The Dania Beach bellwether
Around South Florida, Dania Beach is known for its casino and jai alai fronton, a large collection of antiques shops and a 100-foot-tall wooden roller coaster that stood for years just south of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, next to Interstate 95. But the city may eventually become best known for a new 102-acre landmark called Dania Pointe, a mixed-use development that is unfolding on the site of the roller coaster, which was demolished three years ago.
New York-based real estate investment trust Kimco Realty Corp., the master developer of Dania Pointe, has finished building the first phase of the master-plan project, which will ultimately encompass more than 600,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space together with office space, hotels, apartment buildings and a Lucky’s supermarket.
The high-profile Dania Pointe project is the biggest real estate development in town, and it’s inspired a plethora of other projects there.
“Ninety-five percent of the reason Dania Beach is on fire is Dania Pointe,” said Alan Losada, executive vice president of Meyers Group, a Coral Gables-based firm that’s developing Avery Dania Pointe, an apartment complex with 600 units at the master-planned development.
“Dania Pointe has helped a lot by coming into focus and into reality,” said Ken Krasnow, an executive of real estate brokerage Colliers International. “Overall, this whole market is very much of a show-me kind of a market. People tend to believe it when they see it.”
The town’s major facelift even includes plans for a brand-new city hall, which will be part of The First at Dania Beach, a $634 million mixed-use development that also features apartments, restaurants, shops, offices and a hotel.
On August 27, city commissioners agreed to work with a joint venture of Virginia Beach, Va.-based Armada Hoffler Properties and Boca Raton-based Capital Group to build the new municipal building, directing city officials to negotiate a development and land-lease agreement. They plan for the new city hall to be open for occupancy by 2022. It’ll be part of a 63,000-square-foot building that will also house a public library, women’s club and chamber of commerce.
In addition, a new fire station and 810 rental apartments will be built in the first phase of the three-phase, mixed-use development going up on 6.42 acres leased from the city.
Behind the boomlet
Dania Beach’s development boom is one of many happening in the smaller coastal cities in South Florida, Krasnow said. Beyond Miami and Fort Lauderdale, “a lot of communities in South Florida are starting to get a lot more attention [from developers] now because of continued employment and population growth, and general land scarcity,” he said.
For Kimco and other developers, much of the appeal of Dania Beach is its proximity to major employment centers to the north, including the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and nearby Port Everglades, a leading cruise port, as well as downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Location, location, location lured Fort Lauderdale-based developer Dev Motwani of Merrimac Ventures, who has site-plan approval for Trion Dania Beach, an eight-story, 300-unit apartment project a half mile east of Dania Pointe. Motwani, who paid $5 million for his 2.2-acre development site, said its location on Federal Highway allows easy intercity driving that bypasses congested Interstate 95.
“From our site on Federal Highway, it takes me less than 15 minutes to get to downtown Fort Lauderdale,” Motwani said. “Geographically, it’s an amazing location. And you’re surrounded by all this job growth.”
Less than a mile west of Dania Pointe, Larry Baum, managing partner of Dania Beach-based Stellar Homes Group, is developing a 197-unit apartment project. Stellar Homes’ apartment development is called The Stirling, a nod to its address on Stirling Road, a major east-west street that leads directly to the southern entrance of Dania Pointe. Griffin Road, a parallel thoroughfare just north of Stirling, “holds a lot of potential,” Baum said. “Griffin is probably going to be the next street to get built out, when Stirling gets all built out.”
A buildout of Griffin Road could start at the Design Center of the Americas (DCOTA), a 782,986-square-foot commercial property at 1855 Griffin Road, just north of Dania Pointe. New York-based Cohen Brothers Realty Corp., the owner of DCOTA, is planning to expand the property by adding 200,000 square feet of office space, according to Robert L. Shapiro, a Dania Beach-based property investor who helped to assemble the Dania Pointe site.
Dania Beach has also seen a burst of hotel development, including a full-service Marriott and AC by Marriott under construction at Dania Pointe. Shapiro ticked off multiple brands with new Dania Beach locations: Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Tru by Hilton, Wyndham. “All of those hotels I understand are doing very well because of the airport and seaport,” he said.
But some see growing competition as hotels proliferate in Dania Beach. When the owners of The Casino @ Dania Beach renovated the casino building and jai alai fronton, they canceled plans to add a hotel to the property. “The plan shifted to make more sense,” said Gabriela Garavito, director of facilities at the casino property, citing emerging hotel competition nearby. “Dania Pointe is five minutes away from us.”