Tucked into the northeast corner of Fort Lauderdale near the Pompano Beach border, Port Royale is an enclave with a new addition. A 555-unit, eight-story luxury apartment complex called Modera Port Royale opened last year next to a high-rise condominium and a low-rise, garden-style apartment property called Port Royale Apartments.
Nestled along the Intracoastal Waterway, Modera is more visible to boaters than motorists. You drive to the property by turning east off Federal Highway where NE 65th Street becomes Port Royale Boulevard, then through a gated entry with a manned guardhouse to Modera, a cluster of apartment buildings with angular white-and-gray façades and brick-paved streets.
Yet despite its low public visibility, or perhaps because of it, Modera Port Royale has attracted a crowd.
Tenants paying monthly rents ranging from $1,700 to $4,000 occupied 87 percent of Modera’s apartments as of late July, according to real estate data site Zillow.com. Next door, the older and lower-priced Port Royale Apartments had a 94 percent occupancy rate in late July, according to Zillow.
Commercial real estate brokerage Marcus & Millichap reported that, in the second quarter of 2018, the average occupancy rate was 95 percent and the average rent was $1,561 a month at large rental apartment properties in Fort Lauderdale.
The brokerage firm also reported that 3,850 new apartments will hit the Fort Lauderdale market this year, including 1,200 units completed in the first quarter alone, “the strongest start to the year since 2015” in local apartment construction.
Mill Creek Residential Trust, the Dallas-based developer and owner of Modera, “hasn’t really added any more units at Port Royale. They just knocked down a tower and rebuilt one [Modera] that is much more high-end,” says Suzanne Vordermeier-Waterhouse, vice president of Vordermeier Management Company.
Her Fort Lauderdale company manages the Port Royale Master Association, which maintains all the common areas at Port Royale, including a 68-slip marina as well as the roads and the guardhouse.
In tandem with the construction of Modera, “the guardhouse was redone, and the front entryways and the gate access were completely updated,” she says. “So, the entire property has been brought up to Modera’s level.”
Vordermeier says water views are Modera’s essential selling point, citing the property’s prime location on the Intracoastal Waterway: “It’s east Fort Lauderdale waterfront. They don’t make any more of it.”
In 2013, Dallas-based Mill Creek Residential bought the first and second phases of the development of the Port Royale community for $117.4 million. The Real Deal, a real estate news website, also reported that the community’s first two phases, built in 1989 and 1991, included the Port Royale Apartments and another residential property that Mill Creek demolished to make way for Modera.
In 2015, Mill Creek Residential sold Port Royale Apartments to Chicago-based Waterton Associates for $94 million. A spokeswoman for Waterton did not respond to a request for an interview.
“Our primary goal for purchasing the Port Royale community was for the opportunity to build Modera Port Royale, an irreplaceable community along the Intracoastal Waterway in one of the best locations in Broward County,” Jeff Meran of Mill Creek Residential said in an email exchange.
Meran, the company’s senior managing director for South Florida, declined to discuss rents or occupancy rates at Modera. He said in an email that “we have been incredibly happy with the performance of the [Modera] community and the residents we have attracted.”
Part of the attraction to Modera is its package of amenities, including a resort-style swimming pool with grilling stations, a movie room, club rooms, a business center, and a fitness center with yoga and on-demand spinning rooms. “We designed the community to look and feel like a high-end condominium on the water,” Meran wrote. “In addition to the quality finishes within the homes, we wanted to provide our residents with a wide variety of options to live, work and play at Modera Port Royale.”
Limited options to “work and play” are available in the immediate vicinity of the Port Royale community. Just west of Port Royale on Federal Highway is a small strip shopping center with a dry-cleaning service, a liquor store and a Walgreens drugstore but no café, bar or restaurant.
Several restaurants operate south of Port Royale along Federal Highway, but few have shown staying power, says Gordon Latz, a retired Fort Lauderdale resident who co-developed the Bay Colony Club Condominiums, a 640-unit condo development just south of Port Royale. “I don’t know how many restaurants have been in there,” he says, recalling a TGI Fridays at NE 62nd Street and Federal Highway that closed. “They’ve come and gone.”
In his email, Meran mentioned that Port Royale is “ideally located between” major employment centers in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Cypress Creek and Boca Raton.
The largest employer near Port Royale is the Broward Health Imperial Point hospital at 6401 N. Federal Hwy. Several sizable employers are farther north along Federal Highway in Pompano Beach, says John Hartnett, property manager of the Bay Colony Club Condominiums. “They’re tucked away, like Qualmann Marine,” he says. “They have a small office there in Pompano Beach, up the road a bit. You’d never know they’re doing big business. They handle large projects.”