There are small signs of large-scale developments in the works.
"The state of the real estate market today is almost irrelevant because of the time horizon of what we're trying to accomplish over 10 to 20 years."
— Tom Hurley
After a drought in new projects following the real estate collapse, regional planners report a trickle of activity in the regulatory pipeline for large-scale developments.
On the Treasure Coast, Tom Hurley, of the Becker agriculture family, says his family wants to develop Hobe Grove, a 2,835-acre project bordering I-95 and Florida's Turnpike in western Martin County. The existing citrus groves there have been harmed by disease, he says, so the family wants to replace them with 3.9 million square feet devoted to offices and R&D facilities, plus a hotel, a 3,500-student college, a retail and office town center and 4,300 homes. Hurley says nearly 1,000 acres of the project will be devoted to cleansing tainted Lake Okeechobee water that flows by in the canal leading to the Indian River Lagoon. The family has another 9,000 acres in agriculture in the Treasure Coast.
The project is very early in the governmental approval process, but Hurley says he's in talks with a couple of major employers now. "We're working very hard on the job side," he says.
Meanwhile, in Broward County, Jack Osterholt, interim executive director of the South Florida Regional Planning Council, says developers are getting back in touch with the council about redoing their existing approvals to adjust their development mix to align their projects with new market realities. He notes that a large percentage of what's theoretically available housing inventory for new residents is tied up in the courts while new Florida residents need a place to live. The company that owns the Florida Panthers says it's evaluating its options for what originally was a plan for a hotel, office buildings, stores and 4,800 residential units around the hockey team's west Broward arena.
Still, the go-go days are long gone. Says Michael Busha, executive director of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, "There's little activity we're seeing on the scale we saw earlier this decade."