Jamaican interest in Broward

BY RICHARD BROWNE Business Editor browner@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, April 17, 2015

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TWO new residential developments in Broward County, near Miami in Florida, are reporting a spike in interest from Jamaican buyers, signifying the growing popularity of the area for both Jamaicans residing there, and from the island.

Interest for such developments usually comes from the Latin American market, with buyers from countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, and Mexico. There is rarely much interest from the Caribbean.

The two developments are Metropica, a 65-acre property which will have 1,250 residences in eight high-rise residential towers, and Central Parc, which will have 253 single family homes.

The two developments are still in pre-construction or construction phase.

At the Metropica where groundbreaking is scheduled for July, units start at about US$290,000 with penthouse units going for approximately US$900,000.

The property sells itself on a work, live and play design, with retail outlets and restaurants. Such proprieties usually attract a mix of investors and own-home buyers.

Meanwhile, Central Parc is more for family homes, attracting mainly own-home buyers -- people who intend to live in the properties. Houses there start from about US$249,000 for a three-bedroom of about 1,815 square feet.

The Central Parc development is proving popular with a wide section of buyers, and a number of Jamaicans, especially ones from the wider area.

"We see a lot of traffic from the Jamaican community," said Michael Nunziata, division president of central communities at 13th floor. Total interest from Jamaicans for the Central Parc property ranges from about 15 to 20 per cent "in that ball park", he said.

"The development is seeing really strong demand from the local community" and is not really investor-focussed, he said.

"Broward County has a pretty high Jamaican community," Nunziata said. The Jamaican interest is coming "primarily from Jamaicans who are already in the area", especially people with extended families.

One reason for the popularity is location, as the development is close to two of the main roadways in Broward. "We are close to everything," Nunziata said.

Price may be another factor. The development, which will have 450 units, with 253 in the first stage, is selling homes at "attainable" prices, Nunziata said. While a typical house in the area might sell for US$400,000 and up, "we are able to sell at US$240,000 to US$300,000", he said. "There is really not much available at that price point."

Design is another factor. One of the most popular house designs for the Jamaican segment has proven to be those with two master bedrooms, with one downstairs and the other upstairs. Jamaican buyers are attracted to this design as it offers a guest room with easy access for their visiting parents, Nunziata said.

Nearby, the more up-market Metropica development is selling units from between US$275,000 and US$600,000 and even higher. The Metropica, also in Broward County, is a luxury high-rise development which should be completed in the first quarter of 2017.

Jamaicans have not been turned off by the price, however, as there has been "a lot of interest lately from the Jamaican market", according to Cindy Darnaby, sales director for the project. And the interest goes across the price spectrum.

Over the past couple months the development has seen about 20 to 25 expressions of interest -- "maybe 30" from Jamaican buyers, Darnaby said. And, unlike Central Parc, the interest is coming mainly from Jamaicans who are resident on the island, not American residents.

"Really, they are just loving what the project offers," Darnaby said. Many of them are buying for vacation purposes -- "like a second home".

Traditionally most interest comes from countries like Colombia and Venezuela, with populations of 48 million and 30 million, respectively. Other markets include buyers from Argentina, Brazil and other Latin American countries. All with populations vastly greater than Jamaica's 2.8 million.

"If these deals go through, it would put Jamaica probably as my third strongest market." Darnaby said.

The 65-acre master plan development will include its own shopping mall and 485,000 square feet of fashion retail, lifestyle-related stores and entertainment facilities and stores. It will include several high-end brand names, as well as restaurants to create a "kind of city within a city".

"Everything is here," Darnaby said. "The development is starting a trend. It's one-of-a-kind."

Broward County is situated in South Florida and has a population of about 1.8 million people in an area of about 1,300 square miles. The largest city in the area is Fort Lauderdale with a population of 170,000, followed by Pembroke Pines (155,000) and Hollywood (143,000).

More than 30 per cent of the population is foreign-born, with residents coming from countries such as Haiti, Colombia, Cuba, and Jamaica. Estimates for the number of Jamaican residents in Broward County run as high as 90,000.

The county has an average household income of about US$51,000. It has voted in several Jamaican representatives, including at least one mayor. The density of Jamaicans in the town of Lauderhill, with a population of more than 65,000, has earned it the nickname 'Jamaica Hill'.


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