A spirit of community and growth pervades the Town of Davie, located in Broward County, Florida, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19. The Town responded decisively when the virus struck, protecting residents and helping businesses. Now that the worst of the pandemic has hopefully passed, Davie is eager to finish a series of large capital projects and launch new developments.
The well-educated, pro-business community of Davie has 105,054 people, according to the most recent census figures. Davie is conveniently located in South Florida near several major transportation routes, including Interstates 75 and 595, Ronald Reagan Turnpike, Port Everglades—the deepest port in Florida—and the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Since it was last profiled in the December 2019 issue of Business in Focus, Davie has remained committed to development.
“Despite COVID we’ve had numerous construction projects in town,” states Assistant Town Administrator and Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Director Phillip Holste. “Over the past eight years, we’ve had over $1 billion in new construction in Davie. It hasn’t been focused on one sector but spread across residential, commercial, industrial. [We want] balance in the Davie economy, so if one sector is challenged, another sector will be there to carry on.”
The Academical Village—a 2.5-million-square-foot site including medical facilities, university offices, and businesses—is one of the most prominent of these projects. Construction continues on a Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) medical center in the village.
The HCA “is being built as a four-story hospital with 120 hospital beds that is ultimately going to be expanded to a ten-story hospital. They are going to have the largest neonatal intensive care unit in Broward County. Adjacent to that is a medical office building—a little over 100,000 square feet—that is being completed simultaneously with the hospital. The hospital itself will be open to the public in October 2021. I think everyone is going to be very impressed with the state of all our technology at that facility,” says Holste.
“The next thing we’re still working on is the construction of a new Davie town hall. The existing town hall has met its useful lifespan. We’ve been here for over forty years, and it’s in a very challenging state, so the council directed us to build a new town hall at our existing location.”
Architectural plans are being drawn up for the four-story, 70,000-square-foot civic structure. As Holste notes, the new town hall will be built on the site of the old town hall, once the latter is demolished.
Other projects include the Davie Business Center, a million-square-foot flex warehouse facility being built on Davie Road. The nearly completed center has attracted interest from high-profile clients such as Boeing. A similar project called Bridge Point 595 offers 700,000 square feet of flex warehouse space and is designed to take advantage of Davie’s proximity to the airport and seaport.
“We’re seeing lots of interest in final mile destinations. Companies such as Amazon want to provide final delivery to their customers,” he says of Bridge Point 595.
Intriguingly, the Town of Davie has also seen an influx of businesses offering succulent treats. A newly opened store on Davie Road called Sweet Alchemy sells donuts and desserts while a nearby locale called Midnight Cookies specializes in cookies and milkshakes.
Earlier this year, the Town of Davie partnered with Florida Atlantic University (FAU)’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to establish a program for local business development. The center is part of a state-wide SBDC network funded by the Florida government, private partners, and the U.S. Small Business Administration, among other sources.
The plan is to enhance services for small business owners in Davie. This mission is intended to complement efforts to lure bigger companies to town. “We want to focus on bringing in small business and promoting and helping small business grow,” says Holste.
SBDC professionals can assist small businesses with marketing, planning, permitting, contracting, and growth-related issues. Helping small business owners to access state or federal funds is another goal.
On top of these business-oriented developments, several residential projects have been completed or are nearing competition in Davie.
Zona Village—a mixed-use project in the downtown Davie Road corridor with two hundred residential units and 20,000 square feet of ground-floor space devoted to commercial use—opened in August 2020 and has been favorably received by the community. Residents are moving in, and restaurants and a spa, among other businesses, are setting up in the village.
The Main Street Lofts was another big residential development on the Davie Road corridor. Holste describes the apartment complex as “a unique project,” featuring privately-owned condominiums.
Yet another project, University Pointe, a student housing complex, valued at around $60 million, opened its doors just before the pandemic. Despite this challenge, University Pointe has thrived and offers four bedroom living quarters with shared kitchen and living spaces for eight hundred students.
Remarkably, Davie has maintained its commitment to new construction even in the face of COVID. To keep the public safe but connected during the pandemic, the Town put as many services online as possible. Some municipal employees worked at home, and local government facilities were thoroughly sprayed and sanitized for those employees still in the office. The Town adhered to state guidelines and implemented mask-wearing, social distancing, and wellness checks of staff.
Financial support was also offered in some cases. “Working with Broward County, we were able to provide business and residential assistance,” says Holste.
Davie officials helped local companies with fewer than twenty employees access funds from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and other programs. With financial backing from Broward County, Davie was also able to “provide rental and mortgage assistance for residents who lost jobs or were furloughed due to COVID,” he adds.
The Davie Parks and Recreation department came up with creative online programming to entertain and enlighten people forced to spend their time at home. Programming included virtual bingo and cooking shows, and some of these internet-based shows might be continued after the pandemic dissipates.
Popular community events also took a hit due to COVID. In late February 2020, Davie hosted its annual Orange Blossom Festival, featuring live music, a petting zoo, a kid’s play area, and other attractions. The 2021 festival was cancelled, due to health concerns, but town officials hope the festival will be renewed next year. The Davie Arena at the local Bergeron Rodeo Grounds usually plays host to a series of rodeo events, concerts, and animal shows. Its evens have also been suspended.
A few things have not changed, however. Davie continues to be a pro-business town, where local government does its best to attract and retain companies. The Town offers incentives to companies, ranging from tax increment financing, rental reimbursements, and an expedited permitting process.
These incentives are implemented “through our community redevelopment agency. The CRA gets its revenue from a variety of sources, including the Town, Broward County, and other government agencies. We use that funding to help redevelop and revitalize the CRA. We look at projects that bring a lot of property value growth and jobs to the area,” explains Holste.
The Town of Davie has excellent public schools, vast parks and open space, and nearly 170 miles of recreational trails. Town residents are well-educated, with a third of the community holding at least a Bachelor’s degree.
The Town remains dedicated to fulfilling its ‘2019 – 2023 Strategic Plan’, albeit with a few tweaks. One new goal is to “be prepared if we ever have a similar COVID situation happen again. I think the lesson learned for a lot of people is we weren’t as prepared as we thought we were. We want to make sure we can adapt more quickly to circumstances if it happens again, similar to how we’re adapting to natural disasters,” says Holste.
Current challenges, not including COVID, include dealing with stormwater. “Being in South Florida, this used to be the Everglades. We’ve had challenges during the last few years regarding significant rainfall events,” he states. The Town Council is considering a stormwater assessment, with a view to possible system enhancements or new construction. The goal is to improve the stormwater drainage network to prevent flooding.
Looking at future population levels, Town planners’ emphasis is on “balance,” he says. Balance means having enough residents to keep Davie economically strong, but not so many people as to strain local services and negatively impact the Town’s admirable quality of life.
If all goes to plan, building projects and local improvements will continue to be a focus in Davie for years to come. “Five years from now, I hope I can say the Academical Village is coming to completion and that the Town of Davie has a vibrant downtown,” states Holste.