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South Florida News

  • A 15-year-old rental complex in Ocala trades for $133,000 per unit

    Grand Reserve Apartment Homes in Ocala

    Jay Ballard

    A 263-unit apartment complex in Ocala sold for $35 million, or $133,000 per unit.

    The 15-year-old property, Grand Reserve Apartment Homes, was 93.9 percent occupied when the sale closed.

    Built in 2003, Grand Reserve Apartment Homes is a cluster of one- and two-story residential buildings.

    Ken Delvillar

    The average size of the Ocala property’s one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments is 1,031 square feet, and their average market rent is $1.03 per square foot.

    Nashville-based Carter-Halston sold the apartment complex to a partnership of Houston-based ApexOne Investment Partners and The Collier Companies of Gainesville.

    Jay Ballard and Ken Delvillar of Cushman & Wakefield’s Florida Multifamily Team represented the seller in the transaction. – Mike Seemuth

  • Four vacant parcels in Cape Coral hit the market with a $12M asking price

    Four Corners in Cape Coral

    Four vacant parcels of land in Cape Coral are listed for sale with an asking price of $12 million, or about $567,000 per acre.

    The parcels at 4128-4233 Agualinda Boulevard in Cape Coral total 21.14 acres and are zoned for multifamily, commercial and mixed-use development. The land is cleared and filled to grade.

    Four Corners CC, LLC, and The Stephen W. Haywood Revocable Trust own the parcels, known as Four Corners.

    “Four Corners is the only commercially zoned property primed for development within a two- to five-mile radius, presenting an investor-developer virtually no competition,” Rosendo Caveiro, a senior vice president of brokerage firm Avison Young, said in a prepared statement. “Multifamily and commercial development in Cape Coral-Fort Myers have not kept pace with the area’s growth.”

    Caveiro also said the Four Corners site could accommodate a multifamily housing development with as many as 400 rental units “and still have additional acreage for commercial development.”

    Caveiro and Avison Young senior director Dan E. Gorczycki will oversee the marketing and collective sale of the parcels. – Mike Seemuth

  • Judge postpones auction of Palm House to consider whether to allow a lender to bid

    Glennn Straub (Source: Casino.org)

    A federal judge postponed a bankruptcy auction to sell the unfinished Palm House hotel-condominium building in Palm Beach.

    The auction, which had been scheduled to happen Nov. 16, is now scheduled to start at 10 a.m. on Dec. 14 in the West Palm Beach courtroom of Bankruptcy Court Judge Erik P. Kimball.

    On reason the judge postponed the auction was to give himself more time to decide whether to allow Wellington real estate investor Glenn Straub to participate in the auction by submitting a so-called “credit bid.”

    The judge approved a plan that would allow New York-based Related Companies to buy the Palm House property for $32 million unless a higher bid is submitted at the auction.

    Straub, who formerly owned the Palm House, contends that a company he controls has a secured claim on the property at 160 Royal Palm Way in Palm Beach that exceeds $37 million.

    Straub’s company sold the Palm House in August 2013 for $36 million and provided a mortgage loan of more than $27 million to the buyer, 160 Royal Palm LLC, which defaulted on the loan.

    Philip J. Landau, a bankruptcy attorney for the debtor, 160 Royal Palm LLC, argues that Straub’s company, KK-PB Financial LLC, should be barred from participating in the bankruptcy auction by submitting a bid equal to the amount of the defaulted loan.

    In an Oct. 5 filing with the court, Landau said Judge Kimball should prohibit Straub’s company from participating in the bankruptcy auction because of lingering uncertainty with respect to the loan by KK-PB Financial, Straub’s role in the Palm House project, and his relationship with indicted developer Robert V. Matthews.

    Proceeds from the auction would compensate creditors of 160 Royal Palm LLC, the owner of Palm House, which has $115 million of debt. The company’s creditors include foreign investors who put more than $40 million into the Palm House project through the federal EB-5 visa program. Construction work on the project stopped in 2014.

