. Miami is a very bright spot in the country right now.”

HUB Miami rooftop pool (Photo: Dark Room)

A Florida Road that Will Charge Your Car While You Drive

Florida is second in the country in the number of registered electric vehicles. It makes sense then that the state would consider building an expressway that can charge cars while they drive.

The Central Florida Expressway Authority announced plans to build a wireless charging system into a new toll road it plans to develop between Lake and Orange Counties.

It’s a pilot project, accounting for just one lane of the soon-to-be-built State Road 516.

“It would just have the embedded coils in the road and they would be electrified, and when the car travels over it… it would sense that it was compatible and it would start the charge,” expressway authority spokesman Brian Hutchings told Spectrum News.

Only specially equipped vehicles from the expressway authority will be able to receive the charge during this test period, but the agency hopes to eventually expand it to all, Hutchings said.

Construction on the $500 million road will start next year and be complete in 2027.

Fort Lauderdale’s Bridge & Tunnel Fight

Fort Lauderdale needs a new river crossing for the Brightline train (Photo: trains.com)

Here’s what elected officials and developers in Fort Lauderdale agree on: the city needs another way of getting trains across the New River. The current 45-year old drawbridge, carrying ever more daily trips from the Brightline commuter train, isn’t going to cut it.

So what will take its place? Either a bridge— or a tunnel. And the quest for an answer is getting divisive, and potentially costly.

A public meeting this week pitted the handful of Broward County officials who favor a bridge against a much larger group of builders, land owners, and Fort Lauderdale’s mayor, who are 100% on Team Tunnel.

The pro-bridge argument is this: at roughly $500 million, it costs less to build.

The pro-tunnel argument: Not so fast. A bridge would cleave Fort Lauderdale’s revitalizing downtown in half. And it would require the government to seize some prime development properties.

The cost of buying out those owners, and paying for the court battle that will no doubt ensue, could easily mushroom the costs of a bridge past $1 billion, said Asi Cymbal, a developer planning a $1.5 billion hotel, residential and restaurant district along the waterfront, and parallel to the path of the proposed crossing.

“Certainly, once we sink our one-and-a half billion of investment in downtown Fort Lauderdale we’re not letting go of that property for anything less than one-and-a-half billion,” Cymbal, chairman of Cymbal DLT Companies—who favors a tunnel— said in an interview this week.

“The cost in terms of time and money to litigate with all of those property owners is going to delay that project for a very long time,” Cymbal said.

But it looks like Team Bridge might be persuaded. County officials who voted for a bridge this week — a vote that could mark the “epitaph of downtown,” Fort Lauderdale’s mayor said — agreed to study a revised tunnel plan that places the cost of an underground pass-through at as low as $900 million, Cymbal said.

“The cost of a tunnel is not materially greater,” Cymbal said.

Florida Realtors Predict Homes Sales to Climb 7% in 2024

The Miami Association of Realtors dusted off its crystal ball this week and issued this forecast: South Florida home sales will climb by 7% in 2024.

And prices? They’ll “continue to appreciate at a modest pace of 5%,” said Gay Cororaton, chief economist for the Miami Association of Realtors, in a statement.

The Federal Reserve announced plans to cut interest rates next year, and that could send mortgage rates, which have been skirting 8%, down to 5.25% by the end of 2024, Cororaton said. That should prompt more long-time owners to list their homes, as the cost of buying a new place becomes less onerous.

For-sale inventory in South Florida is already seeking a little pickup:

  • Single family home listings in Palm Beach County jumped 27% in November from a year earlier, according to a report this month by appraiser Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

  • Home listings are up 11% in Broward County and 3.8% in Miami-Dade County.


That’s it for today!

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