ORLANDO-Construction of new apartment units slowed in the first half but tenants are quickly filling the area’s 129,000 units, some at cyberspace-high rents. Occupancy is at 93.6%, up from 93.2% at yearend 2000.

The numbers show final construction figures for the year will be among the lowest in years, first-half research from the Orlando office of CB Richard Ellis Inc. shows.

A total 3,670 multifamily units were delivered in the first half versus 12,590 for all of 2000. In the pipeline are 7,800 new units but there is no indication if they will all be delivered this year.

First-half absorption was 5,152 units compared to 9,387 units for all of last year. That means a good portion of existing units will be rented by year end, based on an anticipated 12-month absorption total of possibly 10,000 units. Occupancy could be in the high 90s.

“The market appears to be firming up,” Robert W. Miller, CBRE senior vice president, tells GlobeSt.com. “With lower construction activity, absorption on pace for a record year and occupancy rates rising again, the market appears to be strengthening.”

What is different in the Orlando multifamily market this time around, however, are the rising rents. They are up by 2.8% for the first six months of the year, but in some of the newer products rents are at unprecedented high levels.

For example, the 22-story, 230-unit Waverly Apartments that opened Downtown Oct. 1 at a development cost of $45 million has average rents of $1,900.

The average asking rent for a two-bedroom, two-bath unit at the Waverly is $1,739 per month. Comparable class A average area rents are $1,200 per month. Five penthouse units have rents ranging to $9,000 per month. Developed by locally based Zom Inc., the Waverly already is 30% leased.

Rents are at high-rise level even at the suburban three-story, 58-unit Lofts of Winter Park Village expected to open Nov. 1. Monthly rents will be $1,200 to $2,700 for 650 sf of living space to 1,000 sf.

“You’ve got an altogether different type of renter for these units,” Dean Fritchen, senior associate, Arvida Realty Services Commercial Division, tells GlobeSt.com. “You’ve got single male and female professionals, holding down high-paying positions, who want all of the amenities to be right where they live and work, not miles down the road or at a mega regional mall.”

Developer Eric Kovar has built the Lofts of Winter Park Village within the rehabilitated Winter Park Village retail center, formerly the site of Winter Park Mall, one of metro Orlando’s earliest covered malls. Restaurants, shops and offices are interwined at Winter Park Village.

The Lofts already are 30% pre-leased.

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