By Johnny Diaz via the Sun Sentinel
South Florida is feeling the village vibe.
The Manor at Flagler Village in Fort Lauderdale, The Mark at CityScape in Boca Raton and other soon-to-come, residential-retail complexes are adding to a growing urban sprawl, as people look to move into the greater downtown areas and enjoy shops and restaurants just a short walk away from their doorsteps.
“We were seeing a suburban model for so many years. People are shifting back to the city center,” said Barbara Blake Boy, executive director of the Broward County Planning Council. “I think it’s an attraction to the amenities and what the downtowns have to offer.”
CityPlace in West Palm Beach, Royal Palm Place in Boca Raton, The Venture in Aventura and The Residences at the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables all have led the way toward more of these mixed-use developments. Developers and analysts agree there is demand for complexes with businesses on the ground floor and residential units above.
The 12-story Via Mizner, which will have luxury residential rental units and shops, is under construction at the corner of Federal Highway and Camino Real.
And later this year, The Related Group, which developed The Manor at Flagler Village, is expected to break ground on West Palm Beach Marina Village. The mixed-use development would feature six towers of 1,059 units, 15,000-square feet of restaurants and 10,000 square feet of retail stores, according to the developer.
Agave Ponce LLC has proposed building a Mediterranean Village on the former Old Spanish Village site on Ponce Circle in Coral Gables.
Some South Florida architecture experts say these urban complexes stand out in style and function, contrasting with what’s traditionally been built in the region.
“What’s really important about these new buildings is their relationship to the city,” said David Rifkind, an associate architecture professor at Florida International University, in an email. “They engage the city, rather than wall themselves off from it.
“Many of these complexes include ground-level retail [shops and restaurants] that foster a lively street life, and create public spaces open to both residents and non-residents. That creates the kind of rich, vibrant community that we see in the Art Walks in FAT Village, and which are typically missing in developments.”
Jeffrey Huber, an assistant architecture professor at Florida Atlantic University, thinks the region is seeing more of these mixed-use developments “because the market, like municipalities, are rediscovering ‘walkable urbanism’ … Homebuyers are willing to spend more to be within a certain distance of urban retail development, and the market is merely reacting to this demand.”
At The Manor at Flagler Village, flags hang off street poles touting “Beach, Urban, Chic.” The development has a beachside resort-type feel but is blocks away from downtown Fort Lauderdale skyscrapers. It has a clubhouse, fitness center, and daytime music playing on the speakers above the pool (as well as underwater).
New residents Dennis and Amanda Weiss say they moved to South Florida from just outside Houston, Texas, seeking a warmer climate and a close proximity to the beach and downtown. They found The Manor online and liked “the amenities, the pool, the fitness center, the restaurants going up,” said Dennis Weiss, 25. “It’s like a luxury community.”
Open since last summer, the complex off Federal Highway and Northeast Fifth Terrace offers luxury studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, with monthly rent starting at $1,700.
There’s also a courtyard with towering bamboo trees and a fire pit, creating a Zen-like garden. Colada Cuban Coffee House and Eatery and the Mellow Mushroom pizza place are scheduled to open next month, developers say. A nail and hair salon and a craft beer bar also are in the plans.
“It creates a village for people, for pedestrians to walk around and shop and enjoy the nightlife as well,” said Arturo Peña, vice president and development manager at The Related Group.
“We definitely think it’s sprawl, it’s urbanism, people who want to be able to walk to the grocery store, walk to retail and not rely on their car,” added Peña, whose complex is 80 percent full. It sits next-door to another new complex, The Edge at Flagler Village, which has 331 units.
In Boca Raton, the 12-story Mark at CityScape is expected to officially open in May with 208 units and more than 18,000 square feet of restaurant/retail space on the ground level, according to the developer. Staying true to Boca Raton’s traditional Addison Mizner style of architecture, the white-hued complex features a Spanish red-tiled roof.
The development has allowed some residents to move into their studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units in March, with rents averaging $2,100 a month. Officials for the developer, Ram Realty Services, said they are negotiating leases with a yoga studio and restaurants for the ground floor.
Mixed-use developments are attracting a diverse mix of folks, said Hugo Pacanins, a managing director of residential development at Ram Realty Services.
“You have some younger professionals that work in Boca or close to Boca and they don’t want to live out west. And you have an older population, empty-nesters who don’t want to live in the big house in West Boca,” he said.
“A lot of people are downsizing from big homes and moving into downtown locations because they want to have the ability to walk to the restaurants or walk to Trader Joe’s … They are willing to sacrifice the space, the size of the unit, to live in a downtown location,” Pacanins added. “We are trying to create a destination.”
Johnny Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4939.