    Matthews and Leslie R. Evans, a Palm Beach attorney, are defendants in a trial that will start in July at a federal court in Connecticut. They face charges of fraud and money laundering in connection with the Palm House project. Federal prosecutors say Matthews and Evans used the federal EB-5 visa program to defraud foreign investors in the Palm House project.

    In a related civil case, the Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Matthews and Joseph Walsh, director of the South Atlantic Regional Center, with fraudulent misappropriation of funds from foreign investors in the Palm House project. [Palm Beach Daily News]Mike Seemuth

  • Failed delivery: How the cities that missed out on Amazon’s HQ2 are coping

    (Composite by Kerry Barger for The Real Deal)

    The cities that fought until the last minute to win over Amazon are now moving on — some joyfully, some begrudgingly.

    Before the news leaked that New York and Crystal City, Virginia, were Amazon’s top headquarters picks, five other cities also seemed poised to nab the golden ticket. Amazon representatives reportedly revisited Chicago, Miami and Newark in late October. Texas appeared a viable contender with sources in early November telling outlets that the company was in advanced talks with both Dallas and Austin.

    Some officials and developers in those cities lament the loss; some are downright puzzled. And others are just grateful they had a chance. Here’s how the HQ2 rejects are coping:


    (Credit: iStock)

    The Midwest City’s public and private leaders presented Amazon with 10 proposals for its second headquarters — among them Related Midwest’s The 78, Sterling Bay’s 53-acre project Lincoln Yards and Farpoint Development’s 100-acre campus known as Burnham Lakefront.

    But now, those near-winners are already predicting Chicago will lure other corporate relocations instead.

    Related Midwest CEO Curt Bailey said in a statement on Tuesday that prospective tenants, including “major corporations, cultural institutions and retailers,” have shown interest in its $7 billion megaproject (which received its first city approval Thursday).

    The 78 did come close, though. “What I would take from that exercise is that of 238 municipalities, you probably had close to 1,000 sites combined, and we were top five,” Bailey said in a later interview with The Real Deal. “That makes me feel pretty good about our prospects moving forward on The 78 for other companies.”

    Sterling Bay — which planned 6 million square feet of commercial space at its Lincoln Yards site — is also putting Amazon in its rearview mirror. In fact, the developer claims it doesn’t expect to have any trouble filling the it planned for the project now that the Seattle-based e-commerce behemoth is out.

    Spokeswoman Julie Goudie said in a statement said that “Sterling Bay is moving full steam ahead” with its initial plans.

    Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel refused to say what Amazon executives told him about why they passed on Chicago, but said losing is part of playing the game.

    “If you compete, you have the opportunity to win, and you also have the opportunity to not be successful. That said, Chicago has won more than it has lost.”


    (Credit: iStock)

    Following the official announcement that Amazon would split its new headquarters between New York and Virginia, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings admitted during a press conference that officials had been willing to let Amazon “change the whole direction of the city.” He also added that the two coastal, northeastern cities, seemed to be to more “than what I thought Amazon wanted to pay.”

    Developers whose sites made it to the final inning did say they hedged their bets.

    Jim Reynolds, senior vice president of development and construction at a West Dallas Investments company, said that “there are specific companies that we know are on the sidelines.”

    Reynolds’ company presented Amazon with Trinity Groves, an 80-acre assemblage that West Dallas Investments had cobbled together over the past 15 years. There, the company planned a 9 million-square-foot megaproject. But now that the decision is final, Reynolds said his firm is “anxious” to get a move on.

    Meanwhile, other local developers like Cienda Partners, which had its 50-acre project Oak Cliff also listed as a potential site for Amazon, weren’t paying much attention to “the Amazon hoopla,” as Cienda’s managing partner Philip Wise put it.

    “We hadn’t paid a lot of attention to Amazon quite frankly with so many people in this competition,” he said.


    (Credit: iStock)

    Amazon had a slew of potential sites to pick from across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Perhaps one of the most iconic was the $2 billion, 27-acre megaproject, Miami Worldcenter. The developer was reportedly ready to carve out up to 10 acres of the project for Amazon.

