Breaking down Florida’s proposed affordable housing legislation

Clockwise from top left: Related Urban’s Albert Milov, Pinnacle Housing’s Tim Wheat, Housing Trust Group’s Dilia, Government Law Group’s Keith Poliakoffv Taborav and Holland & Knight’s Debbie Orshefsky (Illustration by Kevin Rebong for The Real Deal)

Housing bill aims to fill funding gaps that developers statewide face

Florida’s proposed affordable housing legislation, aimed at incentivizing developers with major tax breaks and hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, is advancing in the state legislature.

Senate Bill 102, known as the “Live Local Act,” and related legislation would be a boon for developers of attainable and workforce housing, real estate attorneys and developers say. The bill was approved by the community affairs and appropriations committees in February, and heads to the senate floor next. If it becomes law, it will take effect July 1.

Florida Sen. Alexis Calatayud, a Republican who represents part of Miami-Dade County, introduced the legislation in January. It aims to create more affordable rental housing via tax breaks, expedited permitting, funding and zoning incentives. It also would restore funds to the Sadowski Trust Fund, which has been gutted by Florida lawmakers for years.

Opponents are critical of some aspects of the legislation, including the state eliminating the ability of local governments to enact rent control. That is currently only allowed if local governments declare a housing emergency.

Land use lawyer Debbie Orshefsky, based at Holland & Knight’s Fort Lauderdale office, said it marks the first time Florida takes a “comprehensive approach to addressing the affordable housing crisis.”

More than 2.1 million low-income households in Florida spend more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing, and over half of those households spend more than 50 percent of their incomes on housing, according to the Florida Housing Coalition.

South Florida became one of the least affordable housing markets in the country last year, following large gains in home prices and rents during the pandemic. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava declared a housing emergency in April, and later distributed millions of dollars in federal rental assistance funds.

If the proposed legislation passes, local governments would have to maintain an online inventory of affordable housing properties. They would also be required to expedite building permits, which some already do.

The bill also preempts local governments’ zoning, density and height requirements of affordable housing, in areas zoned for commercial or mixed-use development. That means such developments may not require zoning changes or comprehensive plan amendments. Local governments would be required to allow multifamily and mixed-use residential in any commercial or mixed-use zone if at least 40 percent of the residential is affordable for at least 30 years. With projects allocating at least 65 percent of the square footage to residential, a county would not be able to restrict the height of a proposed development below what’s currently allowed within one mile of the planned project.

In addition to providing new sources of funding for low income housing tax credit developers, the legislation “will also allow market-rate rental developers to actually incorporate some affordable units in their market-rate developments,” Orshefsky said.

Market-rate developers who include workforce housing units in their developments could qualify for ad valorem tax exemptions. Developers setting aside at least 70 units for people earning 120 percent of the area median income or less, in newly completed or substantially renovated properties, could qualify.

Orshefsky said that if the bill becomes law, her market-rate developer clients will consider setting aside units for affordable housing.

Tim Wheat, a partner at Miami-based Pinnacle Housing, said the prospect of providing exemptions for developers building units for people earning between 80 percent and 120 percent of the AMI, which he referred to as the “missing middle,” is key. Property taxes could account for 25 percent of a developer’s operating cost on a per-unit basis, he said.

“Now developers that are doing market-rate projects in urban areas are going to look at this potential tax exemption, they’re going to look at their pro formas, and say ‘Hey, maybe that’s worth it for us,’” he said. “It’s a way for the private market to solve a problem there really is no solution for.”

The affordable housing arm of Miami-based Related Group has thousands of units it would finance under the proposed legislation “once it becomes law,” said Albert Milo, president of Related Urban, via a spokesperson. The firm has more than 10,000 units in its development pipeline in Florida.

Also under the bill, local governments can offer property tax exemptions to developers who set aside units for households earning 60 percent of the AMI. Land owned by nonprofits leased for at least 99 years could also receive the property tax exemption.

Increased funds

Attorney Keith Poliakoff, of Fort Lauderdale-based Government Law Group, said the state’s existing affordable housing funds are currently “woefully small, based upon the need.” Florida Housing and Finance Corporation only approved one project in Broward County for 2023, he said. FHFC administers the state’s SAIL (State Apartment Incentive Loan) and SHIP (State Housing Initiatives Programs).

But under the proposed law, the amount of affordable housing funds would grow exponentially.

“This landmark legislation is the first of major consequence to help ensure affordable housing will be built,” Poliakoff said. “It takes a lot of the handcuffs off the developers who develop this type of housing.”

