How Can We Create Sustainable Real Estate Development in South Florida?


South Florida real estate executives recently came together for an exclusive power lunch with Tom Hudson to discuss the state of the industry. They were asked to fill in the end to this sentence:  We can create healthy, sustainable real estate development over the long term, if we ______________.  

Participants gathered at Kaufman, Rossin’s Miami office on June 10, 2013, for a lively discussion moderated by broadcaster Tom Hudson, host of the new WLRN radio program The Sunshine Economy.  The firm is the exclusive sponsor for the program.

The group included developers, real estate investors and other professionals who serve the industry.

One topic that held the group’s attention was the percentage of cash deals in the current environment, with funds coming in from Latin America.  Investors suggested that the current South Florida environment is one they can get behind.  Karl Finegan, managing principal for Aeterna Capital, declared himself “bullish” on South Florida.

Sustainability was also a hot topic. Attorney Jeffrey Bass raised questions about the permitting process, suggesting that new developments have, in the past, been rubber-stamped.  Sustainability, he implied, would require a stronger regulatory hand and a more strategic approach.

“For the great prior successful building boom in Miami, we built for the night,” Bass said. “In order to be sustainable, we need to start thinking about how we’re going to build for the day.” That means we need office space, mixed use developments, the right balance between commercial and residential, and pedestrian-friendly areas, he says.

Stephen Nostrand, CEO of Colliers International and a University of Miami real estate professor, had a different take on the word “sustainability,” speaking of the environmental impact of development and arguing for increased density to create a truly walkable city. We are promoting too much outward growth, Nostrand says.

Margaret Nee, president of Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW), agreed that South Florida needs urban density and less sprawl. And in order to support the local real estate market, we need job growth.

This led to discussion about whether our infrastructure can support that type of growth. Craig Perry, president of homebuilder Centerline Homes argued that building vertically is not only more of a challenge for a developer, but also doesn’t meet the demands of the market.  “People to who move to Florida want a yard and a pool,” he said.

Marc Feigelson, CPA, an assurance & advisory services principal at Kaufman, Rossin, is much more optimistic for the sustainability of his clients’ projects in the current environment.  “They’re much less leveraged than they were a few years back,” he said, noting that he sleeps better at night knowing the clients he serves aren’t carrying huge debt loads these days.

Next week investment executives will join us in Boca Raton for “Kaufman, Rossin Presents: Power Lunch with Tom Hudson” as we address this statement: “The one thing that can accelerate growth in the South Florida investment industry is ______________.”

You can watch videos and view photos of our power lunch series on YouTube and Flickr, and keep an eye on our blog for highlights. We invite you to join the discussion online and keep the conversation going on Twitter by following @KaufmanRossin and @WLRN and using hashtag #SunshineEconomy. Let us know what you think of the radio show and the lunch series!

Janet Altman is a Marketing Principal at Kaufman Rossin, one of the Top 100 CPA and advisory firms in the U.S.

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