As South Florida's land dries up, homebuilders head south
By Paola Iuspa
If residential development equals progress, Homestead may be up for a change as homebuilders head south after approaching the county's Urban Development Boundary to the west.
With little developable land left available east of the Everglades and land prices soaring in the Doral area, developers are rushing to buy and develop underused acreage near the Homestead Air Reserve Base.
David Serviansky, a partner with Landstar Homes of Coral Gables, said he recently got county approval to build 2,270 single-family homes and townhouses as part of a 390-acre proposed Waterstone Community. East of Florida's Turnpike, west of the Speedway Boulevard and north of Southwest 312th Street, the community will consist of four subdivisions, to be developed respectively by Caribe Homes, Lennar Homes, Lowell Homes and Prime Homebuilders, he said. Those companies should start construction of their individual projects in the first quarter of 2003 and prepare some of those homes for occupancy by late that year, said Mr. Serviansky, whose firm is the community's master developer.
"We are building south because housing activity is moving south," Mr. Serviansky said. "Miami-Dade has a big demand for housing and not enough land available. Homestead has construction opportunities."
Properties in South Dade, below Southwest 240th Street, are not overvalued, he said, as is the case in the Doral and west Kendall areas.
"But I don't know for how long that price advantage will last," he said.
Alvaro Adrian, president of Adrian Builders, said builders three years ago were building homes in Doral in western Miami-Dade. When land prices rose there, they moved to West Miami and began building there until prices got too high. Now they are heading south, he said.
Landstar is also in the process of developing Stonegate, a residential community west of Waterstone and across from the air base. Mr. Serviansky's group plans to build 1,050 homes on 140 acres. The site is next to the 60 acres that Baptist Health South Florida bought two weeks ago for a 300,000-square-foot Homestead Hospital. East of Florida's Turnpike on the north side of Campbell Drive, or 312th Street, the $100 million proposed branch is projected to open in 2006, according to Baptist Hospital.
To help create the infrastructure needed to support at least 3,000 new families to the area, Landstar struck a deal with a charter school group to build and run a school, set to open by 2004, Mr. Serviansky said. The gated Keys Gate Community, nearby Landstar's properties, is about to open a charter school to serve the area as well, he said.
Activity in once-sleepy South Dade is on the rise with these five well-respected builders and developers, said Bradley Hunter, director of consulting for Metrostudy of Boca Raton, a provider of primary and secondary market information to the housing industry. He said he expects more and more development in that area in order to meet a housing demand generated by a robust local economy and an increase in South American homebuyers, a crucial feeder market into Miami-Dade, Mr. Hunter said.
Developer Sergio Pino, chairman and CEO of Century Builders Group, said his firm owns about 1,000 acres in South Dade that he does not plan to develop until 2004.
"We currently have a lot of land inventory in West Dade, Westchester and the Doral," he said. "We will move to the south, but not now. South Dade is gaining a lot of interest from developers. But while the land price is good, it is a very competitive market. You have five developers already building there."
Mr. Pino's newest project under construction is Century Estates in West Dade, at Coral Way and 149th Avenue. The complex is to have 430 single-family homes and 280 townhouses.
In the past six months the developer pre-sold 250 homes, with prices ranging from $178,000 to $333,000, Mr. Pino said. Many of his buyers are Venezuelans, Colombians and Argentines, he said, and he expects soon an influx of Brazilians.
Century this year sold 1,540 new homes among its seven communities in Miami-Dade, Mr. Pino said.
"If the county officials don't move the Urban Development Boundaries west," Mr. Adrian said, "then the alternative is to go south to Homestead."
His group is currently building Tree Island Estates in West Dade, on 152nd Avenue from Eighth Street to Coral Way.
The 86-acre community will have 15 acres of open land and two lakes, he said. It will consist of 274 homes, with more than 100 already pre-sold at price ranging from $181,000 to $296,000.
Mr. Adrian said Lennar Homes plans to build 466 homes on 106 acres it bought next door from Adrian Homes.
"Soon West Dade will run out of land," he said. "Everybody seems to be interested in moving south."