Florida and railroads seem to go hand-in-hand. It was, after all, Henry Flagler’s vision and money that extended rail down the east coast of the peninsula and helped turn South Florida into South Florida with a capital “S.” With the completion of that essential mode of transportation, developers, investors, and residents soon flooded the state and transformed the land of sun and sand.
New forms of rail are being looked at as a potential solution for moving a huge number of people and easing the state’s growing traffic congestion problem – while also inviting development and investments. Complicating this effort is a complex debate, as rail also happens to be one of the most hotly-contested topics when it comes to city planning.
Tri-Rail, which was authorized by the Florida Legislature in 1989, has been the single link for commuters and tourists traveling between the state’s three most populated counties. Then came talk of a high-speed rail line to link South Florida’s major hubs with Orlando – and Brightline was born.
It’s been a rocky road for the line. Priding itself on speed, comfort, and cleanliness, Brightline also comes with a hefty price tag that includes an expensive fare for riders and a list of unexpected fatalities. Brightline was not cited in the deaths, however, and more than half were ruled suicides.
Despite these early challenges, many investors are maintaining a positive feeling toward the opportunities the rail service can bring. Development projects continue to line up in close proximity to Brightline’s three stations, located in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. All three downtown areas are looking at new residential, retail, and office expansions.
The latest news has Brightline partnering with Richard Branson’s Virgin Group. The rail service’s new name will be Virgin Trains USA. In addition, the new brand filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to become a publicly-traded company.
With two north-south rail lines now operating, next comes the question of how to move people east and west or even how to bring them to other major areas of the cities. For example, once a traveler arrives at one of the three Brightline stations, they now have to rely on walking, rental cars, public transportation alternatives, or a ride-sharing app to further navigate each region. This, in combination with expanding downtown areas, has city officials and developers looking at light rail systems.
In Fort Lauderdale, that meant The Wave. And, yes, that’s past tense because, in May 2018, the whole plan collapsed. Critics argued the idea was obsolete before it even broke ground, saying that travelers would more likely use ride-sharing apps or driverless vehicles. There was also concern the system failed to connect downtown with the airport and seaport.
Developers had been counting on the rail system, which would have linked key areas of the city’s downtown. In fact, many of the projects, already begun before the rail project was nixed, were located near planned Wave stations. Nevertheless, developers remain positive that the loss of The Wave will not deter an expected population surge; it just means a greater strain on the current public transportation system and overly-congested roadways.
Meanwhile, Miami has had a 16-year light rail fight on its hands. The battle began in 2002 when a half-cent sales tax was instituted to extend the Metrorail system into south Miami-Dade. The money, however, was redirected to the Miami-Dade bus system.
In September 2018, a vote by the regional Transportation Planning Organization provided support for the county’s bus rapid transit system or BRT. The line will provide a linkage via US 1 to Florida City. Rather than rail, a new fleet of buses with doors wide enough to allow multiple passengers to enter and exit would operate on 20 miles of existing, dedicated bus lanes. Fourteen stations along the route would provide services.
For as long as trains have been traveling down the Florida peninsula, so to have developers and investors. It’s unfortunate that so many ideas seem to be bogged down in battles, whether the proposed public transit system operates on rail or rubber. The idea is to think and move forward to solve SoFlo’s transportation issues.
Fortunately, South Florida’s culture and climate remain an attractive lure for many, and development is following suit.
For a free consultation or to learn more about Morris Southeast Group’s property investment opportunities and/or other services, call us at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at email@example.com.
When it comes to CRE investments, there’s a niche market filled with challenges and rewards that can be intimidating to some and thrilling to others: owning a landmark property.
Very often, historic landmark properties tend to be residential ones, typically a free-standing home. In recent years, perhaps as a pushback against development, multi-family, and commercial properties, as well as entire neighborhoods, are using national landmark status as a means of preserving the culture, appearance, and/or significance of a region.
In order to qualify for landmark status, a building must meet one of six criteria that recognize the site’s “exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States in history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture and that possess a high degree of integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.”
The property owner – or, in the case of districts, the local government, local preservation board, or homeowner’s association – is responsible for filing the application, which can take anywhere from four months to a year to be approved. The property owner must give permission for his or her building to be listed as a historic property, so this process can never be done behind the owner’s back.
Needless to say, owning or investing in a landmark-listed property presents a unique set of challenges. At the top of the list is the ability – or freedom – to renovate the structure, particularly since there are certain Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), energy-efficient, electrical, and structural standards that must be met. Landmark applications shouldn’t be made until after renovations are complete, and many owners worry that their hands will be tied.
Those worries can be eased, however, with the understanding that whatever it is about the building that makes it historic must be preserved. This is truly a labor of love. There may need to be negotiation with and approval from local historic boards or municipalities, but renovations can certainly receive a green light.
Consider, for example, the number of historic Art Deco and mid-century modern buildings that have had their outer shells preserved while the interiors were upgraded. It’s important to note, however, that some regions of the country also grant landmark status to interiors as well as exteriors – and that can make things a little tricky
For the investor who wants to own a piece of history, there are benefits to landmark property status. For starters, most structures are located in historic districts which are usually in the heart of cities. Very often, this location means massive foot traffic for tenants.
At the same time, there’s also the prospect of developing a reputation as an investor who cares about the community in which the building is located. That alone can help attract prospective commercial and residential tenants.
Then, there is a tax incentive. An income-producing property that is listed or is soon to be listed on the National Registry is eligible for a 20% federal rehabilitation income tax credit. The property must retain enough materials and historic characteristics for it to be eligible.
Morris Southeast Group has been serving the community since 1976. We know the neighborhood treasures and the hidden gems that not only hold potential, but also have a historic tale to tell – one that provides benefits to owners, tenants, and the public when this history is preserved.
For a free consultation or to learn more about our property investment opportunities and/or other services, call Morris Southeast Group at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.