Under the proposed legislation, up to $150 million would be allocated to SAIL; another $109 million from the State Housing Trust Fund would be directed to SAIL; $100 million would go to the Florida Hometown Heroes Program; $252 million to SHIP; and $100 million in non-recurring funds would be set aside for a competitive loan program that developers could tap to cover inflation-related cost increases for FHFC-approved multifamily developments that haven’t broken ground yet.

The legislation also increases the amount of tax credits available through the Community Contribution Tax Credit Program for affordable housing to $25 million annually, from $14.5 million. And it provides up to a $5,000 sales tax refund for building materials used for affordable housing units.

The Hometown Heroes homeownership assistance program, which was created last year, allows some buyers to finance home purchases with no-interest loans to reduce their down payment and closing costs to a maximum of 5 percent or $25,000, whichever is less. Buyers who qualify have a household income of no more than 150 percent of the state or local AMI. The law would codify the program and expand eligibility to more people, according to the Senate’s analysis.

Poliakoff said a number of projects that his developer clients are working on are approved, but are on hold due to funding gaps. The growing cost of construction has also affected affordable housing builders. Wheat, of Pinnacle, said the cost of insurance has gone up as much as 40 percent.

Miami-based Housing Trust Group, led by Matthew Rieger, is missing about $3 million for the second phase of a development in Deerfield Beach called Tallman Pines, said Dilia Tabora, HTG’s vice president of development. The Broward County Housing Authority has been trying to redevelop the site for years. HTG also has a 320-unit planned development in Naranja Lakes near Homestead. The developer is looking to secure about $4 million in funds to move forward on the project.

“We have funding, but with the construction costs and the insurance costs you never know if it’s going to end up where it will,” she said. The property tax exemption, Tabora added, would be “insanely helpful” for developers.

Article Link: Breaking down Florida’s proposed affordable housing legislation
Auther: Katherine Kallergis

Hollywood paving way for three 25-story towers, four-story hotel on public golf course

HOLLYWOOD — Here’s what’s on the menu for Hollywood’s Orangebrook Golf Course: A redesign by legendary golf course designer Rees Jones; a four-star, four-story hotel with 175-rooms; and three 25-story towers with 750 apartments.

A local developer beat out two other suitors Wednesday vying for the chance to redesign Hollywood’s public fairway, ensuring the city won’t need to use $25 million from a voter-approved parks bond to spruce up the greens.

In a 4-3 vote, Hollywood commissioners ranked the suitors they want to take to the dance, as Mayor Josh Levy put it in an interview this week with the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

GCF Development/PPG Development, led by Hollywood builders Chip Abele and Ari Pearl, got the top ranking followed by Maitland-based E2L Real Estate Solutions in second place and Jupiter-based Ernie Els Group in third. A fourth firm, Green Lynx, withdrew from the competition just days ago.

The vote came after a spirited debate that lasted more than three hours and had one woman fighting back tears while she implored the commission to reject plans to build a hotel and high-rise towers on taxpayer-owned land.

The controversial project involves a 99-year lease of public land to pave the way for the hotel and high-rise towers — a prospect that has elicited protests from critics who don’t want to see the historic course developed.

Elmyra Powell, who lives one block from the mammoth 260-acre golf course, is one of those critics.

“Once again, I’m standing here before you asking you to represent the people’s interests,” Powell told the commission, her voice soon trembling with emotion. “We asked you to look out for our little golf course that was dying a slow death. You’re talking about our heart when you talk about that golf course. We want to save Orangebrook. We don’t want you to give us a new country club resort.”

A golfer tees off at Orangebrook Golf Course in Hollywood on Tuesday. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

A no-brainer

But fans called the plan a no-brainer, saying the redesign will help make Hollywood a golfing destination and might even bring a PGA tournament to town.

The plan calls for two public full-size 18-hole courses, a 34,000-square-foot clubhouse with a restaurant, a pro shop and driving range, fitness facility, banquet hall, lighted nine-hole practice course and a 3-mile walking trail.

The project — an investment that the builders say exceeds $400 million — will also add to the city’s bottom line. The developer has offered Hollywood a 50/50 split of the profits from the golf course and clubhouse. In 30 years alone, the GCF/PPG project is expected to add $152.4 million to Hollywood coffers.

One resident asked how the city got to this point.

Here’s the answer: In July 2020, Hollywood got an unsolicited proposal from Green Lynx to redevelop Orangebrook. As required by state law, the city solicited additional proposals for a public-private partnership, commonly known as P3s.

Four teams submitted bids by the October deadline and were later ranked by an evaluation committee made up of city staff. But the commission has final say.

Longtime resident Ann Ralston fumed over the fact the parks bond approved in 2019 made no mention of a hotel or apartment towers at Orangebrook.

