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MIAMI-As South Florida enters its 11th day since Hurricane Wilma, real estate insiders give GlobeSt.com glimpses of the triumphs and tribulations of the storm’s continuing aftermath. “We never thought our office shower and refrigerator would be our most valuable assets,” Stephen Bittel, chairman of Miami Beach-based Terranova Corp., tells GlobeSt.com.

He says, “25% of our staff is still without power, and 80% of the traffic lights in Broward County aren’t working.” The county office confirms that just 181, or 13%, of the county’s 1,350 traffic lights are operating, and a Terranova spokeswoman says, “driving to work is scary.” Leaving home after a cold shower and without coffee exacerbates the discomfort, others say.

Florida Power & Light reports that more than 500,000 of its customers are without power and estimates some may not be restored until Nov. 13. BellSouth reports that phone service has not yet been restored to 390,000, or between 10% and 14% of its customers in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Federated Department Stores reports that three of its South Florida Macy’s units incurred “substantial” damage and are unlikely to open for the Christmas holidays. They are at Fashion Mall in Plantation, Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale, and the Falls in south Miami-Dade. For a limited time following the storm, 36 Macy’s and five Bloomingdale’s in the state were closed, which negatively impacted Federated’s October and third-quarter overall sales.

Tere Blanca, senior managing director for Cushman & Wakefield of South Florida, tells GlobeSt.com that business resumed at her Miami headquarters at the 55-story Wachovia Financial Center on the Friday after Wilma struck. “There’s a little broken glass and we lost a couple of granite panels,” she tells GlobeSt.com, “but our building is fully functional.”

Right after the storm, Blanca says, “area businesses began calling about renting temporary space,” she says. “But a day or so after, many called to say they wouldn’t need it after all. There are certain users still out in the street that need help, and landlords and tenants are being very accommodating. One law firm had extra space and let another firm move in temporarily.”

Full recovery, she says, “will be challenging,” because of the drain on the labor pool and the lack of and rising cost of construction materials, strained first by Katrina and Rita and now Wilma. “This will drive [rent] prices higher,” she predicts.

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