Developer Peter Torres and fellow Astor Development Group LLC executives saw how quickly South Florida condominiums were gobbled up after the housing boom and decided Coral Gables was ready for its first condo construction project since the bust.
"The papers said we would have 10 years of inventory," said Torres, Astor's vice president. "That certainly has proven not to be the case."
The company is planning Merrick Manor, a 10-story, 180-unit luxury condo project near the city's Merrick Shops. Construction could begin by summer 2013.
Fueled by the region's resurgent housing market, multifamily builders in both the for-sale and rental arenas are beginning the latest construction wave in targeted markets. Only 2,900 of the nearly 49,000 boom-era condo units in South Florida's seven largest coastal markets remain unsold, according to Condo Vultures LLC, a Miami-based real estate consulting firm.
Consequently, at least 86 new condo projects totaling more than 12,500 units are planned for Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to CVR Realty, a brokerage launched by Condo Vultures founder Peter Zalewski.
Many builders already have shovels in the ground, and others are kicking around project plans, according to Grant Horwitz, chief operating officer at KW Property Management & Consulting.
"I've got a lot of developers who worked with us in the past asking us to help with due diligence on potential projects," Horwitz said. "They are getting market stats for the area and doing analytical work. The response has been positive."
Real estate observers say the market can sustain thousands of new condo and apartment units. The experts disagree on the potential tipping point when oversaturation could become a major issue.
"With judicious growth, the South Florida market can have absorption," Horwitz said. "But it can't come like last cycle where everything hits in a two-year period."
The true limit on healthy new residential construction in South Florida will be evident soon enough.