ULI Florida Summit
I attended the Urban Land Institute Florida Summit on June 7-8 at the Vinoy Renaissance Hotel in St. Petersburg and found it to be excellent information value.
The pre-conference tour was to The Portland public housing project and The Ovation luxury condominiums, both in central St. Petersburg. The two, multi-family, elevator developments were positioned to residents at opposite ends of the economic scale, but both featured outstanding architectural design and impressive amenities, including fitness and community rooms. The Ovation community room opened onto a stunning 14th-floor swimming pool and deck overlooking Tampa Bay. The Portland contained a 15-year public-private financing package facilitating rents from under $400 to $1,000 monthly for income-qualified residents in one, two and three bedroom apartments, and it is fully leased with a waiting list. The spectacular Ovation has only one dwelling left to sell.
At the opening session, the ULI’s Maureen McAvey presented a PowerPoint on the essence of a new ULI publication titled What’s Next, Real Estate in the New Economy, which is full of valuable nationwide trend data under the headings Work, Live. Connect, Renew, Move and Invest, in addition to outlooks on Europe and Asia. I recommend it as required reading for everyone in this business. The second-day general session by Dr. Dee Alsop of Heart and Mind Strategies who focused on case studies of American Attitudes and how to persuade (by reason) and motivate (by emotion) various segments of the population – particularly for application to leading community visioning programs as citizen input to regional planning policies. This was a great bonus session for those of us devoted to consumer research and behavior. Other general sessions included commercial retail trends (up) and the opinions of four Florida big-city mayors chaired by ULI Board Chairman Peter Rummell.
The two workshop sessions that I attended also provided excellent take-home information for our clients. The “Transition of Transit” provided an update on the Federal “Transportation Innovative Financing Act” (TIFIA) which continues to be funded for financing transit initiatives (despite the Florida Governor’s rejection of the $2.4 billion grant for high speed rail between Tampa and Orlando). Arguably, the most exciting topic was progress on the Florida East Coast Railroad’s planned Sun Rail, which will provide high-speed rail between Miami/Fort Lauderdale and Orlando by 2014, at a privately-funded cost of $1 billion – modest cost because ECRR owns all of the right-of-way (reported 50 million annual travelers between Miami and Orlando). Other knowledgeable speakers were positive about the future of urban transit in a state where 7 percent of all households do not own cars and 42 percent of current transit riders have annual household incomes below $15,000.
Another workshop focused on the Florida hospitality industry. Hotel rates have risen over the past two years all over the globe and should continue up in 2013; profits also are up. Florida receives 86 million annual visitors of which 55 million visit Orlando – 85 percent of visitors from U.S., but foreign visitors spend more. (web: visitflorida.com). Forty percent of Florida visitors have annual incomes over $100,000. Half of the visitors are age 35-55, others 25 percent older and 25 percent younger. Shopping is the number one activity, but not the major reason for visit. Biggest news in Florida hospitality is the planned “Margaritaville on Hollywood Beach” which adjoins the famous “Broadwalk” stretching 2.5 miles along the beach with no parallel road separating commercial and residential land uses. The new year-round destination resort will feature a hotel (rates $225 per night average), parking garage (900 spaces) and giant public water park adjoining the Broadwalk. It also features one of the American built trolleys (free) to downtown and it is only 10 minutes from the Fort Lauderdale Airport. Financing set at $300,000 per key, $143 million gross using Federal EB-5, as well as state and city funding. Permits and financing are set for an immediate construction start (no projection data on visitors).
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush provided an inspiring closing presentation on four challenges for local communities: (1) Hurricane Preparedness (“we are not ready”), Infrastructure Development (“we are way behind”), (3) Innovation (“need creative new solutions”), and (4) Long Term Planning (2 and 4 year political terms do not stimulate long term plans) for education, health (wellness), recreation, entertainment (shopping), religion, employment, and housing. Our brightest minds in each community should be pursuing long-term approaches to improving each of these functions instead of arguing over political procedure. Political campaign funding would be much better spent on improvements to these vital community components than on ugly advertising against opponents.
A stimulating two days for me and 250 colleagues! My only hope is that twice as many real estate professionals will join us for an equally inspiring session next year.
ULI Florida Summit