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If last year’s real estate sales data were water, Nelson Taylor would have drowned.  Taylor, the market research director for the Southwest Florida land brokerage firm LSI Companies, hardly could keep up with the steady stream of sales data that kept flowing during all of 2021.

The sales—and the price tags—kept intensifying as the calendar months kept turning. “It’s a wave of activity,” Taylor says. “Across all sectors. I keep hearing that Southwest Florida pricing will be the next California. The prices keep moving. If you look at prices in California compared to here, we’re affordable.”

The prices have boomed as the world keeps changing. The Athens Group paid $362 million for the Naples Beach Club in October, making it far and away the biggest real estate deal of last year. “That’s going to produce more high-end luxury resorts in Southwest Florida,” Taylor says.

Try booking a room at any of the Four Seasons resorts, whether it be in Hawaii, Orlando or elsewhere. Rates start at about $1,000 per night, and can eclipse $3,000 on some suites and at peak times of the year. “This is what’s coming for our area,” Taylor says. “It’s changing our landscape.” The gravity of the Naples Beach Club deal prompted the question: What was the region’s second-most lucrative deal of the year?

Taylor broke down some more deals across all sectors that will affect the region.

South Seas Island Resort, Captiva Island

This sold for $50.38 million in September. The Timbers Co. (not to be confused with Sanibel Island’s Timbers restaurant), Wheelock Street Capital and the Ronto Group combined to buy an iconic resort at the northern tip of Captiva that has been in place since 1946. “They’re going to invest in it,” Taylor says. “They’re going to make that a tourist attraction.”

Hospitals go big on Colonial

Hope 97LLC, owned by HCA Healthcare, bought about 40 acres, straddled between Winkler Avenue and Colonial, for $15 million in November. Less than a mile to the east, Lee Health purchased 53 acres for $10.9 million in December. “The Colonial corridor [is] already a nightmare for traffic,” Taylor says. “Now see what’s coming.”

Speaking of medical care, LSI Companies brokered the sales of four medical office buildings totaling almost 100,000 square feet, for $18.3 million. The offices are located in Naples, Cape Coral, Bonita Springs and Lehigh Acres.

Bayshore Road booming

Pulte Homes paid $24.6 million for 441 acres off Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers, just west of Interstate 75. LSI Companies brokered that deal. In the same move, Pulte sold 28 acres for $2.2 million to Sage Communities. The two 55-and-over communities will be developed at the same time and will begin taking shape this year.

Industrial sector surges

Even innocent-looking pieces of land, vacant practically forever, suddenly have become valuable. Extremely valuable. Taylor pointed to an industrial-slated tract of land off Luckett Road near Fort Myers that sold for $7.25 million in April 2019. In November 2021, the same land sold for $20 million.

“What’s interesting about this industrial stuff is what once was stagnant is now in high demand,” Taylor says. He maneuvered the Lee County Property Appraiser’s map south and then east by a few miles and pulled up Meridian Airport Park, which is near Southwest Florida International Airport, in an industrial-slated area off Treeline Boulevard. That’s where West GC LLC bought 23.3 acres of vacant land near an industrial park for $6.6 million in October.

“That’s been sitting there since 2007,” Taylor says. “That’s what we’re starting to see now. These pieces that have just been sitting there for years are in high, high demand.”

Alico Road corridor keeps booming

This was the big construction story of 2020, when corporate headquarters for Scotlynn and NeoGenomics broke ground and took shape off Interstate 75, just north of Alico Road. Plus, Seefried Development Group built a sort center for Amazon. LSI brokered the sale of Amazon’s lands for a combined $28.1 million. Now that those facilities are operational, more rooftops are following.

In October, CGGG Alico LLC paid $4.5 million for the land on which to build the 264-unit Centro Apartment Complex. These apartments will be off Vintage Commerce Boulevard, just west of that Alico and I-75 intersection and near all these new corporate headquarters. Expect more activity to follow throughout this year. “This is at the epicenter of the area,” Taylor says. “They’re going to take advantage of it.”

On Dec. 23, Seagate Development Group sold the NeoGenomics headquarters it built for $31.6 million, according to public records. It was a complicated deal, one Seagate and NeoGenomics declined to discuss. But the cancer diagnostics company has a new landlord in a new limited liability corporation, NEO G FL LLC.

NeoGenomics will continue to lease its corporate headquarters, just short of 150,000 square feet at 9490 NeoGenomics Way.

Apartments, apartments, apartments

As soon as one wave of new-construction apartments reaches that 97% occupancy rate, new construction and new investors follow. Taylor said there has been a perfect storm of remote workers descending on Florida to work, along with in-person workers flowing into the region for new jobs that have been created with new companies relocating here.

The influx of new residents creates even more jobs for the extra services the newcomers require. “Population growth and job creation,” Taylor says. “Job creation leads to more job creation. It’s not just creating retail jobs; you’re commanding all these services that you need. Employment opportunities create employment elsewhere.”

In Cape Coral, a parcel at 2301 SW Pine Island Road that sold for $6.2 million two years ago sold for $15.4 million in October. It’s slated for more apartments.

“That’s what’s happening,” Taylor says. “That’s why I can’t keep up with it. I could spend all day just doing sales in November. It’s just too much activity occurring. It’s chaos.”

Record-setting housing deals

Taylor is far from the only real estate data expert deluged with tracking deals. Tyler Minix, director of investment sales for Newmark, has had a hand in brokering most of the following apartment complex deals, including the $91 million Encore Vive sale at the Forum in Fort Myers. Minix watches with awe as the per-unit record price of apartments keeps getting broken.

