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Groupe Pacific is Back with Plans for a $110 million Hotel and Office Project
 for Downtown Fort Lauderdale; Earlier Plan Was a Condo / Hotel

By Patrick Danner, The Miami HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Aug. 8, 2007 --A year after Groupe Pacific scrapped a 42-story condo development in downtown Fort Lauderdale, the Aventura developer is back with plans for a $110 million office and hotel project.

The proposed 30-story 111 Broward Blvd. complex, featuring almost 300,000 square feet of office space and 228 hotel rooms, is slated for a 1.24-acre site west of the federal courthouse on Broward Boulevard.

Groupe Pacific marks the latest developer to either propose or consider building a major hotel in downtown Fort Lauderdale. New York-based Tarragon, which developed the Las Olas River House condominium, is planning a mixed-use project with 198 hotel rooms and 300,000 square feet of offices on Las Olas Boulevard. Boca Raton's Crocker Partners is contemplating a 250-room hotel as part of a $175 million mixed-used development on Southeast Second Street.

In addition, Flagler Holding Group of Miami is in the early stages of planning a hotel project near the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, according to Miami hospitality consultant Scott Brush. And the Riverside Hotel, the lone upscale hotel in downtown, is embarking on a 135-room expansion of the 165-room landmark on East Las Olas Boulevard.

"Before, Fort Lauderdale didn't really have a downtown," Brush said. "Now it's got a downtown, but it doesn't have downtown hotels. There's probably room for some but not room for all."

Neither Groupe Pacific nor Tarragon has yet to secure a hotel flag. Flagler's principal couldn't be reached for comment.

Mixed-use projects "seem to be the way everyone is going," Brush said. "Hotels have proved to be good adjuncts to office buildings. Lenders are liking these approaches with more than one focus."

Michael Bedzow, Groupe Pacific's president, said there are "synergisms" between the two. Visiting business clients can stay in the hotel while attending meetings in the offices, for instance.

"We think Fort Lauderdale is becoming a major economic center so that a first-class mixed-used office-hotel project is justified," Bedzow said.

Groupe Pacific had planned to build 421 condo units on the site, which it bought for $10.5 million a few years ago. Unable to get the city to allocate residential units for the project, the developer shifted gears. The mixed-use project will also include about 10,000 square feet of retail.

Groupe Pacific has developed a long list of residential and commercial projects in South Florida and Montreal. Locally, its projects include the Aventura Corporate Center and Miami's Brickell on the River. The downtown Fort Lauderdale project represents its first U.S. development with a hotel.

It's been about five years since a major office building has been opened in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Besides Groupe Pacific and Tarragon, Crocker wants to build the 400,000-square-foot Atlantic Center.

So which one has the inside track on getting built first? "It's going to depend on who gets the anchor tenant," said Jeff Holding, a senior vice president with real estate brokerage firm CB Richard Ellis in Fort Lauderdale. "No one is going to build a spec."

A "spec" building is a speculative development with no lease commitments prior to the start of construction.

In the meantime, Fort Lauderdale's Stiles Corp. is nearing completion on a 17-story, 205,700-square-foot office building in downtown.

The 111 Broward Blvd. building will feature hurricane-resistant glass and have back-up generators, Bedzow said. It also will be certified as a green building: LEED, which means Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, he added.

"It's not a standard glass box," Bedzow said.

The project goes before the city's Development Review Committee next week.


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