July 31, 2014

Development

Discovering the Northwest

South Florida builders, and companies that cater to them, are migrating north

Charlotte Crane | 10/1/2005
COMING ATTRACTION: The second phase of the Portofino project will include upscale condos and amenities. Fifteen years ago, Fort Lauderdale's Adache Group Architects had nothing on the drawing board in northwest Florida. Last year, the company opened a satellite office at Pensacola to be near its first and biggest regional client, developers of the nearly $1-billion Portofino development group on Pensacola Beach. Today, the region accounts for at least 50% of Adache's business.

"We started with Portofino" in 1994, says Adache President George Fletcher. "That's mushroomed into more than we anticipated. It's going crazy." Adache now works for a half-dozen developers of water-view condominiums and upscale residences in the area, which has caught the eye of many south Florida developers who see its growth potential. "Northwest Florida is going to be the darling area for people to relocate to from the Midwest and Northeast," says Guy Poux, vice president of development for Miami-based Adar Developers.

North Florida's smaller markets have been overlooked for years, says Michael Baumann, CEO of Miami's BCOM Inc. "Not everyone wants big-city life. The Panhandle also has accessibility to beachfront, a limited asset in many places."

Says Paul Thompson, executive vice president for the Florida Home Builders Association, "Northwest Florida represents one of the last areas of the state where land is available and affordable for developers -- although housing price escalation eventually could mirror that of other areas."

The upshot: Some of south Florida's biggest firms in the building trades are contributing trademark developments to a new urban feel in northwest Florida communities:
BCOM begins construction this fall in Tallahassee on its $50-million, 23-story Plaza Tower condo, a key element in downtown redevelopment. It's slated to be Tallahassee's tallest privately owned building.
At Perdido Key near Pensacola, WCI Communities, of Bonita Springs, is developing Lost Key Golf & Beach Club, a 412-acre, 1,900-unit community that's the largest-ever project launched in Escambia County. WCI recently bought another waterfront site to build 140 condominium units, says division President Wanda Cross.
Adar, specializing in projects near major universities, is investing $48 million in The Village and Symphony, across the street from Florida State University -- mixed-use residential/retail projects that suit Tallahassee development needs and redevelopment boundaries.
At Pensacola Beach, meanwhile, Adache designs continue to define Portofino, the $750-million, 21-story centerpiece for a growing project cluster by Pensacola's Island Resort Development -- including a medical spa and luxury amenities.

Tags: Housing/Construction, Northwest

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