South Florida Business Journal: All Aboard Florida preparing major development around Fort Lauderdale station

Posted on July 15, 2015

Brian Bandell

All Aboard Florida hasn’t moved as quickly to develop the land around its Fort Lauderdale station as it has in Miami and West Palm Beach, but plans are being crafted to complement the key transit hub with several million square feet of development.

Construction crews are currently working to complete the $2.5 billion passenger rail line between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. The South Florida leg is slated to open in early 2017, so both track work and station work is underway.

A big part of the strategy of All Aboard Florida, part of Florida East Coast Industries, is to capitalize on the pedestrian traffic created by the stations to build dense mixed-use districts.

In Miami, the retail, apartment, office and parking structures should be completed at about the same time as the rail station, said AAF President Mike Reininger. The foundation work is well underway. In West Palm Beach, AAF has a pending application with the city for an apartment tower with some ground-floor retail and a parking garage.

In Fort Lauderdale, AAF is working with the city to craft a development plan for the 10 acres around the station – 8.2 acres of which is owned by AAF or governments. The site is at the intersection of Northwest 3rd Avenue and Northwest 1st Street. Reininger said the area could eventually have 2 million square feet of transit-oriented development.

“It creates real estate uses that have the advantage of the connectivity that comes with having transit integrated into this neighborhood,” Reininger said.

In addition to AAF, that section of Fort Lauderdale will have service from the coming Wave Streetcar and an existing county bus station. Reininger is floating the idea of swapping sites between the bus station and an AAF-owned parcel a block to the north to move the commercial development closer to the rail station.

That would allow for a bridge across Northwest 2nd Avenue and the tracks from the building to the station.

The first phase of AAF’s development around the Fort Lauderdale station could be on a vacant lot just west of the station. Reininger would like to build a parking garage plus either an apartment building with about 250 units or a 150,000-square-foot office building.

“We are doing an analysis of the right use,” Reininger said.

The apartment market in South Florida is red hot, with many projects under construction. In its Miami and West Palm Beach projects, AAF is building smaller units with less parking that cater to the millennial demographic, he said. For instance in Miami, a 800-square-foot unit may be priced at $2,000 a month.

“That’s a product type we think there is big demand for and not a lot of supply of in the Miami market,” Reininger said. “People want to live in an urban environment near places to eat and shop.”

While a similar apartment could could work well in Fort Lauderdale, office tenants have shown great interest in AAF’s 190,000-square-foot tower in Miami so that plan is a viable option. There are few office projects in Fort Lauderdale and the occupancy rate for “Class A” space in the city has been growing.

Ultimately if the 10 acres around the Fort Lauderdale station gets a density increase, AAF could have the ability to build both residential and commercial. That might include the redevelopment of a state-owned office building on Broward Boulevard to create a pedestrian mall leading to the transit station, according to AAF’s proposal.

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