They’re asking $5.25 million for the biggest unit at Riva, a 15-story condominium under construction in Fort Lauderdale.
It will be an 8,788-square-foot unit with water views through a wall made of 16-foot-tall glass panels. The terrace alone measures about 2,700 square feet and has a Jacuzzi. The two-story unit will occupy the entire second and third floors of Riva and will come equipped with a spa, private elevator, two-car garage and 35-foot boat slip. Earlier this spring the unit was still for sale, but buyers had reserved more than half of the 100 units at Riva, and vertical construction had started following six months of site preparation. Preconstruction prices range from $645,000 to $1.75 million for most Riva units, and penthouse prices start at $2 million.
It might all sound familiar to anybody who knows the luxury Fort Lauderdale condo market, but there’s one big difference here. The water you can see from the unit isn’t the Atlantic, it’s the Middle River.
“Sales have been great,” says Bradley Deckelbaum of Premium Developers, who is heading up the North Federal Highway development. “While you hear the stories that the sky is falling, our last couple of months have been the strongest.” The city, he says, is ready for more high-end housing developments off the beach.
The beach is still the epicenter of pricey condo construction in Fort Lauderdale, but more high-end housing developments large and small are coming out of the ground at inland locations. In Coral Ridge, for example, Boca Raton-based developer Group P6 in April finished building the second phase of a townhouse project called Bayview Village. Prices start at $725,000 for townhouse units spanning more than 3,000 square feet. Each of the four new townhouses has three bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms, a two-story foyer entry, floor-to-ceiling window walls, Bosch appliances and quartz countertops.
Luxury condo developers also have clustered along the New River in Fort Lauderdale’s urban core. Related Group, the company behind the Auberge Beach Residences & Spa development at the former Ireland’s Inn site on the beach, is building a 30-story residential tower called Icon Las Olas at 500 E. Las Olas Blvd,, which will be the tallest building in Fort Lauderdale. In addition, “we’re the only building on Las Olas Boulevard that stretches from Las Olas to the river,” says Patrick Campbell, a senior vice president of Related.
Whether Icon Las Olas will be the city’s tallest condominium remains to be seen. Related designed Icon Las Olas as a condominium but may operate it as a rental apartment building instead of selling the units. “We are monitoring the market and trying to ascertain the depth of the condominium market before we decide,” Campbell says. “Market conditions will determine when sales will launch, and if there’s not a market, it will be a building that’s fully occupied regardless.”
Construction crews started pouring concrete for the 11th floor of Icon Las Olas in early April, and Related expects to finish the building by mid-2017. If Related opts to market Icon as a condominium, “I think it ultimately will sell for about $600 per square foot,” Campbell says. That would translate to $900,000 for a typical Icon unit, which average 1,500 square feet in size.
Other riverfront developments could put more high-end condos on the market. One of them is Marina Lofts, designed as a three-building residential development with 800-plus units on the south side of the New River near Andrews Avenue.
Marina Lofts developer Asi Cymbal did not respond to requests for comment from Fort Lauderdale Magazine. Last year, Cymbal told The Real Deal, a real estate news publication, that he will
market the planned riverfront high-rise as a blend of condos and rental units, instead of a trio of all-rental buildings, as originally planned. A spokesman for the City of Fort Lauderdale said a city building permit for Marina Lofts was set to expire in early 2017.
Luxury riverfront condos also could pop up on boatyard property. In February, the 64-year-old Fort Lauderdale Boatyard and Marina was listed for sale. The property is “ideal for redevelopment,” Kelly Ruff, general manager of the boatyard and marina, said in a press release. The Fort Lauderdale property, formerly known as Jackson Marine, is located along the south fork of the New River. Appraisals put the estimated value of the 11.3-acre property at $18 million, according to Ruff.
All this inland action does not mean the oceanfront condo market is slowing down. Many high-profile projects are moving forward, including several that mix hotel rooms and condos. The most prominent works in progress include Paramount Residences, the Gale Hotel & Residences, and the Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences. The priciest condo development under construction on the beach is the Auberge.
An Auberge penthouse unit sold for $8.9 million, the highest price ever for a condo in Broward County. Dan Marino is among the pre-construction buyers of the more affordable Auberge units. Prices start at $1.5 million. A trio of developers is behind Auberge: Fortune International Realty and Related Group of Florida, two Miami-based powerhouses in the luxury housing market, and Fairwinds Group of Fort Lauderdale, whose investors originally owned Auberge’s 4.6-acre site on the beach at 2200 N. Atlantic Blvd.
Edgardo de Fortuna, president of Fortune International, says inland locations in Fort Lauderdale can’t command the luxury condo prices that oceanfront addresses do. “Ocean is ocean, and people pay more for it,” de Fortuna says.
Ground rules for development also push projects to the oceanfront. “Zoning conditions usually allow you to do bigger buildings on the ocean than on inland parcels,” he says. “There are some inland areas in Fort Lauderdale that have great canals and a great residential feeling and do well. Not at the same price levels as the ocean does.”
Residential developer Jean Francois Roy has capitalized on the boat-friendly network of canals. His company has developed a series of small-scale condo buildings in the canal-crossed Las Olas Isles area. Roy is president of Ocean Land Investments, which in January launched pre-construction sales for AquaVue, the company’s fifth waterfront condominium in Las Olas Isles, each of them with fewer than 40 units. Crews this spring were building all of the similarly named condominiums: AquaBlue, AquaVista, AquaLuna and AquaMar as well as AquaVue.
AquaVue at 133 Isle of Venice Dr. will have eight loft-style condos with three bedrooms and three bathrooms, each priced from $1.475 million to $1.675 million. Kitchens will be equipped with Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances, Italian-made cabinets and quartz countertops. Each unit comes with a private 50-foot boat slip with deep-water canal access to the ocean.
‘We have five projects under construction,” even though “we don’t have a beach,” Roy said, speaking publicly as a panel member at a Broward County real estate conference in April. Roy said prices for Aqua-brand condos range from $500 to $700 per square foot, and 40 percent of the pre-construction buyers are homeowners in western Broward: “We have wealthy buyers who are selling their homes for two times the price of a unit.”
In any case, the beach’s monopoly on luxury housing development in Fort Lauderdale has eroded. It’s likely that more high-end residences are coming to inland addresses, whether on rivers or canals, or in a landlocked location.
Campbell says the planned startup of All Aboard Florida’s intercity passenger rail service with a station in Fort Lauderdale could bring more luxury housing to inland areas of the city.
“We’re already seeing that property around the All Aboard Florida station is moving and changing hands and being entitled,” he says. “I certainly think the downtown area is looking for the next level of quality and luxury.”