“I would like to know where this money is,” she told the commission. “It’s been four years and I’m paying for [the bond]. Now I’m paying for something that’s not getting done. Never again. If you people think you’re going to pass a bond in the city to do a bait-and-switch, it’s going to be over my dead body.”

Hollywood plans to use the millions that were slated for Orangebrook on other parks projects throughout the city.

The mayor had reassuring words for commissioners before they cast their votes on Wednesday.

“Today is not a marriage,” Levy said. “As things get fine tuned, there can be improvements and changes [to the initial proposal]. If we can’t reach terms with the number one team, we go to team number two and team number three.”

Rotten and damaged boards are shown at Orangebrook Golf Course on Tuesday. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Seal the deal

In June, the commission is expected to vote on a comprehensive agreement that will seal the deal.

If all goes as planned, the golf course will break ground in the beginning of 2024 and open 18 months later, said Keith Poliakoff, attorney for the developers. The clubhouse and golf course amenities would open six months later.

And the trio of apartment towers will take about five years to complete.

To sweeten the deal, the developer offered to set aside 100 apartments for affordable and workforce housing — or about 13 percent of the entire project.

The hotel and apartment towers will take up less than 5 acres of the golf course, Poliakoff said.

The developers have tapped Rees Jones to design the course.

Jones has designed or redesigned more than 250 golf courses in his career, including some of the most well-known public courses in the world, the developers said in their pitch to the city.

Jones designed Torrey Pines, known as one the best golf courses in California with two 18-hole championship courses. Torrey Pines played host to the U.S. Open in 2008 and 2021.

He also designed Bethpage Black on Long Island. The course hosted the PGA Tour in 2011 and the PGA Championship in 2019.

Jones, who spent more than three hours watching the debate from the audience, drew praise from the mayor for attending the meeting.

“A PGA tournament will come here if we have a sponsor,” Jones told the commission. “I think there is an opportunity to have a tournament. [But] we’re really building this for the people of Hollywood. This is my love, the public golf course.”

Susannah Bryan can be reached at or on Twitter @Susannah_Bryan

Article Link: Hollywood paving way for three 25-story towers, four-story hotel on public golf course
Auther: Susannah Bryan

Secured Media Opportunity: DBR on North Palm Beach Win

Ares pays $28M for Boca Logistics Center

Deal marks at least second industrial purchase by investment management firm in as many months.

Ares Management scooped up the newly built Boca Logistics Center for $27.8 million, marking the investment firm’s continued appetite for South Florida real estate.

Ares bought the two warehouses at 644-646 Park of Commerce Way in Boca Raton from the property’s developer, McCraney Property Company, according to records and real estate database Vizzda.

McCraney Property had paid $7.5 million for the 8.7-acre development site in 2019. It completed the two buildings that span a combined 119,000 square feet between late last year and early this year, records show. McCraney is an industrial and office-flex real estate developer and manager, its website says. Led by founder Steven McCraney, the firm has offices in West Palm Beach, Orlando and Charlotte.

The deal, which breaks down to $233 per square foot, marks Ares’ second industrial purchase in South Florida in as many months.

In January, the global investment manager’s Ares Industrial Real Estate Income Trust paid $111.1 million for 52 acres of developable land at Countyline Corporate Park in Hialeah. Ares plans a pair of industrial buildings, each spanning 214,000 square feet, and a third building spanning 193,000 square feet, on the northwest corner of Northwest 154th Street and West 40th Avenue, records show.

The Los Angeles-based investment firm’s bet on South Florida has extended to the David Beckham-backed Major League Soccer team Inter Miami CF. In 2021, Ares, through funds managed by Credit Group, made a $150 million preferred equity investment in the team.

Led by Michael Arougheti, Ares was founded in 1997 and has $352 billion in assets under management, according to its website. Arougheti co-founded the publicly traded firm with Antony Ressler, David Kaplan and Bennett Rosenthal.

South Florida’s industrial market slowed in the fourth quarter, compared to a leasing frenzy of the past two years. Palm Beach County’s industrial vacancy rate increased to 5.1 percent, from 4.1 percent, year-over-year, according to Newmark. The county also recorded a negative absorption of nearly 102,000 square feet. And the average asking rent dropped to $12.66 a square foot, from $13.07 a foot in the third quarter.

Article Link: Ares pays $28M for Boca Logistics Center
Auther: Lidia Dinkova

Florida Restaurant Wins $3.2M In Eminent Domain Dispute

A Florida state judge awarded $3.2 million as compensation to a Palm Beach County restaurant that was sued by the state’s Department of Transportation under the state’s eminent domain laws so that the government could obtain land to rebuild the Earman River Bridge after it partially collapsed in 2017.

