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FORT LAUDERDALE, FL-Broward Barron Inc. has won the right to negotiate the acquisition an 18-acre parcel of city-owned land which could become the keystone to a 55-acre mixed-use office, retail and hotel project with a buildout value of about $260 million.

The affiliate of Coral Springs, FL-based Amera Corp., a company controlled by commercial developer George Rahael, beat out two other competitive bids for the right to redevelop the site at Interstate 95 and Broward Boulevard, Downtown Fort Lauderdale’s primary traffic artery.

In a 3-2 vote, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission approved the Broward Barron proposal over a city staff-recommended plan submitted by Novi, MI-based Crosswinds Communities Inc., which proposed a mixed-used residential project on the site. Another plans submitted by Broward Development, which proposed construction of government facilities, ranked third.

“It’s not very often you come across a site like this,” Rahael tells GlobeSt.com. “It is midway between Miami and West Palm Beach. This property has all of it, when you think about visibility and access to Downtown Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport and Port Everglades.”

City staff ranked the Crosswinds proposal as the most responsive and responsible bid because of the projected taxable value, as calculated by Barry Abramson, a real estate consultant with the Miami-based firm Abramson & Associates. At total buildout of phase one, Crosswinds proposed the creation of $76 million in taxable value; Broward Barron, $42.2 million; and Broward Development, $37.4 million.

The first phase of the Broward Barron project includes the acquisition of the city-owned parcel for $6.25 million, Rahael says. He is negotiating to acquire another adjoining seven-acre parcel to augment phase one.

On the 25-acre site, Rahael envisions the development of about 400,000 sf of class A, mid-rise office buildings. Construction could start within the next two to three years on two, two-story office buildings containing 24,000 sf each.

Meanwhile, Rahael is also working with city, county and state officials on another proposal to acquire about 30 acres of adjoining government-owned land now used for correctional and road-building purposes. “The city already has initiated discussions about relocating the correctional facilities,” Rahael says.

On this additional acreage, Rahael says he envisions the development of about another 1.6 million sf of mixed-use office, retail and hotel space. Using his calculations, Rahael estimates that the total building value could range from $130 to $140 per sf, or from $260 million to $280 million at buildout.

“When we first looked at the 18 acres, we decided it just was not enough,” Rahael says. “So we looked at the idea of expanding up to 55 acres to get the critical mass.”

What excites Rahael about the project is the intangible economic development benefits that his project could bring to the city. The entire project is located within city and county community redevelopment agencies and a county enterprise zone. That means there is a virtual laundry list of potential state and local incentives for companies that might lease space within the proposed development.

“There are a tremendous amount of user incentives that come with this site,” Rahael says. “We expect phase one to take from two to three years. By then, we hope the economy will improve. So our approach to the development will be incremental. By developing this as a master plan, we intend to take our time and build what the market needs.”

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