By Brian Bandell
The eastern side of Davie along Davie Road was overlooked for decades while the west side of town grew, but now town officials are encouraging redevelopment there and many developers have bought into the area.
Founded in 1909, Davie is one of the oldest municipalities in Broward County. In its old downtown district along Davie Road, the town has maintained its western character – one of the few areas in metropolitan South Florida that can claim that.
Its largest tourist attraction is the Bergeron Rodeo Grounds. Horse trails are almost as common as sidewalks.
Over the decades, University Drive in Davie has become one of Broward’s busiest commercial corridors, with residential, retail and office development. University Drive runs on the west side of the South Florida Education Center, which includes the campuses for Nova Southeastern University, Broward College, Florida Atlantic University, the University of Florida and McFatter Technical College, plus the Miami Dolphins training facility and team offices. HCA also has a teaching hospital approved for the NSU campus.
On the east side of these college campuses, Davie Road has been largely stagnant, with old buildings and vacant lots – until recently.
The Business Journal identified nine projects in the pipeline along Davie Road, from Interstate 595 south to Griffin Road. Three of those have started construction. Most of those projects are centered around apartments, and some include retail space.
Additionally, the town’s government has issued a request for proposal seeking a firm to partner on development near the rodeo grounds and a vacant parcel on a key intersection. The town has already approved about 600 residential units in the area, and the RFP would create additional commerce and entertainment for those new residents and students, said Kevin Crowder, economic development director for Pompano Beach-based RMA, which Davie hired as a consultant on the RFP.
Davie also invested in the Davie Road corridor, with a $150 million water plant to support additional capacity, a widened street from Nova Drive north, landscaped medians and wider sidewalks, assistant town administrator Phillip Holste said. In most cases, developers along Davie Road receive economic incentives, such as lower impact fees or recover of tax increment financing, from the town’s community redevelopment agency (CRA), said Giovanni Moss, the town’s community development director.
“Davie has the ability to meet the demand of residents so they are not traveling long distances for entertainment and a downtown experience,” Crowder said.
One of the first major developers who saw the potential in downtown Davie was Armando Codina, whose company completed the 350-unit Signature at Davie apartments in 2013 and sold it for $114.8 million in 2015 to national rental owner AMLI.
The construction of apartments at both Elan at College Crossings and PARC3400 on Davie Road started in 2016.
The PARC3400 site was originally intended for student housing, but the site plan was changed because the demand for market-rate apartments in the area was so high, said Rick Giles, president of Giles Capital Group, which is partnering with Rosemurgy Properties and FSG Holdings on the project. The other rental communities in the area were running at full capacity, and the quick access to both I-595 and Florida’s Turnpike would make the site ideal for commuters, he said. It’s not far from downtown Fort Lauderdale, but has significantly lower rents than in the urban core, he said.
Move-ins at PARC3400 should begin before the end of June, Giles said. Rents start at $1,550 for a one-bedroom unit, $1,800 for a two-bedroom unit and $2,250 for a three-bedroom unit.
“It really changes the look and feel of Davie Road,” Giles said. “The Davie Road corridor is transforming in an exciting way, and people want to be part of it.”
Azur Equities’ projects
Aventura-based Azur Equities absolutely wants a part of the action on Davie Road, as it has four projects proposed. Three of them are apartment buildings with ground-floor retail and the fourth is a two-story commercial center with retail and office space.
Sacha Touret, managing member of Azur Equities, said he plans to start construction of Main Street Courts in three months, and break ground on both Main Street Place and Main Street Lofts before the end of 2017. The 60,000-square-foot commercial center is still early in the application process.
“We like small towns that have a real culture to them,” said Touret, a native of France. “We like that Davie has kept that western theme …. In the western look, they had saloons at the bottom and residences up top. We want to keep with that use. We want a porch with retail and upstairs living.”
Touret hopes to attract retail and restaurants to the ground floors of his buildings to activate the street level. Bringing more people to Davie Road will make it a more safe and secure area at night, he said.
Focusing on Davie Road with multiple projects could allow for the most positive change in the neighborhood, Touret said.
Ceiba Groupe has a mixed-use project in Davie on a larger scale. Adam Bedzow, managing principal with the developer, said he plans to break ground in the first quarter of 2018 on 209 apartments and 30,000 square feet of ground-floor retail at Zona Village, which will probably be renamed.
Bedzow said many people spent time in Davie for school or work, but they didn’t live in the town. With the coming hospital and associated medical office buildings at NSU, plus the new clinical research center on its campus, he expects demand to increase.
Colliers International South Florida broker Ronald Schagrin, who represents the wet lab space in NSU’s new Center for Collaborative Research, said he’s spoken with companies across the country about the space, and just signed a deal with a transplant research firm from California. Having affordable residential units and commercial amenities nearby will make the 215,000-square-foot building more attractive to potential tenants, he said.
Bedzow’s goal is to land at least two restaurant tenants at Zona Village so residents can grab a drink or a meal downstairs. He said that mixed-use component should differentiate his project from the other apartment complexes in the area.
“To have this lifestyle, but not in an [urban] downtown, will attract many working professionals who want apartments in a social environment,” Bedzow said.
The vision of downtown Davie is still playing out, but Bedzow said he’s encouraged that the town’s CRA is being proactive by launching the RFP process. That has the potential to enhance the whole area.
The RFP covers a 24-acre area including Town Hall, rodeo grounds and the vacant land around it, several CRA-owned sites on Davie Road, and a vacant site at the northwest corner of Davie Road and Orange Drive. About 5 acres of the property are clearly developable, with the likely candidates on Davie Road and at the Orange Drive intersection, Moss said. The zoning at the intersection would allow for up to five stories with incentives.
Proposals for the RFP are due July 14.
Crowder said the town is seeking a public-private partnership that would activate the area around the rodeo grounds and preserve the historic parts of Town Hall. The town wants to utilize the space around the rodeo grounds for entertainment and community events.
The rodeo grounds hosts 175 events a year, and the venue can seat over 5,000 people in the stands and over 2,000 people on the floor.
The town also aims to create commercial development at the corner of Davie Road and Orange Drive, Crowder said. If a developer could purchase land from private owners, those parcels could be combined with the CRA-owned sites for a larger project, he added.
The development plan could include building parking garages to free up more land for active uses, and that parking could be shared for public and private uses, Holste said. The non-historic Town Hall buildings could be incorporated into the development or relocated to another site.
“They can do residential, but the goal is to activate the downtown center by having an active ground floor,” Moss said. “It can be progressive western, like in Texas in Dallas and Austin.”
Touret said Azur Equities plans to bid on the Davie RFP. While he’s still formulating his plan, he said it would be a western-themed village that emphasizes entertainment such as western shows, saloons and western retail.