In 2020, the 224-unit Sanibel Straits complex off Summerlin and Pine Ridge Road sold for $54 million, which amounted to $241,000 per unit, then a record in Lee County. That price wouldn’t have cracked the top five per-unit deals for 2021.

“It’s pretty unprecedented,” Minix says. “This pandemic has pretty much completely transformed our population growth. In 2015, it was a 10,000-unit rental market. The region has been playing catchup ever since. The supply and demand has been off for so long.”

Collier County keeps cranking

Collier County had more than just the nine-figure Naples Beach Club deal. The Granada Shoppes in North Naples sold Dec. 7 for $97 million. That’s more than 300,000 square feet of retail, anchored by a Hobby Lobby, Haverty’s, Marshalls and Trader Joe’s at the southeast corner of U.S. 41 and Immokalee Road.

To compare, a similar-sized shopping mall in Cape Coral—the Coralwood Mall—sold about a week later for $36.1 million. That one also will have a Hobby Lobby, and it currently has a 10-screen movie theater, a Bealls Outlet, HomeGoods, Ulta and an Aldi grocery store among more than 20 tenants. That Naples location, with its more upscale blend of tenants, cost $60 million more than Coralwood.

In Pelican Bay, two office towers sold in mid-December for $55.5 million. “That’s a pretty big transaction,” says David Stevens, a broker with Naples-based Investment Properties Corp.

“They’ve got Wells Fargo and a number of other tenants. I want to say it’s 200,000 square feet of office space. They’re big buildings, fully leased and in an amazing location.”

The Hoffmann Family of Companies bought the Old Collier Golf Club in North Naples for $45.3 million. That’s about 400 acres west of U.S. 41, alongside the Cocohatchee River. That sale just boosted the Hoffmann portfolio of 35 properties, considered the most by a private owner in Southwest Florida. Hoffmann also acquired the nearly 100-acre American Farms in late December.

Tech billionaire Michael S. Dell’s MSD Partners purchased the exclusive Hamilton Harbor Yacht Club in Naples for more than $16.6 million in late September. The seller was Collier Enterprises Inc., a Naples-based real estate investment and development firm that sold its Old Collier Golf Club the week before to Hoffmann.

Two other 2021 sales were integral to long-anticipated, noteworthy projects in unincorporated Collier County. Foremost, Naples-based Stock Development purchased DaRuMa Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar in North Naples for $10 million. This 0.78-acre property is an integral piece in the center of the future One Naples redevelopment project by Stock that is projected to break ground soon on the northeast corner of Vanderbilt Beach Road and Gulf Shore Drive.

The final slice of the Gateway Triangle also sold this fall for $8.6 million in East Naples. Construction broke ground there for The Ellington, a 10-story, 377,421-square-foot mixed-use project with hotel rooms and luxury condominiums where U.S. 41 East meets Davis Boulevard on the edge of Naples.

Also in Collier: Pulte Homes bought 320 acres, about 1.5 miles east of Immokalee Road and Randall, for $35 million. It’s Phase Two of Pulte’s Valencia Golf & Country Club.

Seagate Development Group paid $11.75 million for Liberty Plaza, a leased shopping center just south of Pine Ridge Road with 50,000 square feet.

Big deal near downtown Fort Myers

On Dec. 30, the last business day of 2021, a deal went down that could change the landscape of the Fort Myers riverfront near downtown. The Legacy Harbour Hotel & Suites, Joe’s Crab Shack and eight other parcels all sold for $20 million.

These were the legacy lands assembled in the late 1990s and early 2000s by the late Haywood Sullivan. The former Boston Red Sox catcher and part owner of the team cashed out on his ownership stake and bought the lands, but died in 2003. Since then, his legacy lands have been on and off the market until finally selling to NRIA. The New Jersey-based development group intends to spend up to $225 million on revamping those properties into condos or apartments of up to 25 stories, a hotel, office space and more during the long term. In the short term, it will be business as usual for the hotel, restaurant and other businesses.

Back to that second-biggest deal

All the multi-family real estate transactions were in the running for second-most lucrative, behind that Naples Beach Club deal. The sale of the Granada Shoppes also would have contended for No. 2. But the winner must be West End at City Walk near downtown Fort Myers.

Developer Joe Bonora sold the complex for $81.2 million in December. With 318 units, that amounts to $255,436 per unit. But Bonora kept an undisclosed ownership stake in the development, which is not finished. He and his new partners with the Houston-based Apex One plan to build five townhomes, some retail and 50 to 60 more apartment units on the land at the corner of McGregor Boulevard and Altamonte Avenue and the parcel at Virginia Avenue.

That $81.2 million price tag more likely would have been in the $115 million range, had Bonora sold the entire stake, making it the second-largest whopper deal Southwest Florida saw last year, after the Naples Beach Club megadeal.

“There’s a unique angle that’s emerged on these apartment deals,” says Matt Simmons, a property appraiser with Maxwell, Hendry & Simmons, before shifting to talk about the City Walk deal near downtown Fort Myers in particular. “As we’ve grown as an area over the past 18 months, it’s a lot of young working professionals moving here, which is just fantastic for downtown. That project has all the hallmarks of one that will remain more appealing.”

City Walk can retain its value if the economy goes south. “Everyone looks like a genius when times are good,” Simmons says. “But a project like that will always kind of have first dibs on tenants because of the amenities and the quality and location.”

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