A new 8-story condo will replace a three-story condo that long occupied a prime riverfront site where a Texas developer wanted to build something much taller.
By Mike Seemuth
An aging three-story condominium on the south bank of the river across from downtown Fort Lauderdale was at the center of a battle over building height between the city government and Dallas-based Trammel Crow. One of the nation’s largest real estate developers, Trammel Crow tried but failed, to replace the little riverfront condo with a 21-story apartment building.
Built-in 1980, the three-story, 30-unit Edgewater House condominium was demolished in 2021 after Fort Lauderdale-based developer Jean Francois Roy bought the property from Trammel Crow to redevelop it himself. The riverfront site where Edgewater House once stood, near the intersection of SE Sixth Avenue and Federal Highway, is just east of Smoker Family Park along the city’s Riverwalk pedestrian path.
“I was so much in love with the location, my goal was to keep that property for a long time.” Said Roy, a resident of the nearby Rio Vista neighborhood east of Federal Highway. SO rather than replace Edgewater House with another condominium, “we bought it with the plans to do an apartment building.” The rental project was names Aviva Rio Vista.
The plans changed, through. So did the name. As the COVID-19 pandemic upended the supply and demand conditions of the economy, the cost of Roy’s riverfront development ballooned as labor and construction materials soared in price. “When we were ready to start construction – we even had our own construction loan – by that time, the cost had increased by 40 percent, and it would be too marginal (in profitability) to build rentals” Roy said. “That is when we decided to do a condominium. “ His locally-based company Ocean Land Investments inc. is a successful developer of such boutique condominiums as 35 unit Aquablu, 22 unit Aqua Vita and eight unit AquaVue.
Roy and his team at Ocean Land Investments designed an eight-story, 100 unit condo building for the old Edgewater House site ta 501 SW Sixth Ave., and they change the name of the redevelopment to Sixth&Rio.
Roy said in late July that preconstruction buyers had already reserved and closed purchase of more than 30 percent of the condos at Sixth&Rio. Preconstruction prices for the condos, mostly two and three bedroom units have ranged from $900,000 to more than $2 million. Prices will go up though as the project progress. “Right now, our price is very attractive.” he said “We do that to ’start the music’. As soon as the construction is underway, we will increase the price.” The construction of Sixth&Rio was expected to start in August and take 24 months to complete.
Many of the preconstruction buyers of Sixth&Rio are locals living in high-rent downtown apartments or in houses in the Rio Vista neighborhood. “We have a lot of young people who live in those apartment buildings. We have a lot of older people from Rio Vista. Tat is really our market.” Roy said. “We didn’t really do any marketing in New York or California.”
Our key advantage for Sixth & Rio project is limited condo development in Fort Lauderdale, amid a wave of rental apartment development. “There is not very much competition” Roy said. He cited only the redevelopment of Per Sixty Six property on the east end of the 17th Street Causeway which will include 92 condos “We are cheaper than Pier Sixth Six “ he said.
Tavistock Development Company, the Orland0-based developer that acquired Pier Sixth Sixt in 2016 and is redeveloping the property is asking upwards of $3.6 million for its condos during preconstruction sales, which began in late 2022.”
Sales launched last October during the Boat Show and Pier Sixty Six is one of only a handful of properties in South Florida under construction with pans to had over to residents early next year.” Jessi Blakely, vice president of Tavistock Development Company said in an email exchange.
While a lack of competition in the new-condo market has played a role, the primary catalyst for the Sixth&Rio condo project was a political miscalculation by the previous owner of the little Edgewater House condominium.
Trammel Crow unloaded the three story Edgewater House condo after the Fort Lauderdale City commission rejects as too tall the 21-story apartment building that the Dallas -Based real estate company wanted to build there. Litigation ensued but Trammel Crow failed to undo the commissions decision in court. Roy and his investors bought the three-story condo in June 2021 from Trammel Crow for $11.3 million according to property records.
“what a sad situation, what a mess. I feel bad for the neighborhood (around the Edgewater house) to be caught in the middle of that,” Roy said. ‘This is where we excel. Once we go to the city to propose a development we always go to the neighborhood. We don’t fight with the neighborhoods. We always go talk with them. We deal with them”
After talking to the neighborhood around Sith&Rio site, Roy and his team proposed the Sixth7&Rio development at a height of eight stories without opposition from the city. “We were like basically thewhite knoight that came in and solved the situation with the city” Roy said. Local knowledge may have played a rld. “Trammel Crow is a huge company. They do stuff everywhere.” He sid “We are local guys.”
Roy is confident that Sixth&Rio is the right product at the right price but expressed mixed feelings over its eight story height “To be honest with you, I think the height is a little bit low. I wish, I would have come with a couple more stories” he said, “If you look at the (Sixth&Rio) project and all the big buildings in the area they are all double or triple our heights”
But as a resident of the rid vista neighborhood across Federal Highway from Sixth&Rio site, the veteran condo developer had ample incentive to limit the height of his condo project as much as possible. “I didn’t want people looking down on my house” he said. ‘We’re here for the long term, and we want to do the right thing.”