ULI Southeast Florida/Caribbean News

How And Why Multifamily Development Is Different In This Cycle



GlobeSt.com caught up with Greg West, president and Chief Development Officer of ZOM, to get some insights in part one of this exclusive interview.

MIAMI—Greg West, president and Chief Development Officer of ZOM, is currently developing close to 2,000 rental apartment units in Miami’s urban core. He was also recently appointed to serve a two-year term as the chair of the Urban Land Institute’s Southeast Florida and Caribbean chapter.

At the helm of an organization that serves as a leading advocate for responsible land use, West discussed exclusively with GlobeSt.com the efforts underway to increase the region’s resiliency following natural disasters, what are some of the mobility challenges South Florida faces as population grows rapidly, and the state of the region’s multi-family real estate market.

GlobeSt.com: Resiliency is a topic gaining attention particularly following this year’s active hurricane season, with major storms impacting portions of the US and the Caribbean, and rising sea levels. What efforts are the public and private sectors engaging in to help make the region more resilient?

West: Resiliency is not new to South Florida. This is something we became aware of as a community in an acute way following Hurricane Andrew’s passage. That triggered massive changes in our building codes and how we look at new development.

(Read about a common multifamily lending myth—and get the truth.)

Most recently, Hurricane Irma has been the most substantial example of how those changes to the building code have proven effective. Communities across South Florida are also taking steps to make a substantial financial investment to address drainage issues to combat both storm surge and sea level rise.

Take the City of Miami Beach, a coastal community severely impacted by climate change, has been revamping its Storm Water Management Plan to incorporate the impacts of sea level rise and investing $500 million to install dozens of pumps and raise roads and seawalls across the city. Another example is the recent yes vote Miamians casted giving green light to a $400 million general obligation bond issuance to finance several infrastructure improvements, with half slated to combat rising sea level with storm drain upgrades, flood pumps and sea walls. This funding mechanism will pay for much-needed infrastructure and drainage improvements across Miami-Dade.

GlobeSt.com: As a major multifamily developer in South Florida, how is this latest wave of multifamily development activity different from previous real estate cycles, and why?

West: The drivers behind the multifamily rental development market this cycle is so much more diverse than they have ever been before. We have traditional demand from job growth, but we also have non-traditional demand from other sources, including a desire for urban living as a trend growing locally and nationally. More people see buying a home as a big risk following the financial crisis and housing market burst, which coupled with high home prices and dwindling inventory in South Florida, makes apartment living much more appealing than years before.

In Downtown Miami alone, ZOM is building close to 2,000 apartment units across the Brickell and downtown Miami neighborhoods, including the already opened Monarc at Met 3, a 462-unit building with a Whole Foods in the street level and Solitair in Brickell set to open its 435 apartments this December. Early next year, the firm is also going to start a residential project in downtown Fort Lauderdale called Las Olas Walk comprised of 456 units.

Another factor fueling apartment living is that the world has become an increasingly smaller place. Younger professionals are becoming more mobile in their careers and also in their lifestyles.

The ability to rent housing offers the freedom to live in short notice where you want with a variety of valuable amenities at their fingertips. Because of this shift, the modern standard of luxury rental project in an urban setting is designed much more differently than passed generations, with attractive lifestyle amenities offered within.

Published in GlobeSt.com

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