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May 24, 2018


Mike Vogel | 4/1/2002
When the Four Seasons Hotel opens next year on Brickell Avenue -- in the tallest building in Florida -- it will be the fifth top-line luxury hotel finished in Miami in three years: The Four Seasons, the Mandarin and, count 'em, three Ritz-Carltons. A market long without a significant luxury hotel presence suddenly is awash in Frette linens and terry-cloth robes.

South Florida also is getting an abundance of luxury condos. One of many: Sunny Isles will have the Trump Grande Ocean Resort and Residences with a 47-story Trump Palace condo tower, a sibling Trump Royale tower and a 32-story Trump International Sonesta Beach Resort hotel. (Developers Michael Dezer and son Gil are licensing the name from Donald Trump.) On the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale, an untried market, developers want to build more than 600 luxury condo units. Overbuilding in Fort Lauderdale would be a concern if anyone expected everything on the boards to get built. Developer Richard Zipes, building the 280-unit Las Olas River House, dismisses the possibility of that.

As for Miami, its condo market is "still very, very strong. The developer who does his homework and has the right product at the right price point is bound to be successful," says Edgardo Defortuna, who is developing the 48-story Jade Residences at Brickell Bay. Even so, says analyst David Dabby, "We're far along in unprecedented or uncharted waters as far as the length" of the new condo construction expansion-contraction cycle, which began in 1993.

And the hotels are in for a tough post-Sept. 11 road. Says industry analyst Chase Burritt of Ernst & Young, "I can't imagine how all of the hotels will perform well."

Key Trend: Another spring, another season with the Florida Marlins flaying around for a future. New manager Jeff Torborg is in place along with new owner Jeffrey Loria, formerly owner of the Montreal Expos. Loria paid $158.5 million to former Marlins owner John Henry, who became as frustrated as another former owner, billionaire H. Wayne Huizenga, in his bid for a new, taxpayer-funded stadium. Now that the musical chairs game has stopped, Loria finds himself, like Henry, without a domed stadium, without much fan interest and without much taxpayer support. He's talking with politicians and others in the community about what to do to ensure a future for the Marlins, which ought to take into the summer. Marlins spokesman P.J. Loyello says Loria believes something can be done. "He wants to give it a shot," Loyello says. The Marlins are a step up for Loria: They were second-to-last in attendance last year; the Expos were last.

People to Watch: Though Guillermo Socarras' project has its doubters, the developer says he wants to build the world's tallest building in Miami; preliminary plan calls for a 150-story trade center and hotel. ... Chairman Octavio Visiedo, former superintendent of Miami-Dade schools, seeks to build up charter school operator Chancellor Beacon Academies, the result of a merger between Miami's Chancellor Academies and Massachusetts' Beacon Education Management. He looks to add schools, smooth the merger and put to work $26 million in new venture funding.

Businesses to Watch: Lucent spinoff Avaya Inc. opened its new Caribbean and Latin American headquarters, including research and development labs, employing 200. The company does voice, data networks and communications apps. ... Vsat, a 2-year-old Miami company, has a hand-held digital device for restaurants, cafeterias, cruise ships and others trying to comply with federal regulations on food safety and sanitation. Vsat is shipping its product, which integrates food tracking and temperature-monitoring information with the requirements of various laws and practices, and sees a $2-billion U.S. market, says Chief Executive Connie Araps.

Major Challenges: Miami faces several challenges, including stemming the movement of companies to Broward County; curtailing cargo crime; redeveloping the Miami River; countering declining international freight and falling passenger numbers at Miami International Airport; and boosting the seaport's business.

Miami-Dade County
Key Trend: South Beach is becoming Middle America. Demand from tourists and residents leads to multiple Banana Republic and Gap stores and an influx of stores common to malls everywhere. Meanwhile, once-snooty clubs are letting in the regular people, as locals shift to new haunts in Miami. And the fashion-shoot business, which gave the area its vibe, has fallen off with the emergence of competing South Africa. Gentrification means changes, acknowledges Kevin Crowder, Miami Beach economic development director. But he notes that architecture and an urban feel define an area's character -- not its tenants -- and that South Beach remains the draw with international and national visitors. And while fashion shoots are down, a permanent base of international and national entertainment companies -- like Warner Music International and Mexico's CIE -- is building.

Business to Watch: Technology-based workspace provider Darby Technology Centers, a unit of former Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady's Washington-based Darby Technology Ventures Group investment firm, opened a business center in Coral Gables for companies that like internet protocol telephony and access and want to build Latin American operations with low overhead.

People to Watch: Tim Williams, fourth generation Homestead resident and former potato and bean farmer, and partner Thomas L. Cox have put together about 2,000 acres -- perhaps the last large block of undeveloped land in Miami-Dade's urban service area -- for real estate development. In February, the two men, with realty firm Esslinger, Wooten, Maxwell's Pinecrest office, handled the sale of 390 acres of farmland for a 2,274-home Landstar Development residential project.

Fort Lauderdale
Key Trend: Traffic at the airport and seaport continues to rise, as the facilities fund expansions and improvements. The airport, despite the events of Sept. 11, finished 2001 with a 3.5% increase in passenger traffic, breaking the 16-million passenger mark and posting its sixth year of growth. Airport Director Bill Sherry is at work on a $655-million expansion, including a new terminal, rental car facility and highway construction. That's bad news for older Miami International, where operations costs per passenger for airlines are twice as high. Meanwhile, Port Everglades, most of which is in Hollywood, saw records in 2001 in operating revenues, cruise passengers and petroleum handling.