In his order filed Tuesday, Judge Jaimie R. Goodman of the 15th Judicial Circuit Court noted that the department had previously deposited $346,100 in the court registry, and told the department to send a $2.8 million check to Frigate’s Waterfront Bar & Grill Inc.’s counsel within 60 days of receiving his court order.

Florida’s government began its suit against Frigate’s Waterfront Bar & Grill in September 2021 in Florida state court. According to a public relations representative for Government Law Group PLLC, the law firm representing the restaurant, the department initially offered $346,000 for the restaurant’s land, which was near the reconstruction site of the partially collapsed bridge.

The representative said the reconstruction project would have disrupted the restaurant’s business for seven years.

After the suit was filed, the department and the restaurant began to mediate in December 2022 and settled the dispute in January 2023, according to court records.

In a Wednesday statement to Law360, the restaurant’s counsel, Richard J. Dewitt III described the compensation award as a “stellar result.” Dewitt said that he had to use eminent domain experts to determine how much compensation the restaurant deserved for its land.

Dewitt also praised the professionalism of one of the department’s counsel, Melissa Presser.

“Ms. Presser had an extremely difficult job balancing the needs of FDOT to take the property, the impact to the property and business owner, and protecting the taxpayers dollars in fully compensating the property and business owner,” Dewitt said. “The ultimate result was a great win for Frigate’s which will provide relief to the impacts caused by the Earman Bridge replacement project.”

Counsel for the department didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The Department of Transportation is represented by David R. Ottey, Jared Silver and Melissa Presser.

Frigate’s Waterfront Bar & Grill is represented by Richard J. Dewitt III of Government Law Group PLLC.

The case is State of Florida Department of Transportation v. Frigate’s Holdings LLC, case number 50-2021-CA-010519-XXXX-MB, in the Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit in and for Palm Beach County, Florida.

–Editing by Marygrace Anderson.

Update: This story has been updated with comment from counsel for Frigate’s.

Article Link: Florida Restaurant Wins $3.2M In Eminent Domain Dispute
Auther: Isaac Monterose

New bill would make it riskier to sue to protect undeveloped lands

Floridians would be on the hook to pay when they lose lawsuits that oppose building new homes on undeveloped lands, under a newly filed bill.

Environmental groups fear that if the bill were to pass, it would deter people from filing lawsuits limiting development — and lead to greater sprawl.

“The intent of the legislation seems to be to chill people from filing these sorts of challenges,” said Gil Smart, Policy Director for the Friends of the Everglades. “These are often situations that are controversial — development is such a huge issue statewide.”

State Rep. Wyman Duggan, R-Jacksonville, recently filed the bill, which puts people on the hook financially if they lose such legal challenges to local government’s growth plans, or amendments to those plans.

Through the years, many communities across Florida have enacted protections to preserve undeveloped land and agriculture.

For example, some Florida counties, including Palm Beach County, have comprehensive plans that include agricultural reserves. If local governments were to amend their plans at the behest of a developer to allow a new big-box store or housing, and a person sues over that amendment and loses, that person must pay the county’s legal bills.

Conversely, if the resident is successful in court, the local government is responsible for the plaintiff’s legal costs.

Rep. Duggan’s office did not reply to requests for comment.

Keith Poliakoff, a land-use expert with the Government Law Group of Fort Lauderdale, represents both municipalities and those who challenge them. “Municipalities win 99% of these types of cases,” he said, “because Florida judges typically take the position that a municipality should be able to run itself and have the right to make decisions about their land-use future.”

In other words, people challenging a development would likely have to pay legal fees, he said.

“What this statutory scheme does is it prevents an aggrieved party from having their argument heard, because they’ll be fearful that they’ll be paying the municipalities’ legal fees. So this regulation is probably created by the development community to thwart appeals of land-use changes.”

Appeals delay developments until the land-use challenge is finally heard by a court, which Poliakoff says could take a year or even two after the filing. “A developer would love this bill because they would hope it would prevent someone from appealing.”

“I believe this will have a chilling effect on individuals being able to challenge perceived wrongs that they would like a secondary party to review. It will thwart challenges where a municipality may be overzealous in an action it’s taking. It basically gives a municipality the green light to make changes to its comp plan without fear that they’ll be challenged.”

“I have two or three orders going on right now that if this [legislation] was passed, it would have made my clients think twice about challenging a municipality’s actions.”

The newly filed bill comes as housing is in sharp demand. Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties are all facing housing shortages, and all have different lingo for the open land within their comprehensive plans, their guides for growth and land preservation.

Visitors walk along the Marsh Trail at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The trail abuts Palm Beach County’s Agricultural Reserve, a nearly 21,000-acre area that the county says is meant to preserve unique farmland and wetlands. (Susan Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

In 1999, Palm Beach County voters created a nearly 21,000-acre Agricultural Reserve between the turnpike and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.