    The development’s managing principal Nitin Motwani declined to comment on the status of the project in relation to the Amazon proposal, citing a NDA, but noted that the company has “active conversations going with a variety of people” for the land that was available for Amazon.Though HQ2 “would have been a catalyst,” according to Suarez, he doesn’t see the loss as a setback. Miami will keep looking for a “big tech tenant.” The mayor says he’ll continue to promote the city to potential contenders like Google and Spotify — the latter of which he said has been in “on-and-off” talks with the city.

    “I don’t think it slows down Miami one iota,” he said.

    Kelly Smallridge, the president and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, said the year-long process laid the groundwork for similar bids between counties in the future and said “there’s no hard feelings.”

    She described the process of the year-long competition — which has been called a “Hunger Games”-style death match — as “standard.”

    “Projects a tenth of the size take three years to make the decision … they stuck to the timeframe they put forward,” she said. “They handled it very well and very quickly.”

    Smallridge declined to comment on how the loss of HQ2 would impact any of the sites that were listed as part of South Florida’s proposal, though she contested the sentiment that other large corporations could step in and fill up the large developments.

    “We would basically have had to create a city for Amazon,” she said. “There aren’t people in the wings to take 5 million square feet … that just doesn’t happen.”


    (Credit: iStock)

    At worst, Newark’s run for Amazon’s HQ2 was an exercise in self-promotion.

    “I feel like we just worked on our largest class project ever,” said Aisha Glover, CEO of Newark Community Economic Development Corporation, who worked alongside Mayor Ras Baraka to put together the city’s bid. “No one expected us to land on the list anyway.”

    Though Glover says the city’s pipeline of new development has been growing steadily for at least four years, she said there’s been a “significant uptick in interest” since Newark made Amazon’s 20-city shortlist in January. It was “an immediate change in the winds,” according to her, though developers are less enthusiastic.

    “Listen, it was always a very long shot that Newark would win,” said residential developer Ron Beit of RBH Group. The company’s SoMa Master Plan project was listed in Newark’s bid. “I think Amazon made a mistake,” he said, but, in the same breadth, he noted developers “were all very sober about it.”

    The long-standing relationship with Audible, which was acquired by Amazon in 2008 and is based in the city, made some, like Beit, think “we had a chance,” but “no one was sort of underwriting that in their expectations.”

    Commercial developer Ben Korman, chairman and CEO Lotus Equity Group and co-founder of C&K Properties with Meir Cohen, had two of his developments included in Newark’s bid and, hours after Amazon’s announcement, even he admitted that “I don’t think [losing HQ2] means a whole lot.”

    That said, Korman said the amount of positive press for the city did go a long way in minting a new reputation that developers like him have been trying to sell for years.

    “Newark,” he said, “is definitely a player now.”

    Korman described the growth of the city as being “more organic” without HQ2 in the mix, but said his work felt no effect from Amazon’s opting for NYC over the Garden State city.

    “To be honest, we tried to help, but we were not invested in any way. There’s not much for me to add. A lot will be said about this process, but I’m not the one to say it,” he said.

    Additional reporting by Katherine Kallergis and Keith Larsen.

  • Miami may allow denser development in exchange for affordable housing

    (Credit: iStock)

    Miami city commissioners gave preliminary approval to a proposal that would require private developers to include affordable housing in new apartment buildings in a part of the city where denser development would be allowed.

    The “inclusionary zoning” proposal would allow denser development in an area between Northeast Second Avenue and North Miami Avenue from approximately 18th Street south to Interstate 395.

    In that zone, which covers approximately 30 city blocks, denser development would be allowed to offset the cost that residential building owners would incur for designating a portion of their units as affordable and workforce housing.

    City commissioners approved the inclusionary zoning rules in a preliminary 4-0 vote late Thursday, and they will consider final approval of the rules in December.

    The city already has approved denser development in exchange for the inclusion of workforce housing units in about six real estate projects.

    Melo Group, for example, won city approval for denser development in exchange for including 255 workforce housing units in three towers the firm is developing. Workforce housing is loosely defined as rental apartments affordable for teachers and police officers.

