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(Crystal Proenza is associate editor of Real Estate Florida.)

FORT LAUDERDALE-After completing its first 67,000-sf office building at the Riverbend Transit Oriented Development last month, Amera-Barron is moving on to the next phase of what is set to be a six-million-sf mixed-use project. The development company says it is finalizing plans for two 120,000-sf class A office buildings with 15,000 sf of retail and a 900-space parking garage. The project is located at the western quadrants of the Interstate 95/Broward Boulevard interchange, and is part of a 100-acre master plan that will eventually include over three million sf of office, 800,000 sf of retail, 1,200 residential units and 500 hotel rooms.

The recently completed building is already 25% leased, says George Rahael, principal of Amera-Barron, with tenants including Strayer University, which has leased a full 17,000 sf floor of the four-story structure. He says the company has received inquiries from tenants who would need 70,000 to 80,000 sf, which would prompt the construction of the next two planned office buildings.

“We’re getting the second phase of the project ready to go,” Rahael tells GlobeSt.com. “We won’t be starting construction until we have tenants committed, but we want to be able to shorten the amount of time it takes from them to get in,” he says about the early approvals for the structures, which will seek LEED certification. The company hopes to start construction by the second quarter of 2009.

Leasing rates at the existing building range from $22 to $24 per sf. A second-quarter CB Richard Ellis market report puts average asking rents in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, the closest submarket to the site, at $21 per sf triple net. Rahael says the TOD is creating its own submarket, called Riverbend, over the next decade or so as development on the project progresses.

Amera-Barron is not concerned about the current market downturn, Rahael explains, as it is prepared to respond to the market. “We obviously have always had a long-term view of market cycles. Whether it is ten or 20 years away, we have the supply to fill the need,” he says.

Rahael adds in the future corporations will seek locations serviced by mass transit, this site’s major draw. The developer says a Tri-Rail station is in place, along with a proposed east-west light rail route and an internal trolley system. Its placement at the convergence of I-95 and Broward Boulevard also make the site easily accessible.

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