Increased governmental efforts to stem the loss of wetlands and the plants and wildlife associated with them have given pause to developers eyeballing these bucolic sites: Approvals can take more time and money than usual when purchasing land through wetland mitigation banks as a means of compensating for new construction. In the case of a 34-acre parcel in South Florida, however, developer Joel Altman felt the extra steps were worthwhile. “We’ve gone through this before and been totally successful,” says Altman, chairman of Altman Cos. in Boca Raton, which focuses on rentals in multiple states.
Pembroke Pines, where the parcel was located, had few remaining large, buildable acres, says Mayor Frank Ortis, which was part of the land’s appeal to Altman. For this particular project, named Altis at Sheridan Village, Altman anticipated that a cohort of renters would like the growing area’s employment options and proximity to several highways. Further, he’s witnessed interest in upscale rental housing from a mix of tenants—some trading up from other rentals rather than buying, some giving up homeownership to rent, and some seeking a base in the U.S. with Florida experiencing an influx of investors and residents from abroad.
With a team that included architect Ken Boone of STB Architects and Planners in Dallas and landscape architect Kelly Hults of Witkin Hults Design Group in nearby Hollywood, a master plan was designed. Fourteen of Sheridan’s outlying acres were retained as a natural habitat, with native grasses and old-fashioned–style wood boardwalks added. The remaining 20 acres were developed with meandering clusters of low-lying buildings and pedestrian paths. To make the typical flat Florida topography more interesting, Hults introduced berms and mounds, grouped boulders, planted mature palm trees for instant cachet, and sprinkled about benches and picnic tables.
The team’s goal was to introduce an array of high-end amenities to suggest an active resort, so occupants could “staycation,” or vacation at home. Among the more novel outdoor attractions: a sand beach rimmed by coconut trees and hammocks; a lake with a fire pit; a putting green; a community garden; and a gazebo with a cooking station for residents and chef demonstrations. Designer Julie Morgan of The Design Club in Boca Raton continued the playful effect within a clubhouse, with a palette of bold colors and everything from a pool and poker tables to video-game consoles, fitness equipment, TVs, and a café. Even the traditional leasing office underwent a metamorphosis with an interactive screen placed in the lobby to showcase the project’s floor plans.
Despite the single-level, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments being arranged in small, three-story buildings, the team wanted to make the units feel like private homes. They did so by using individual entries, attaching garages for many of the units, and leaving off the typical Florida breezeways between buildings. The interiors include sought-after 10-foot ceilings, open living–dining–kitchen plans, full-sized washer–dryers, and generous storage. And rather than watch just any TV cooking show, tenants can replay their building’s on-site cooking demonstrations. The units range from 833 to 1,407 square feet and lease from $1,600 to $2,824 a month. Opened last March, the Sheridan Village’s 98 percent occupancy rate proves Altman hit a bull’s-eye.