The county’s website says that the purpose of the reserve is to “preserve unique farmland and wetlands” to enhance agriculture, environmental and water resources, and open space, by limiting the use to agriculture, conservation and low-density residential development.

Some developments within the reserve have involved land swaps. One such development proposal by GL Homes looks to expand from an approved 277 homes to 704 homes — the Palm Beach County commission will revisit the issue in May.

In order to build the homes, the county would need to approve a land swap in which GL Homes trades 1,600 acres in Loxahatchee to the county for the rights to build in the Agricultural Reserve.

Broward County does not have an agricultural reserve, but does have a thin band of agricultural land in the southwest corner.

Palm Beach County’s Agricultural Reserve, in red, was established in 1999, and maintains open space and farmland adjacent to wilderness and Everglades water treatment areas. A proposed bill would make it more financially risky for citizens to sue to stop development in lands such as the Agricultural Reserve. (Palm Beach County/SFWMD)

Miami-Dade County recently experienced controversy over an industrial complex slated to go up on farmland beyond the county’s Urban Development Boundary.

The County Commission approved the project, despite the fact that the land had been targeted for Everglades restoration. Last Thursday, the Miami Herald reported that Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity notified the county that it had fouled up the approval process, and that a re-vote — with a new commission — might be needed.

“There’s a lot of pressure on communities in Florida, and comprehensive plans are out there to help guide growth,” Smart said. “But when you change the plans at the behest of developers, people are going to have a problem with that. Our view is that they should be able to engage in the process without retribution.”

Environmental groups see the new bill as an extension of a 2019 bill, which established that if people sue to stop a development order and lose, they must pay the prevailing party’s court costs.

“Our concern is that this sort of thing is going to enable more sprawl, and more haphazard development, which is going to impact water and the environment in general,” Smart said. “In places like Miami-Dade County … it could have an impact on the footprint of Everglades restoration.”

The bill would have to go through three committees before going to a vote during the March legislative session, Smart said. A companion Senate bill has not yet been filed.

Article Link: New bill would make it riskier to sue to protect undeveloped lands
Auther: Bill Kearney

Government Law Group Adds Attorney Julieta Gomez De Mello To Litigation Team

Julieta Gomez De Mello

Government Law Group is excited to announce that attorney Julieta Gomez de Mello has joined the firm as Senior Associate. She will concentrate her practice on complex commercial litigation representing businesses and individuals in a variety of litigation matters, business litigation, appellate practice, Intellectual Property and Probate Litigation. The addition of Ms. Gomez de Mello expands Government Law Group’s growing commercial litigation practice.

Ms. Gomez De Mello’s experience includes litigating cases involving General Litigation, Employment Law, Professional Liability, Premises Liability, Immigration, Intellectual Property and Personal Injury. Prior to joining Government Law Group, she worked at prominent law firms in New Jersey and Florida successfully litigating complex commercial litigation and high-exposure cases for large corporate clients. In addition to working in the private sector, Ms. Gomez De Mello worked as a Staff Attorney for South Jersey Legal Services, Inc., a non-profit organization based in New Jersey in their Migrant Farmworker Unit handling wage and labor disputes. She also clerked for the Honorable Rodney Cunningham in the New Jersey Superior Court, Atlantic County.

“Julieta is detail-oriented and commits herself to the highest standard of professionalism on behalf of her clients,” said Keith Poliakoff, Co-Founder of Government Law Group. “Julieta will play an important role as we continue to strategically grow and expand our litigation services that we provide to our clients. Julieta is a great asset for the Government Law Group.”

Founded by veteran attorneys Keith Poliakoff and Neil Schiller, Government Law Group offers its clients unparalleled comprehensive service in land use, lobbying, government contracts, commercial litigation, corporate counseling and municipal representation. The firm has offices in Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach and provides clients with highly personalized services to determine the best legal strategy to accomplish their goals. Since the firm was founded in 2021, the Government Law Group has greatly expanded its commercial litigation services.

A Cuban native raised in Miami, Ms. Gomez de Mello is a member of the Florida Bar and New Jersey Bar. She earned her J.D. from Rutgers University School of Law, where she competed in a national Moot Court competition, served as the Vice President of the Rutgers Intellectual Property Law Clinic and was the recipient of several prestigious scholarships, including the Chief Judge Helen W. Nies Intellectual Property Law Scholarship. She completed her undergraduate studies at Florida International University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, a minor in music and a Certificate in Translation Studies.

