Photo: Port Everglades
2015 Economic Yearbook - Southeast Florida
Economic expansion all around
Fort Lauderdale/Broward County
Transportation: Just a year ago, a new and improved I-595 opened to ease the Broward eastwest commute, and seven months ago Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International added a new runway. JetBlue and Allegiant are among those adding routes. Port Everglades released a 20-year, $1.6-billion capital improvement plan last fall, which includes adding space for ships and widening and deepening the channel. Water taxis have become an increasing option for getting around Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood.
Development: It's not Miami-Dade, but Broward has its own growing flock of condo construction cranes. According to Cranespotters.com and Condo Vultures founder Peter Zalewski, Hollywood/Hallandale Beach, with 22 proposed towers totaling 4,802 units, is the second most active preconstruction condo market after downtown Miami. Fort Lauderdale has 35 proposed towers totaling more than 2,800 units planned for downtown and the beaches. Overall, Broward's preconstruction market has 66 towers totaling 7,867 units.
Retail: Simon-owned megamall and tourist attraction Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise is adding 30 luxury outlets and restaurants to its Colonnade. The bankruptcy trustee overseeing the old 828,000-sq.-ft. Fashion Mall in Plantation wants to sell it, which opens the possibility of renovation. Infill redevelopment, occurring throughout the region, is particularly strong in the Fort Lauderdale downtown corridor as more people live there. The same is occurring on the beach as hotels get renovated. Meanwhile, Kimco and Aventurabased developer Bob Shapiro want to create Dania Live, a 1.3-millionsq.- ft. Retail center, on an old roller coaster site on I-95. Submarkets southwest Broward, Sunrise, Weston and Plantation are very strong, says Ken Krasnow, managing director for CBRE in Broward and Palm Beach counties. "The market's continuing to improve. There are good solid economic fundamentals. Retail is an area to watch in 2015 because some of these projects are pretty sizable and some of them have the ability to be transformative," Krasnow says.
Person to Watch
Rony Abovitz: At Abovitz's talk at the inaugural Sarasota TEDex in 2012, the dumbfounded audience watched as two shaggycostumed creatures took the stage to do homage to a giant box of Space Fudge. The scene itself was a homage to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, right down to a technomusic version of Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra." Then came Abovitz, dressed in a space suit. Thus spake Abovitz: "A few awkward steps for me, a magic leap for mankind."
Florida's startup profile took a leap last year with Abovitz's secretive cinematic-reality company, Magic Leap, in Dania Beach. A University of Miami bioengineering master's grad, he co-founded medical robotics company Mako Surgical in Fort Lauderdale, which later sold for $1.65 billion. Abovitz followed it with Magic Leap, which last year won $592 million in two venture funding rounds from Google, Qualcomm, Paul Allen and the platinum names in Silicon Valley VC funding. Florida companies in total raised only $863 million in the same period.
What will Magic Leap make? Abovitz says a wearable 3-D digital light-field interface "that respects the biology of the human eyebrain system … a true replication of visual reality" that will allow people to leave physical screens — computers, laptops, smart phones — behind. Whatever, it's hiring. Abovitz has talked about building an Apple-sized company here. A Magic Leap spokesman declined to discuss its current employment numbers.
Businesses to Watch
Spirit Airlines: Is there an airline people love to hate more than Miramar-based Spirit Airlines, leader of the ultra-lowcost segment? Spirit this year begins showing up with the other major airlines in the DOT's consumer scorecards on on-time performance, oversales and lost luggage. A U.S. PIRG report last year had Spirit passengers as the most likely to complain about their experience. Meanwhile, the customers keep flying: Spirit has more than 300 daily flights to more than 57 places, and spokesman Paul Berry says it plans on 30% growth this year and 15 new planes. It's hiring. It also leads the industry in fuel efficiency, and this year it takes possession of the first Airbus A320 NEO in the United States. Spirit's base is Fort Lauderdale- Hollywood International Airport, where it had 18.09% market share, behind only JetBlue, last December, the airport reported.
Silver Airways: The airline continues to blanket the Florida market, where it flies to 13 airports. In recent months, it has added service between Jacksonville and Pensacola and from Panama City to Orlando and Tampa. It plans to add more cities and increase frequencies as it grows. The 800-plus employee airline says it has more routes within Florida and connecting Florida to the Bahamas than any airline. It has a fleet of 27 Saab 340B Plus turboprops. With only 34 seats, "it's easy on and off the plane," spokeswoman Misty Pinson says.
BBX Capital: Whither Alan Levan? The chairman and CEO of real estate and investment company BBX Capital, $399 million in assets, and one of Broward's best-known business leaders, is appealing a federal jury decision in a civil case last year that he and BBX misled investors in 2007 during a conference call and in a financial statement on subsidiary BankAtlantic. (BankAtlantic later was acquired by BB&T.) Levan and BBX say he told the truth. If the jury's decision stands, the Securities and Exchange Commission wants to ban Levan from serving as a public company officer or director.
Seminole Tribe: Aside from its significant say in how gambling is conducted in Florida, the Hollywood-based Seminole Tribe is moving into other investments, including its increasing citrus and cattle holdings as well as Seminole Pride-branded food. The tribe, with $2 billion in gaming revenue, reportedly has been clearing a site at its Seminole Paradise casino in Hollywood to build a hotel addition. It's adding homes on its 497-acre Hollywood reservation to address a housing shortage among tribe members. So far, its attempts to get into banking have been false-starts: It announced last fall it would acquire Boynton Beach-based Mackinac Savings Bank but then announced in January the deal was off because the bank was "not a good fit."
