RIVA condos at 1180 North Federal Highway
RIVA condos at 1180 North Federal Highway (RIVA condos)

The tide is turning for high-end real estate on the water in Fort Lauderdale as investors return to create luxury developments after about a seven-year lull.

In the next 30 days, Premier Developers will demolish the old Sunrise Hall East motel to make room for Riva, a 100-unit condo development with private pontoon water taxi, dock, boat slips, cafe and private park. Just north of Sunrise Boulevard at 1180 N. Federal Highway, on the Middle River across from George English Park, the developer will put $50 million into a once-booming submarket that investors say is returning to pre-recession levels.

“Fort Lauderdale in general is right, with very strong demand,” said Premier Developers principal Bradley Deckelbaum, whose family-owned firm has a penchant for boutique projects with contemporary architecture and prices that surpass $1 million.

Premier is returning to Fort Lauderdale after building La Rive downtown in 2005. Drawn by strong demand, the company will start work in November on 100 luxury riverfront condominiums priced from $555,000 to $1.3 million for two- and three-bedroom condos and from $2.45 million to about $4 million for penthouse and custom units.

“Now that things are beginning to pick up, they picked up where the last cycle left off,” said Patrick Campbell, vice president of the Related Group Inc. “This was the next area slated for the development.”

Related is at work on New River Yacht Club, a $75 million development scheduled for completion in July. The downtown property on the river at 400 SW First Ave. was long vacant before construction started in 2012.

“At the time that we got our approvals, we were the first building approved in five years,” Campbell said.

The project is one of two residential developments that will help finish construction on the south side of the Riverwalk, the brick walkway connecting downtown to the riverfront.

Miami-based Cymbal Development also will chip in as part of its work creating a mixed-use complex with residences, retail, restaurants and marina on a six-acre waterfront site at 400-420 SW Third Ave. and 424 SW Fourth Ave.

New Promise

The return of new capital investment also means rents are on the rise, promising investors higher returns, analysts suggest. Rents in the wider Fort Lauderdale market are expected to climb 3 percent in 2014 to a monthly average $1,277, according to Marcus & Millichap’s national apartment report.

But riverfront rates could spike even further—as much as 15 percent, Campbell predicted. Related’s 249-unit development commands $1,400 to $4,000 per month for studios to three bedrooms.

Related is planning a bigger development on the river when the first project wraps in July. The second phase of its New River Yacht Club will be a $96 million development on 1.36 acres at 401 SW First Ave. The company plans 349 apartments with ground-floor retail and restaurants across the street from its current Riverwalk project.

“For five years nothing was happening, but we believe in downtown Fort Lauderdale,” Campbell said.