What do 2022’s Trophy Transactions Say About Commercial Property in Southwest Florida?

By Gary Tasman

The past year has been a remarkable one in Southwest Florida, and the commercial real estate market is no exception to this trend. Record low vacancy rates, combined with a continued population surge in the region, have driven local demand for commercial property to historic levels. In contrast, high interest rates, inflation, and hybrid work conditions have made the commercial property outlook in other parts of the nation much less positive.

With 2022 now behind us, our team at Cushman & Wakefield | Commercial Property Southwest Florida (CPSWFL) is taking the opportunity to reflect on some of the landmark transactions we’ve overseen during the last 12 months. While each of these transactions were remarkable in their own right, together they speak to the strength of the commercial real estate market in Southwest Florida.

Industrial Development Near RSW

Since the start of the pandemic, commercial development near Southwest Florida International Airport has been surging. Alico Road, Daniels Parkway and Ben Hill Griffin Parkway are lined with new warehouses, distribution hubs and fulfillment centers. With our strategic location conveniently placed between Florida’s two largest metropolitan areas, it’s no wonder that developers, online retailers, and distributors have taken notice of Southwest Florida.

In 2022, the most significant transaction in this corridor was the sale of 312.5 acres located at 16200 Ben Hill Griffin Parkway. Sold by our team in May for $40 million, the property has frontages on three major roadways, including Interstate 75, Ben Hill Griffin Parkway and Airport Access Road. With nearly all of the property around it already in development, the property was in high demand, receiving multiple bids from all across the country.

The land’s previous owner, Youngquist Brothers, made numerous investments in the property to prepare it for sale, including clearing the land and securing entitlement for a master planned development to include industrial, office, medical, and hotel construction. The property is currently in permitting for development of the Gulf Landing Logistics Center, a mixed-use planned development.

The sale of this property speaks to the strength of Southwest Florida as a market for industrial development.  At the time of the sale, the industrial vacancy rate in Southwest Florida was a mere 1.0%, a number substantially lower than the 3.1% rate in the rest of the country. While projects like the Gulf Landing Logistics Center will surely make a dent in industrial vacancies, we anticipate that demand will continue to outpace supply in the industrial sector.

Mixed-Use Development in Estero

An equally notable transaction for our team was the $32 million sale of 45.6 acres at the intersection of Tamiami Trail and Coconut Road in Estero. The previous owner of the land, Lee Health, had initially purchased it as an investment property as it built Lee Health Coconut Point. The hospital system had worked with the Village of Estero to create a plan for a mixed-use development on the property.  Our team was tasked to find a developer that shared the same vision for the land.

The buyer, Woodfield Development and ELV Associates, plans to build a world-class mixed use project on the site, with market-rate multi-family housing alongside retail, restaurants, office, and more. We anticipate that the parcel will also house a community center or cultural center.

We’ve all heard the cliche that the three most important factors in real estate are location, location, and location, and this property is a prime example. Located on US-41, directly across the street from the bustling Coconut Point shopping center, the land also has significant infrastructure already in place, which will allow the new developer to hit the ground running.

Improving Southwest Florida’s Office Stock

One of the most symbolic transactions we brokered in 2022 was the sale of 5220 Summerlin Commons Boulevard in Fort Myers. Sold for $10.25 million, the five-story building is particularly important to us because the fifth floor houses our CPSWFL headquarters.

While office real estate sales have been slow nationally, the commercial office market in Southwest Florida has been very competitive. At mid-year, our region’s office vacancy rate hovered around 5%, well below the national average of nearly 18%. Again, we can attribute our rapid population growth to this trend.

But while office properties may be a hot commodity in our area, Southwest Florida’s existing stock of office space is dated. Years with very little speculative development in our area have led to a shortage of modern space. To many investors, our area’s older office buildings signal a great opportunity to buy antiquated office stock and add value through upgrades. This can include “smart building” improvements, which not only make an office more efficient but also drive higher rents in the long run.

Satisfying the Need for Multi-Family Housing

Our final two landmark transactions in 2022 will provide some much-needed multi-family housing in two areas with a desperate need for apartments: Cape Coral and Naples.

Located near the intersection of Chiquita Boulevard and Pine Island Road in Cape Coral, the property that will house The Hadley sold for $14.65 million in June. The 444-unit multifamily project was fully approved and ready to go vertical at the time of the sale. It is one of several large multifamily developments currently under construction in the Cape, an area that has struggled to keep up with its rapid growth and need for rental properties.

More Class A apartment space is also coming to Naples, where we brokered the sale of three conjoined parcels totalling nearly 19 acres at 8552 Collier Boulevard, just west of the Florida Sports Park. The parcels sold in August for $8.995 million, and will be developed into Fiori, a 303-unit multifamily complex.

Both of these multi-family properties are the vision of The Latigo Group LLC, a Los Angeles-based real estate development and investment company focused on high quality multi-family properties in strategic markets. The complexes, which are expected to open in 2024, will feature resort-style amenities like fitness and wellness features, resort-style pools, coworking spaces, and more. Both will offer one, two, and three-bedroom units in two of the state’s fastest-growing apartment submarkets.

Bucking the National Trends in Commercial Real Estate

It’s certainly relevant that all of the properties listed above were purchased by out-of-area developers and investors. These transactions are evidence of the strength of the commercial property market in our area, especially in comparison to the rest of the nation. Southwest Florida’s shortage of commercial real estate inventory, combined with our rapid population growth, has created demand for every asset class– demand that we anticipate will continue in the coming months.

At Cushman & Wakefield | Commercial Property Southwest Florida, we are proud to be the go-to team for investors and developers seeking to enter the Southwest Florida market.  Our specialty lies in matching buyers with sellers, and  marketing properties to earn the highest price in the shortest amount of time.

If you are an investor, developer, or property owner with interest in the booming Southwest Florida market, the Commercial Property Experts at CPSWFL have the knowledge and experience to help guide you on your journey. Call our team at 239-489-3600 or contact us.

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