West Palm Beach/ Palm Beach County
Trends Rooftops: They're going through the approval-process wringer, but developers of largescale communities continue to make headway. After a yearlong fight, Minto Communities won approval to build Minto West on an old orange grove. It will have 4,500 homes, 2. 1 million square feet of office and commercial and a 3,000-student potential campus. Some are seeking to overturn the approvals while Minto proceeds with required site development paperwork. If a judge doesn't halt it, work could begin in the third quarter. Landstar in Coral Gables is in the approval process on Avenir, a 4,760-home project in Palm Beach Gardens. Kolter Group is pursuing Alton in Palm Beach Gardens, a square mile of up to 2,000 homes, 700 apartments, 500,000 square feet of retail, 300 hotel rooms and 3.8 million square feet of biotech and office space, including someday a Scripps expansion. "This is our version of a lifechanging community development as it will combine healthy living, connectivity, sustainability and design innovation," says Bobby Julien, CEO of Kolter Group. Meanwhile, GL Homes is mum on its 5,000-acre Indian Trail Groves.
Friction: To win city approval, developer Flagler Investors, led by Al Adelson, significantly scaled back its condo tower, the Bristol, proposed for the Chapel-by-the Lake site formerly owned by the First Baptist Church. Flagler won approval for a 22-story tower, but a citizens group won a court victory that sent the project back through the approval process. And another suit is pending to block the project. Residents also sued to overturn city approval of plans by Miami's Related Group and Huizenga Holdings' yacht center Rybovich to build a six-tower residential, office and retail marina-oriented village on 14 acres on the water. Overall, though, Palm Beach County is following the urban market trend toward more condo towers. As of January, Palm Beach County had 47 proposed towers with 3,671 units, according to Cranespotters. Com. In terms of submarkets, West Palm Beach ranked fifth in number of units behind downtown Miami, Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale and Sunny Isles Beach. Boca was 11th, Delray Beach 16th and Palm Beach Gardens 17th.
Lake Okeechobee: The Palm Beach County communities on the shore of Lake Okeechobee never have enjoyed the prosperity of their eastern neighbors. Various efforts continue to try to help the lake region, marked by poverty and high unemployment. The Business Development Board of Palm Beach County contracted with the Lake Okeechobee Regional Economic Alliance, which goes by the easier acronym LORE, to recruit, retain and expand industry in Belle Glade, South Bay and Pahokee. Serious manufacturing relocation prospects are said to be looking: A recycling manufacturer, a 60-employee candy maker and an organic fertilizer company. The region is well-suited to agri-businesses, food manufacturing, tourism and health services. The area has assets — lots of land, for one — but a population low in educational attainment.
Person to Watch
Jeff Greene: Palm Beach billionaire and one-time Breakers busboy Greene has found the Florida real estate market more receptive than the political one. Following his loss in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in 2010, Greene got back to what he knows: Real estate. No. 190 on the Forbes 400 after betting against subprime lending, Greene, 60, has acquired, by the Palm Beach Post's count, $250 million in local real estate on the island, including the historic post office site, and in West Palm Beach. In January, he got preliminary West Palm Beach approval to build two 30-story towers. At 450-feet, they would be the city's tallest buildings. One tower would be a 400,000-sq.- ft. Class A office building and the other a residential and luxury hotel tower complete with tennis courts, pool, gym and celebrity chef restaurant. Greene figures no city — not New York, Los Angeles, Boston nor Miami — can offer people in his circle a site that's just a few minutes to the island, the airport and the water. He thinks hedge fund managers and CEOs will come and bring corporate staff with them. He also owns a prime block between CityPlace and the site of the All Aboard Florida private rail station and another well-positioned site north of downtown that could hold a community-within-the-city project. Earlier this year, he put his Beverly Hills estate on the market for $195 million.
Businesses to Watch
Viking Developers: The subsidiary of Viking Yachts is the private participant and master developer in the $375-million public-private redevelopment of 26 acres on Riviera Beach's waterfront. The public participant, the city's community redevelopment agency, is responsible for a two-story event center and improvements to Bicentennial Park. Some 500 construction jobs will be created over the project's three-year timeline. The city hopes the project becomes a game-changer that sparks economic development.
Viking is responsible for $336 million of the $375 million privatepublic investment.
BurgerFi: West Palm Beach-based BurgerFi expects to double its number of locations this year. Last year, systemwide sales hit $66.4 million as it grew to 63 locations.
All Aboard Florida: The private passenger rail company this year should make progress on track improvements and on building its downtown West Palm Beach station as it moves toward a 2016 opening of a Miami-West Palm Beach link.
Crocker Partners: Longtime Boca Raton real estate player Tom Crocker continues to grow his firm. His portfolio now has 8 million square feet, with more than 1 million in Boca alone. Total holdings are valued at nearly $2 billion. In addition to Palm Beach County, the firm has significant holdings in Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando, Georgia and a start in Texas.
Convention Center Hotel: CityPlace developer Related Cos., the New York firm of Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, this year will top off Palm Beach County's long-sought hotel adjoining the county convention center in West Palm Beach with an eye toward opening in early 2016. The Hiltonbranded hotel will have 400 rooms and 24,000 square feet of meeting space.
Spring Training: The Houston Astros and Washington Nationals will co-locate at a new spring training facility to be built in West Palm Beach. Palm Beach Gardens turned down the Astros, and their partner at the time, the Toronto Blue Jays, last year. The Astros currently hold spring training in Osceola County and the Washington Nationals in Brevard County.
County Population: 1.44 million, up 8.7% vs. 2010
Unemployment rate: 4.8%
Per capita income: $58,430