“I was drawn to Government Law Group because the attorneys are highly respected by their peers, are involved in the community and, in several instances, their creative litigation strategies have reshaped the legal landscape,” said Ms. Gomez de Mello. “I look forward to bringing my skills and experience to a seasoned team of litigators to further diversify the services GLG has to offer.”

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Hollywood Development Boom: Shrinking Land Supply Presents Opportunities

Hollywood, the beach town sandwiched between Fort Lauderdale and Miami, is finally experiencing a real estate boom. Fueled by high demand for land in the region, and a limited supply, the once-quiet town is now booming with development for the first time in decades.

Downtown Hollywood and the iconic Young Circle area are revitalizing with more $1.5 billion in real estate development planned or under construction. One of the driving forces behind Hollywood’s transformation is BTI Partners, a Fort Lauderdale-based investment and development firm. Noah Breakstone, CEO of BTI Partners, says that since new developments are becoming landlocked, there will be more opportunities to identify and revitalize neighborhoods.

“Traditionally a lot of the development moved west, and it was stopped by the Everglades, and now people are looking at how we come back east,” said Breakstone. “What’s interesting about Hollywood is that it’s easy to get to Miami, it’s easy to get to Fort Lauderdale, so it’s easy to access those markets.

“What’s unique about Young Circle is a 10-acre park right in the middle of that roundabout so you have an outdoor amphitheater that can seat 5,000 to 7,000 people, beautiful open green space, a glassblowing museum, and it’s a really unique setup to have that circle. Also what I love about it is that it’s a hop, skip, and a jump away from the ocean,” he said.

BTI Partners has two development projects underway in Hollywood’s Young Circle neighborhood. One of the development sites sits on the long-neglected Hollywood Bread Building, which has been abandoned for decades. BTI Partners plans to add 362 market-rate apartments and 16,000 square feet of retail space. It is expected to be completed in 2024.

The second project includes two towers on the east side of Young Circle with planned residential living, shops, restaurants, office space, and a skywalk connecting them.

Breakstone says people really value living in a walkable neighborhood.

“I think all those natural attributes will only continue to drive and revitalize that neighborhood. We’re really trying to find ways to get out of our car. We learned that through COVID-19,” he said. “Before COVID, we learned that it may take an hour to an hour and a half to get to work or get home, but why not be with my family and friends and enjoy my neighborhood? I think these types of communities as they’re reimagined provide that type of a living where you really get a more pedestrian type of community.”

According to land use attorney Keith Poliakoff of Government Law Group, developers are eager to revitalize Hollywood and secure development sites that are no longer available in other coastal communities in South Florida.

“Hollywood was almost passed over in the 1990s during the construction boom. Hallandale had the surge in development, and then it jumped over Hollywood to Fort Lauderdale,” said Poliakoff. “As a result, developers really in the last five years have been capitalizing on the demand of people wanting to live there, and the projects are getting approved and finally getting out of the ground—that has been the vision of Hollywood for years.”

Poliakoff says it’s exciting to see how the town has become the next frontier of development.

“Last Wednesday, the Hollywood City commission debated for probably 10 hours, the future of Orangebrook golf course, and one of the proposals is from Rees Jones, one of the world’s most notable golf course designers who has proposed to put in a PGA-quality golf course minutes away from downtown Hollywood, and a four-star luxury hotel,” Poliakoff said. “When you look at that and see that five years [ago], there would not be a PGA Tour that would desire to come to the region, particularly Hollywood.”

Hollywood’s beaches are also undergoing redevelopment efforts, and local government is also putting a focus on affordable housing options.

“Broward County is also very aware of the jobs and the residences being built in the city, and Broward County Transit under Tim Garling has been very active in creating new transit bus stops in Hollywood and is diligently working with the city to create a new public stop downtown to ensure that all of the people that will be living there in the next 10 years will have full access to public transportation,” said Poliakoff.

Downtown Hollywood businesses have struggled during the off-season when snowbirds return home, but with an influx of new residents moving to the area, business is expected to improve.

According to Breakstone, “You’re going to see all of these neighborhoods with more restaurants, more entertainment—instead of driving further, it’s built out with housing anyway, so you’ll have everything there that’s bikeable, walkable, and pedestrian-friendly, which is what I think everyone is looking for today.”

Poliakoff says Hollywood’s demographics include people who are relocating from other cities in Broward County, as well as newcomers to Florida. The rental market consists of millennials and young families who typically have one car, like to live in close proximity to where they work, and want to be in a walkable area.

“Most of the new developments, especially in the downtown area, are geared toward that younger generation who’s looking to live in that downtown setting,” said Poliakoff. “There are developments [that] are 98%-100% rented, that have just come out of the ground, which is almost unheard of. There’s normally a time frame that it takes to rent up an entire establishment and these are hitting near capacity in record time.”