    The proposed inclusionary zoning rules would replace the city’s case-by-case approach to requiring some affordable and workforce housing units in exchange for allowing denser residential developments.

    The proposed rules would result in mixed-income rental properties. Affordable housing typically takes the form of rental properties occupied solely by low-income tenants.

    Under established legal definitions, affordable housing is for families that make 80 percent or less of the median household income in Miami-Dade County. The threshold of 80 percent or less currently equates to $62,950 or less for a family of four in Miami-Dade. Workforce housing is for families of four with a household income of as much as $94,440. [Miami Herald]Mike Seemuth

  • Michael Avenatti’s law firm evicted from office over $213K in unpaid rent

    (Credit: Getty Images, iStock)

    The Los Angeles lawyer famous for representing Stormy Daniels is officially in the market for a new office.

    Michael Avenatti’s law firm was officially evicted from its Newport Beach digs on Friday, according to the Los Angeles Times. Avenatti had attempted to ward off the eviction — despite failing to appear for the trial against his landlord, Irvine Co., last month and at Friday’s final hearing — but ultimately Judge Robert Moss sided with Irvine.

    The landlord claims his tenant is four months late on rent payments and owes a total of $213,254. Avenatti’s law firm has until Monday to vacate.

    Avenatti told the Times that he no longer owns the firm on the hook for not paying rent. That entity, Eagan Avenatti, was once owned by Avenatti, but now he claims there is a new, unidentified owner. He said his current firm is Avenatti & Associates. Though Avenatti & Associates operates alongside Eagan Avenatti in the same Newport office with the same staff, the firm’s had different arrangements with the landlord, he claimed.

    “Eagan Avenatti, my former firm, was already in the process of moving. A non-event,” he wrote in an email to the Times. He argued in court that Avenatti & Associates had an “oral rental agreement with the landlord.”

    The final order of eviction came two days after Avenatti was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. He was released hours later after posting bond to the tune of $50,000. [LAT] — Erin Hudson

  • Four-year-old Orlando apartment complex sells for $243,000 per unit

    Azul Baldwin Park apartment complex in Orlando

    A four-year-old apartment complex in Orlando sold for about $243,000 per unit in a 1031 exchange.

    California-based Palm Heights bought the 178-unit apartment complex from Jefferson Apartment Group for $43.25 million.

    The Azul Baldwin Park apartment complex is at 4460 Lower Park Road in Orlando, about three miles from the city’s central business district.

    Built in 2004 on a 4.04-acre site, Azul Baldwin Park is a LEED-certified property located next to Blue Jacket Park and less than a block from Lake Baldwin in Orlando’s Baldwin Park neighborhood.

    Baldwin Park is home to 8,000 residents with an average household income of $155,000 and a 190,000-square-foot, Publix-anchored shopping center called Downtown Village Center.

    The sale of Azul Baldwin Park “was for a 1031 exchange,” Peter Sherman, a Los Angeles-based principal of brokerage firm Avison Young, said in a prepared statement.

    Sherman represented the buyer of the apartment complex together with Rosendo Caveiro, a Miami-based senior vice president of Avison Young.

    Brokerage firm Walker & Dunlop represented the seller in the transaction. – Mike Seemuth

  • October sales of Naples-area houses and condos rose 17% from last year

    Jeff Jones, managing broker of Engel & Völkers in Naples and Bonita Springs

    The number of Naples-area houses and condos sold in October increased 17 percent to 730 from 623 last year.

    The Naples Area Board of Realtors also reported that the number of houses and condos listed for sale in October rose to 5,992 from 5,010 last year, a 20 percent increase.

    “About 10 percent of the new inventory in our MLS during October was new construction. A good portion of this building is taking place in East Naples [Eastern Collier County], which had the highest single-family home inventory reported in October,” Jeff Jones, managing broker for the Engel & Völkers offices in Naples and Bonita Springs.

    Closed sales of houses in October rose to 366, up 22 percent from last year, and closed sales of condos during the month increased 18 percent to 308.

    The median sale price of houses in October edged up to $344,000 from $342,000 last year, up 1 percent.

