CPN South Florida Property Opportunities Conference Keynote: Some Doom, Some Gloom, but Plenty of Optimism

South Florida cities rank high in foreclosure volume, commercial deals are hamstrung by the credit crunch, and property values are down 6 percent, said Matt Haggman, a real estate reporter at The Miami Herald, who keynoted Friday morning’s South Florida Property Opportunities Conference, presented by CPN. Nonetheless, Haggman remains optimistic about South Florida’s commercial real estate prospects. Despite Time magazine’s recent headline that asked “Is Florida the Sunset State?” – an in-depth feature article that explored the worst real estate meltdown since the Great Depression – Haggman looks at the Tri-County area through the lens of transition. South Florida, he said, is in an evolutionary period. The region is making strides to move from suburban bedroom communities to more livable, urban regions marked by walkable communities and mixed-use developments ala New York or Boston. “The suburban model is terribly broken and unsustainable,” Haggman said. The latest boom delivered on the promise of high-density development, he noted, and embraced principles of urban revitalization that will bode well for South Florida’s future. Haggman pointed a finger at developers for making decisions that left South Florida with suburban sprawl and its negative consequences. But he also highlighted a greener South Florida future with approximately 200 LEED certified projects being planned across the region. Following the keynote, panel discussions included a conversation between top experts about the state of the market, tapping into international growth, the government’s role in finding solutions for South Florida’s commercial real estate landscape, and who will fill the gap in capital markets. In one panel entitled “State of the Market: Slower, but Steady,” moderator Donna Abood, CEO of Colliers Abood Wood-Fay, asked the panel to describe how to do business in a market where everyone is waiting for the bottom. She challenged the panel to use a baseball analogy. Panelist Eric Swansen, vice president and market officer for Flagler Development Group’s South Florida operations, took up the challenge. He painted a picture of a Florida Marlins game earlier this week during which one the Marlins players tried to steal second base. The team lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. “Don’t get caught trying to steal second. Get back to fundamentals,” Swansen said. “That’s how you win the game.”