People to Watch: Richard C. Rochon, 44, former president of H. Wayne Huizenga's private holding company, ventures out on his own, founding private equity fund Royal Palm Capital Partners. Huizenga son Wayne Jr. tries his hand as the new president of dad's private company, Huizenga Holdings in Fort Lauderdale, owner of Pro Player Stadium and the Miami Dolphins, among other holdings. ... Buy Owner founder Scott Eckert, 48, plans to open four to six new markets nationally on his way to company-owned stores in the 30 top markets. Work is proceeding on a new franchising push in other markets.

Business to Watch: Fourbit Group, a 2-year-old Fort Lauderdale internet company, will release in May its "application browser" product. Fourbit says its technology provides corporate customers more speed and lower development and server workload costs while improving the experience for users.

Major Challenges: Fort Lauderdale needs to find a way to help its historically black neighborhoods share its prosperity. The city also faces simmering discrimination complaints at city hall and a cap on residential units downtown that is about maxed out.

Broward County
Key Trend: Call it the Dade-ation of Broward. Broward's population increased 368,000 since the 1990 Census, a 29% jump -- most of it by Hispanics (a 150% increase) and blacks (a 72% increase). In Lauderdale Lakes, for example, which 20 years ago was a white retiree bastion, blacks now make up 67% of the population. White retirees dying off and new immigrants will continue a countywide shift. "Within 20 years, Broward will look pretty much like Dade," says demographer Lance deHaven-Smith. That will have implications for schools, government services and business marketing plans.

Businesses to Watch: The 998-room Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, the Hollywood landmark that was demolished and then reborn as an upscale hotel and convention site, opened in January behind schedule and over budget in a tough economy. The facility, which describes itself as the largest hotel-convention center combo in south Florida, is at "full capacity," says spokeswoman Michelle LeVous. ... HomeBanc Mortgage Corp., based in Atlanta with regional offices in Deerfield Beach, Orlando, Tampa and Miami, expects to open a Jacksonville office later this year with Fort Myers/Naples to open in 2003. Run by south Florida native Patrick Flood, it bills itself as the fastest-growing lender in Florida and a market leader in several south Florida markets.

West Palm Beach
Key Trend: Forgive people in West Palm Beach for focusing on 2003 already. That's when developers will put a convention center and nearly 2,000 new rental and condo units on the downtown market, hoping to provide a new wave of growth there. The opening of the 72-acre CityPlace retail-restaurant-movie center more than a year ago roiled the older downtown Clematis Street market, with places like City Hall Bar & Grill closing there. "There's always a settling out of any new shopping area," says Bill Fountain, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority. "There'll be some more settling out." But he predicts renewed confidence as thousands of residents move downtown.

Person to Watch: Kenneth Himmel, CEO of CityPlace developer The Palladium Co., is pushing the city to attract employers of young professionals to fill all the residential projects downtown. Meanwhile, he's trying to get financing to construct a 350-room hotel at CityPlace that was supposed to open with the new convention center next year.

Businesses to Watch: Domino Sugar will mark its first full year as the largest marketer of sugar in the nation. It's a venture of the Fanjul family's Florida Crystals sugar operation and the 54 growers who make up the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida. ... ScriptRx, a 1-year-old West Palm Beach healthcare information systems company that pulls together hardware, software and networking technology into a touch-screen system for doctors in ERs, forecasts $8 million in revenue this year when it expects to be in 240 hospitals. ... Investors will want to see how much Sept. 11 impacts business growth long-term at security company Wackenhut Corp. in Palm Beach Gardens.

Major Challenges: Finding $93 million to upgrade the city's aging water and stormwater pipes. A sales tax increase is up for consideration.

Boca Raton
Key Trend: The happening corridor in Boca Raton is Congress Avenue, a north-south road that's booming with, among others, a new IBM building last year, a new base for workers' comp firm NCCI and a Hilton Garden Inn, Hilton's new lodging concept. Some land for development remains. "There's still a lot happening," says Joe Good of Lancore Realty in Boca. But "today there's a bit more supply than demand on the market."

Businesses to Watch: Tyco International, the tough-to-value conglomerate battered by investors in the wake of the Enron scandal, wants to split into four companies. The acquirer of security and anti-shoplifting device company Sensormatic employs 1,650 in Boca Raton in its ADT security company and Tyco Electronic Product Group. ... Sequil, a Boca Raton startup, says it has an inexpensive, wireless network solution to the "last-mile" broadband problem. Co-founder Jeff Conley expects this year to forge strategic alliances with carriers that want to provide broadband service to business customers they can't reach with their existing networks.

Monroe County
Key Trend: Heightening environmental protections, the 2,896-square-nautical-mile Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary will use a portion of the $6.28 million in settlement money to restore damage at the Wellwood grounding site, where a 400-foot freighter smashed into the reef in 1984. The sanctuary also is moving toward a "no-discharge" effluent zone for boaters throughout the Keys and revising its management plan to, among other things, handle the estimated 600 groundings a year.

Businesses to Watch: Charter/flight school/fixed-base operator Paradise Aviation, which began Marathon's only regular air service last year with flights to Fort Lauderdale, has purchased another plane and expects to expand its schedule and add service to another Florida city this year. ... Marathon-based Black Widow Internet Services of the Keys saw business quintuple in the first quarter. Owner Jennifer Jarrett is exploring bringing dedicated, high-speed access service to the area.

Tags: Southeast

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