Places that attract George Rahael represent Florida sprawl stereotypes. One spot, ostensibly a city’s main intersection, is no more than six lanes of asphalt separating a confluence of parking lots. Another site is a forgettable strip of tired shopping centers.
Rahael and his Amera Corp. aim to make the first – an intersection in northwest Broward’s Coral Springs – into a $300 million office-residential-retail downtown. The second, west Broward Boulevard just off I-95, will take another $300 million to reconfigure for offices. He’s also starting a $60-million retrofit of a branch bank site in east Boca Raton into a hotel-office development.
His aim for all: Converting low-density, already-developed locales into urban, pedestrian-friendly sites. Rahael, 54, came to south Florida from his native Trinidad and developed retail properties. In 1986, worried a recession was coming, he stopped developing. Open for business again since 1991, he prefers makeovers to developing virgin suburbia; makeovers are harder, but the sites are proven and the natural evolution is redevelopment of an urban character.
In loads of planning and charrette sessions, he readied plans for Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale and Boca. Too much? “A very valid question, particularly in this year’s economic environment,” he laughs. But “we’re not building millions of square feet next year. We’ll do it as the market needs it.”
His favorite places feel crowded to those already there, but Rahael, with a confident, cosmopolitan air, envisions plenty more people coming. “My view is, you haven’t seen anything yet.”