According to Poliakoff, the city is hoping to expand its higher-end retail and restaurant options in the near future.

“I’ve been fortunate to represent some incredible developers in this region, and what’s great is, that it’s one thing to get a project approved, it’s another thing to see that development get off the ground, and giving the city what they had hoped for,” Poliakoff said.

Article Link: Hollywood Development Boom: Shrinking Land Supply Presents Opportunities
Auther: Melea VanOstrand

BTI’s $500M South Fla. Mixed-Use Project Gets Approvals

A mixed-use development featuring two 35-story towers and 856 units developed by BTI Partners, with guidance from Government Law Group PLLC, has won key approvals from Hollywood, Florida, officials this week, clearing a path for the over $500 million project to move forward.

The Hollywood City Commission voted unanimously on Wednesday to approve the rezoning, design and site plan for Block 57, a project planned for downtown Hollywood that involves extending a major boulevard to go between the site’s two proposed towers.

“It alone will tremendously enhance property values, clean up homelessness, bring eyes to the streets, walkability to the area and really make downtown Hollywood … what it was always intended to be,” Keith Poliakoff of Government Law Group told Law360 in an interview.

Poliakoff said the approvals for Block 57, a project that will cost a little over $500 million to build, came after working with various government entities on the plan for two years.

The proposed development has faced “virtually no resident concerns at all, which is almost unheard of,” he added.

The project, developed by Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based BTI, features 856 apartment units, over 38,000 square feet of office space, 142,000 square feet of commercial retail space and 1,500 parking spots, according to site plan documents.

It is expected to encompass over three acres about a mile and a half from the South Florida city’s boardwalk, according to BTI’s website. Hollywood is a beachside town situated between Fort Lauderdale and Miami in Broward County.

The approvals for Block 57 came with some conditions to make sure that the design the Hollywood city commissioners OK’d is maintained as the project moves further along the construction process, Poliakaff said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the commissioners also asked BTI to continue working with city staff and the Florida Department of Transportation on the project’s street design and traffic flow.

The development firm previously paid $15.75 million to buy part of the project site, a retail complex called Young Circle Shopping Center, according to an announcement in 2020.

BTI and Bridge Investment Group recently secured an $83 million construction loan to build another mixed-use project in Hollywood that will feature 362 units and 16,000 square feet of retail space, the companies said in August.

BTI is represented by Keith Poliakoff of Government Law Group PLLC.

–Editing by Steven Edesltone.

Article Link: BTI’s $500M South Fla. Mixed-Use Project Gets Approvals
Auther: Charlie Innis

Bonds on the Ballot in Delray, and a New Doc’s All American

Two major bond referendums will be on the Delray Beach ballot in March.

One will ask voters to approve $100 million for public safety improvements, including a new police station. The other will be a $20 million plan to upgrade recreation, focusing on Atlantic Dunes and Catherine Strong parks.

The city commission approved the proposals Monday. That alone would have been noteworthy. Just as remarkable, though, was the unanimous approval. For all of the city’s factional politics, the commission was united on what would be the most significant public investment since voters approved the Decade of Excellence bonds in 1990.

That $21 million program—later expanded through refinancing—was key to Delray Beach’s revival. This commission sees these proposals as essential to sustaining the redevelopment of the last three decades.

City officials said the police station, which dates back to 1992, had become outdated after just four years. The money would finance a rebuild of the fire station that handles calls on the east side of the city and in Gulf Stream. Delray Beach needs to adjust its system with the end of the contract to provide service to Highland Beach and the loss of that station. The town is creating its own department.

The timing is right for the new proposals. Delray Beach’s existing general obligation bond programs—financed with property taxes—expire in 2023 and 2024. The city also is issuing a bond to pay for the new water plant and system. Customers’ bills will finance that work.

Commissioners now must decide whether Delray Beach should issue the bonds over 20 years or 30 years. Owners of homes assessed at $250,000 would pay $132 a year for 20 years or $107 for 30 years under the police/fire proposal. They would pay $27 and $22 under the parks proposal. Those numbers would double for homesteads assessed at $500,000

Ryan Boylston had pushed for the referendums more than any other commissioner. He agreed that he and his colleagues “were on the same page.” Boylston noted that he and Mayor Shelly Petrolia, who often are at odds, “put aside” an issue regarding Atlantic Dunes Park that could have jeopardized chances of the parks bond passing.

Oddly, given the amount of money, the public safety bond would not provide Delray Beach with a new emergency operations center. During Hurricane Irma in 2017, the current center leaked and there were computer problems. Boylston said the city has not decided on a location.

But will the proposals pass, given higher inflation and talk of a recession? Said Boylston, “We’ve never voted one down.” The 1990 plan passed as South Florida went into a recession.

