Photo:Playa Largo Resort & Spa in Key Largo will add 154 units when it opens later this year.
Talking tourism: The Keys enjoy a jump in visitors
Tourism accounts for 54% of all jobs and 60% of all spending in the Florida Keys. The industry is worth $2.7 billion to the Keys’ economy. Tourism taxes collected there rose 11.6% last year.
Hotels are adding rooms to keep up with demand. By the end of this year, the Keys should have about 680 more rooms than in 2010.
Joanna Weinhofer, director of Florida Keys Lodging Association, talks about the impact of tourism on the Keys.
On hotel capacity: “The Keys are pretty much built out. In Key West, all of these are teardowns and rebuilds or complete renovations of existing properties. Marathon and Key Largo have more new. We do have some new stuff coming online, but it’s largely redevelopment. The room counts stay very similar. When you add an extra 200 or 300 hotel rooms in Marathon, that’s going to have an effect on Marathon. New developments in Key Largo may pull some people down from the Miami area.”
On effects: “It’s been a little tough with the traffic in the Keys and the number of people. We’ve seen that, since the market came back, people who had second homes are back in their homes — they’re driving in every weekend. Things like Airbnb and Couch Surfing, even if they’re not legal, they’re putting more people on the road.”
On Airbnb: “We have such great occupancy numbers that nobody is worried about that. But it is putting more people on the road. It also affects workforce housing. Second homes that were rented out, now the people renting them have to find other places to live, which is the only reason the industry has a problem with Airbnb down here. If you can rent your apartment out for $1,000 a night, why would you rent it out to someone who lives here who can pay $1,000 a month?”
On industry changes: “People who have owned properties for a long time — whether it’s a really nice bed and breakfast or it’s a hotel — are selling them to big corporations. We are seeing a huge amount of REITs coming in. And it has a really different feel when a big company owns it. I think when you have a really small community — and we’re such partners with our hotels — that definitely has been one of the most significant changes down here.”
Florida East Coast Industries subsidiary Flagler Global Logistics hired David Bouchard as president; Bouchard had been CEO of DB Schenker Logistics for the Americas.
Oscar Feldenkreis took over as CEO and president of Perry Ellis International, replacing founder George Feldenkreis, his father; the elder Feldenkreis is now chairman. The company announced the plan for this transition in May 2015.
Brightstar hired Alan Eland as its COO; he had been senior vice president/global services for gaming company IGT Corp.
The Children’s Trust hired James R. Haj as president and CEO. Haj had been assistant superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Tripp Davis became the Florida managing partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers, based in Miami. He had been market advisory leader for the company’s Midwest region and Greater Chicago market.
Motorsport Network hired Paul Preuveneers as CEO of global operations and e-commerce. Preuveneers had been CEO of Branded Sports Merchandising.
AVENTURA — Renaissance Aventura paid $105.28 million to purchase the Aventura Corporate Center complex from Groupe Pacific. The 8.6-acre site has the potential for a fourth office building.
BAL HARBOUR — After the Village Council did not approve its planned $400-million expansion and upgrade of Bal Harbour Shops, Whitman Family Development has proposed a revamp that will be 50,000 square feet smaller.
DORAL — Spanish-language broadcaster Univision bought out Walt Disney Co. To take full control of Fusion, an English-language network. After five years, regulators lifted a consent order on U.S. Century Bank. Lennar Homes and CC Homes paid $96 million to acquire a 130-acre former golf course on which they plan to expand the mixed-use Downtown Doral project.
HOMESTEAD — Malaysia-based commercial cooling systems manufacturer Dunham- Bush bought 14.7 acres and will build a 230,000-sq.- ft. Manufacturing facility.
KEY WEST — The Monroe County Land Authority gave the city permission to use $12.5 million of bed-tax money to keep the 157 townhomes at Peary Court as workforce housing. City voters rejected the city’s plan to buy Peary Court, originally built for U.S. Navy families, for up to $55 million. The city will pay a developer to deed-restrict the 24-acre complex to workforce housing in perpetuity.
MIAMI — Malaysian hospitality and casino company Genting Group, which has been unable to get approval to develop the former Omni mall into a gambling resort, has asked a judge to declare it lawful for a racetrack in Hallandale Beach to run a casino at the Omni location. Business communications company LiveNinja closed a $2-million round of financing (it has $3.5 million in total funding now) and introduced a new product, LiveNinja Messenger.
MIAMI BEACH — Clarion Partners paid $109.25 million to buy The Lincoln mixed-use property just off Lincoln Road from HQ Capital Partners. The fivestory building combines retail, office space and a parking garage. An affiliate of Fort Lauderdale-based InSite Group paid $63 million to purchase the 93-room, beachfront Sagamore Hotel.
MIAMI-DADE — The county commission legalized ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft; drivers are required to obtain county chauffeur licenses, undergo background checks and have their vehicles inspected annually. Cushman & Wakefield acquired commercial property firm Gibson Realty Group; it now manages more than 30 million square feet of property, the third-most in the state. Gibson founder and principal O. Ford Gibson will move to Cushman.
OPA-LOCKA — Miami-Dade asked the state to declare a financial emergency and take over management of the city, which is struggling to meet payroll for police and other city employees. Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating various accusations of corruption, including charges that elected officials and workers demanded bribes from business owners to facilitate licenses and didn’t turn over water payments they collected to the city.
SWEETWATER — Florida International University and Florida Power & Light opened a commercial-scale solar research installation at the university’s College of Engineering and Computing.