    The median sale price of condos in October rose to $265,000 from $250,000 last year, up 6 percent.

    Naples-area condos listed for sale in October totaled 2,815, or 9 percent more than last year, while the area’s inventory of houses listed for sale surged 31 percent to 3,177.

    “There are some neighborhoods where I still see an oversupply in the spec home market, but I’m also seeing inventory begin to tighten in very desirable areas west of U.S. 41,” Cindy Carroll of Carroll & Carroll Appraisers & Consultants, LLC, said in a prepared statement. – Mike Seemuth

  • Passenger-train operator files to go public under its new name, Virgin Trains USA

    Richard Branson aboard train operated by Virgin Trains USA, formerly known as Brightline (Credit: Virgin Group | Tampa Bay Times)

    The private passenger-train operator formerly known as Brightline disclosed plans to become a publicly traded company on Friday – the same day it announced a name change linked to a decision by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group to become a minority investor in the company.

    Virgin Trains USA, the new name of the passenger-train operator, filed an S-1 form with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to go public.

    “Our goal is to build railroad systems in North America that connect major metropolitan areas with significant traffic and congestion. We believe that the economics of passenger rail service offer a highly compelling investment opportunity,” the company said in its S-1 filing.

    Outside Florida, the company formerly known as Brightline plans to operate on routes that include Los Angeles to San Diego, Dallas to Houston, and Atlanta to Charlotte, North Carolina, as well as its recently acquired route between Las Vegas and Southern California.

    According to the S-1 filing, Virgin Trains expects that its passenger-train service in Florida “will stabilize by the fourth quarter of 2023 or the first quarter of 2024” after a two-year “ramp up period.”

    The company disclosed that it operated at a loss of $87 million in the first nine months of 2018. At the end of September, Virgin Trains had about $49 million in cash and more than $600 million in debt.

    Virgin Trains now operates in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach and eventually will extend its Florida passenger rail service to Orlando and Tampa.

    Virgin Trains said in its filing with the SEC that it expects 6.6 million riders a year to pay the company a $73 fare to travel by train between Miami and Orlando.

    “Based on our expected fares for an individual traveler, we expect that a trip on our trains between Miami and Orlando will be approximately 25 percent less expensive than driving and approximately 30 percent less expensive than flying. We expect to carry approximately 6.6 million passengers annually,” according to the S-1 filing.

    Virgin Trains also said in the filing that it is “an emerging growth company,” which means it “may take advantage of certain reduced disclosure and other requirements that are otherwise applicable generally to public companies.” [Miami Herald]Mike Seemuth

  • Designers miscalculated load-bearing strength of collapsed FIU bridge

    FIU pedestrian bridge collapsed March 15, killing six people (Credit: CNN)

    Designers miscalculated the load-bearing strength of the north end of the Florida International University pedestrian bridge that collapsed and caused six deaths, according to federal investigators.

    In an update on the federal investigation of the deadly March 15 collapse, experts from the Federal Highway Administration also reported Thursday that designers miscalculated the structural load on the north end of the FIU bridge.

    The design errors were consistent with cracks in the FIU bridge before it collapsed, according to the investigative update.

    However, the National Transportation Safety Board didn’t cite those design errors as the cause of the bridge collapse, and its investigation of the catastrophe is expected to continue into next year.

    Federal Highway Administration experts determined that designers underestimated of the structural load on the north end of the FIU bridge and overestimated the load-bearing strength “of that same critical section.”

    Two days before the collapse, an engineer with FIGG Bridge Group, the firm that designed the FIU bridge, left a telephone message with officials at the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to report cracks in the bridge and to convey the firm’s belief that the cracks didn’t indicate a safety issue.

    FDOT officials didn’t hear the telephone message until after the bridge collapsed.

    According to the university, FDOT attended a meeting to discuss the cracks just hours before the bridge collapsed.

    In a statement, FIGG said the investigative update didn’t determine the cause of the collapse and the firm continues to work with the National Transportation Safety Board. [Associated Press]Mike Seemuth