Boardwalk Properties principal and owner Adam Walker, and Hinshaw & Culbertson partner Neil Rollnick in Miami. Courtesy photo

Real estate investor Adam Walker went from buying an eight-unit apartment building in Miami Beach’s Tatum Waterway for $750,000 to buying a 394-unit apartment complex in Davie for $119 million seven years later.

Walker and Boardwalk Properties, the family owned apartments investment firm he co-owns and leads, now has about 1,300 units in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Walker moved here from Toronto about 10 years ago with no intention to invest, but he took advantage of a favorable market at the time and eventually started Miami Beach-based Boardwalk with some of his wife’s family.

Boardwalk most recently bought the garden-style The Avenue, previously called Elan Maison, at 6220 Reese Road. The sellers were Pacific Investment Management Company LLC, a Newport Beach, California-based investment management firm, and Charleston, South Carolina-based multifamily developer, manager and investor Greystar.

The Dec. 21 deal speaks to Boardwalk’s growth — for one, it’s investing in much bigger assets — as well as to its portfolio diversification.

“We typically have been buying properties that were a little bit older, that there was some value-add there, and now we’re buying newer, Class A properties,” said Walker, Boardwalk president and CEO. “I think it’s always a smart move to diversify, and the more you can diversify, I think the better position you are in the future.”

A value-add deal is when an investor buys an older, not top-quality or modern property and then renovates it with the goal of upping rents and the property’s value.

Walker’s Tatum Waterway apartment building is one such deal as he sold it about two years ago for $1.6 million, more than double the $750,000 purchase price, after investing in improvements.

But The Avenue isn’t value-add. Its four four-story buildings, two three-story buildings and clubhouse across 15 acres were finished in 2018. It’s 92 percent occupied.

“For something like this, you are not spending the money in re-doing the property,” Walker said.

Aside from adding a different asset class, Boardwalk’s diversification also is geographical, as it’s adding assets north of Miami-Dade with two 2018 purchases in Broward. Those are the Davie apartments and the previous $53 million purchase of The Queue Apartments in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

“We began in Miami Beach and Bay Harbor (Islands). We more recently expanded into Fort Lauderdale in February and bought The Queue Apartments. And obviously now The Avenue. It offers us some diversification,” Walker said.

Walker began investing on his own before Boardwalk was formed. In 2014, Walker and his father-in-law as well as others from his wife’s family founded Boardwalk.

Benjamin Gober, Walker’s wife’s first cousin, joined the business about two years ago as principal.

Walker and the Gober Family Trust own Boardwalk.

Boardwalk invests with the intention to own the properties long term, although Walker sold the Tatum Waterway building and a few others.

“The idea … is for us to create something and grow something for our children, and our children’s children and so on and so forth. We keep them,” Walker said.

It’s notable, he added, that the family business beat competitors like institutional investors to scoop up some of these properties.

LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIP

Walker has a real estate background as his family in Toronto was in the business: “I grew up around this stuff. It’s what I know,” he said. But he still has had help from the start.

Hinshaw & Culbertson partner Neil Rollnick in Miami has closed almost all of Walker and Boardwalk’s acquisitions, including The Avenue.

For the deal, Rollnick also secured $85 million in financing, which breaks down to a $60 million mortgage and $25.68 million mezzanine loan, both from LOANCORE Capital Markets LLC.

Both the purchase and financing were complex deals, the latter in part because of capital markets fluctuations.

“When you do loans of this nature, they are influenced by the capital markets. And when there’s great fluctuation in the capital markets, particularly when the chairman of the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates, they will have an impact upon the manner in which the loan will finally be structured,” Rollnick said.

The Fed increased the federal funds rate four times in 2018, most recently in December, by a quarter point to between 2.25 percent and 2.5 percent.

Rollnick closed Walker’s Tatum Waterway purchase and The Queue one and others in between.

That’s about 45 acquisitions worth about $300 million, Rollnick said, adding that he also closed all of Walker and Boardwalk’s sales.

“Neil is like part of the family,” Walker said. “Neil has been with me every step of the way.”

LOCATION, LOCATION, AMENITIES

The South Florida multifamily market has been healthy in recent years in part because residents are priced out of renting a home and have opted to rent, in turn prompting investors to focus on multifamily as well.

A lot of the action and talk has been in urban cores, or walkable areas in the eastern parts of South Florida counties where residents can enjoy the live-work-play lifestyle.

Still, Boardwalk chose to invest in The Avenue despite its suburban location in Davie — with Walker saying the location actually is one of its best assets. It’s central, he said.

“That’s what’s so amazing about the location. You can drive places. You can drive everywhere in the shortest time really to all of those (other) locations. It’s a perfect place to branch off,” he said. “You’ve got close proximity to the (Interstate) 95, the turnpike, the (Interstate) 595. You can get to Miami Beach, you can get to Miami, to Brickell. You can go to Boca. You can go anywhere you want to go, and it offers you all those things.”

The three-story clubhouse has a gym, yoga studio and a hangout area with TVs. Other amenities across the property include two swimming pools, cabanas, bocce ball, two dog parks, an herb garden, dining areas and a fire pit.

The Avenue offers one, two and three-bedroom apartments at an average rent of $2 per square foot. The average unit is 999 square feet, meaning the average rent is about $1,998 a month.

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South Florida Multifamily Market Trending Toward Apartments After Years of Condo Focus