No plans for a new Delray city hall

One project not on the list is a new city hall. Delray Beach’s main government building was built in 1961.

Despite a 1997 renovation and storm hardening, the building looks beyond dated. Some commissioners had talked about making a new city hall part of a bond proposal. Not now.

But the idea isn’t dead. Boylston notes that if the bond referendums pass, that will take care of Delray Beach’s public safety and parks needs for the next two or three decades. The community redevelopment agency is paying for the new Pompey Park, meaning that the money isn’t coming out of the city’s operating budget. A public-private partnership could finance a makeover of the municipal golf course, which is another big-ticket item.

Boylston said the commission wants to “get through the election” and the bond votes, then reassess city hall. “We may be able to take care of that from city funds.” Though Delray Beach will examine whether a public-private partnership could work with that facility, “We may not need it.”

A new Doc’s All American

Renderings for the new Doc’s All American

Barring something unexpected, a new Doc’s All American will be coming to Delray Beach.

This week, the city commission approved a project that will combine the iconic downtown fast-food restaurant that faces Swinton Avenue with a 17,000-square-foot office and retail building on the adjoining property that faces West Atlantic Avenue. The vote was unanimous.

Doc’s closed last year when the owner of the two properties was unable to secure approval of a larger project. The new version reduces the height from four stories to three, is less dense and offers porches facing Atlantic, to make what Neil Schiller, the developer’s attorney, called “a very pedestrian-friendly environment.” Opponents had argued that the earlier version would have overwhelmed the site.

Because of the changes, Schiller said, the developer needed to ask for much less from the city. The commission did need to allow outdoor dining as part of the approval. Schiller said the two potential operators “want Doc’s as Doc’s,” not as a typical indoor restaurant.

The site plan must go before the historic preservation board, and Doc’s must get its historic designation. No one I spoke with, though, expects a late snag.

“We overcame a lot of challenges,” Schiller said. He pointed out that the project will be across the street from the new Sundy Village. “Between the two, I think we’ll have created something special for the gateway to Delray Beach.”

Delray to consider DDA reopening Old School Square

Cornell Art Museum in Old School Square; photo courtesy of the Delray Beach DDA

On Friday, city commissioners will hold a special meeting to discuss placing the Downtown Development Authority in charge of reopening Delray Beach’s Old School Square.

I reported last week that the DDA board had expressed interest in reopening the Cornell Museum, which is part of Old School Square. The meeting presentation goes further. It includes a staff recommendation that the DDA develop a plan for reopening the entire arts complex.

The plan is sweeping, to the point of possibly renaming Old School Square as part of a “rebranding.” The first phase would be to form a task force of “industry experts and DDA stakeholders.” I’ll have more after the meeting.

Speaker at Delray commission meeting charged with perjury

It’s one of the oddest stories in Delray Beach’s history.

On Aug. 9, the city commission was discussing Delray Central, the mixed-use project proposed for South Congress Avenue. A speaker identified himself as the president of a nearby homeowners association—at the Andover single-family home community— and testified that “we” support Delray Central. Nothing new there. HOAs speak for or against development projects all the time.

Neil Carson; image from Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office

Except that Neil Carson is not president of the Andover HOA. He’s not on the board. He just lives in the community.

Which wouldn’t be much of a problem except that the hearing on Delray Central was quasi-judicial. Which means that all speakers must swear to tell the truth.

Carson now finds himself charged with felony perjury. He told investigators that he was “nervous” to address the commission for the first time.

“Nervous?” Carson is managing director of multi-family development for Kaufman Lynn Construction, which is based in Delray Beach. The housing proposed for Delray Central is multi-family.

The law firm that represents Andover’s HOA noted Carson’s lie. According to the probable cause affidavit, Carson plans to write letters of apology to the city and the HOA. The city would have to decide whether to prosecute.

El Rio Canal bridge traffic woes will continue

There will be no immediate relief from one of Boca Raton’s major traffic annoyances.

That would be replacement of the El Rio Canal bridge on Palmetto Park Road several blocks west of downtown. The work has restricted traffic on that main thoroughfare to one lane.

When the county began the project in August 2021, officials said construction would take about a year. Unfortunately, the new date for completion is late July of next year, according to a county construction supervisor.

He cited “numerous delays in procuring construction materials, as well utility delays.” The bridge on the north side of Palmetto Park Road is complete and work on the new road has started. “Once the roadway portion is completed, eastbound and westbound traffic will shift to the north bridge.” Demolition on the south bridge will follow. And the hassles will continue.

Article Link: Bonds on the Ballot in Delray, and a New Doc’s All American
Auther: Randy Schultz