Bay Harbor Islands, a two-island town in Biscayne Bay with fewer than 5,800 residents, seems like an unlikely setting for a development boom.
Yet residential developers are lining up to start projects on the 150-acre East Island close to Bal Harbour. At least 10 projects are in the town's development pipeline. If completed, they would bring 200 to 300 new units to the island, which allows multifamily development, while the town's West Island is restricted to single-family construction.
The potential construction wave signals a population shift from a town mainly populated by retirees to one increasingly targeted by families, according to town planner Michael Miller. Proximity to the ocean and the town's highly rated Ruth K. Broad Bay Harbor K-8 Center are driving the interest.
Bay Harbor "is extremely well-positioned," Miller said.
With that in mind, developers sense an opening in the town's residential market for moderately priced condominiums and apartments, real estate observers say.
Projects planned in nearby communities, like the Surf Club site in Surfside and Argentine development firm Consultatio S.A.'s redevelopment of the Bal Harbour Beach Club, would offer multimillion-dollar luxury condos. But those prices would be out of reach families looking at Bay Harbor Islands.
"Not everybody who is coming here can spend in the upper millions," said Nelson Gonzalez, a Miami Beach-based senior vice president at Esslinger Wooten Maxwell Inc. He is not marketing any of the Bay Harbor projects. "There has got to be a market for people who can't afford [luxury condos] but still want to be close to the action."
The projects already reviewed by Bay Harbor's Planning and Zoning Board and Town Council range from 40 to 93 units. Bay Harbor has a 75-foot height limit for multifamily buildings. Any exceptions would require voter approval.
Builders can add units to projects by acquiring development rights from other owners. The Town Council must approve any transfer of development rights, a mechanism used in Bay Harbor since 2005.
"If you have a lot with a duplex and the density allows nine dwelling units, you have seven units you own as development rights," Miller said.