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Latigo Cape Coral rendering

Gary Tasman, CEO of Cushman & Wakefield in Southwest Florida, didn’t have time to take a summer vacation. He said he was too busy closing land deals to apartment developers.

The flurry of deals began in June in Cape Coral, with almost 27 acres selling for $14.6 million. Latigo Cape Coral LLC bought the land, north of Pine Island Road and just east of Chiquita Boulevard. It’s a rare swath of land surrounded by homes at 1434 SW Second Ave. and 1457 SW Fifth St.

In August, Latigo Naples LLC bought almost 19 acres in Naples for $8.9 million. A luxury apartment complex is being planned for that land, south of where U.S. 41 heads east from Naples, where Collier Boulevard intersects with Rattlesnake Hammock Road. It will have at least 265 units, and be called Fiori.

Less than a week later, Tasman and colleague Shawn Stoneburner brokered 45.6 acres fronting U.S. 41 and Coconut Road in Estero from Lee Health to Coconut Road Estero Apartments LLC for $32 million.

“It’s the center of the universe,” Tasman said. “Estero and 41, right across from Coconut Point mall. And really the growth that Estero has, with a high-end demographic, it’s attractive for that location. It’s really what drove that value.”

Latigo, an apartment developer based in Los Angeles, could not be reached for comment, but its website had renderings of the Cape Coral and Naples projects. It’s also developing apartment complexes in other Florida cities of Davenport, Kissimmee, Lakeland and St. Augustine as well as in California.

These three deals, spread across Southwest Florida in Cape Coral, Estero and Naples, combined for $55.5 million for almost 91.6 acres, a price of about $605,000 per acre. The Estero land went for about $700,000 per acre. Yet Tasman said he’s seeing signs that the land prices could stabilize soon.

“I believe the question is, are rents going to continue to grow?” Tasman said. “That’s a concern we all have when it relates to affordable housing. I believe we’re seeing a flattening out of the rents right now. Which is going to cause the land to not appreciate at the rate that it has.”

“We will still see the market forces at work between supply and demand,” he said. “The most important thing as a community we can do is get as many housing units approved and entitled as soon as possible. So, we get more of a balance with supply and demand. That’s the most important way and the most effective thing we can do to slow the rate of increase.”

Tasman also wanted to put these apartment land deals into perspective.

“The bigger picture, is we’ve had a busy five years of apartment land sales,” Tasman said. “If you look at the landscape of apartments and how many apartment communities are being developed in Southwest Florida, this didn’t just start this summer. Before COVID-19, there was an undersupply of housing units in Southwest Florida. And the apartment developers nationally recognized that. And they’ve been here since way before COVID-19, looking for land and building communities. If you think about the number of units that are less than five or seven years old, it’s a significant amount.”

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