MIAMI-Although the number of individual purchases of commercial sites in the tri-county South Florida market during this year’s second quarter was the highest in 10 years, total volume fell to $262.05 million from $310.37 million in the same period of 1999.

A study underwritten by the Keyes Company, a 35-office real estate firm in South and Central Florida, puts the median per sf price paid during the latest period at $13 in Miami-Dade, $6.37 in Broward and $5.47 in Palm Beach.

The Keyes study says land activity has yet to recover from the national real estate recession of the early 1990s. In the five years between 1985 and 1989, the average annual number of second-quarter site sales was 339. In the latest five-year period, the average was 230. The more moderate buying pace since 1995 is cited as a crucial factor in holding down speculation and overbuilding.

While prices of commercial sites in Broward and Palm Beach have risen in more recent years, they have yet to surpass 1990 figures. In Miami-Dade, however, prices have soared 44.2% in the past 10 years. The runup has been especially significant during the past two years. Originating in the Brickell corridor and Doral, speculative fever has spread throughout the county and even into certain parts of Broward.

Land-price inflation could soon reach all of Broward, as well as Palm Beach County, based on market projections by Appraisal and Real Estate Economics Associates. It is simply a matter of diminishing availability, according to this Miami-based firm. At the start of the 1990s, South Florida was thought to have a 50-year supply of commercial land. That figure has now been scaled back to a 10-year to 20-year supply.

The scarcity of land is said to be sending more developers into northern Palm Beach where there are still many tracts of vacant land for large-scale commercial construction. Southernmost portions of Miami-Dade have similar availabilities. But such locations are far from the center of South Florida commercial activity. Without more mass transit facilities, commuter travel must depend on already overcrowded highways. The only viable alternative may be to redevelop older, often decaying sections.

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