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Ocean Land President Jean Francois Roy has invested in multiple properties in Fort Lauderdale, including the new—and sold-out—AquaVita in Las Olas Isles. He’s built a reputation as a well-respected and compassionate developer.
Here, the Fort Lauderdale resident chats with us about his upcoming projects and his vision for the city.
Ocean Land has made a big commitment to Fort Lauderdale. Why develop in this city?
Fort Lauderdale used to be a town for snowbirds and spring breakers, but over the past few years it has evolved into a more sophisticated community with residents who are committed to staying year-round. There is a vibrant cultural scene, including fine restaurants, high-end shopping and world-class entertainment venues. Downtown Fort Lauderdale is also a thriving business hub. The city is widely celebrated as a haven for boating enthusiasts, and the annual boat show draws thousands of people. Ocean Land Investments caters to those who appreciate this lifestyle and its wonderful confluence of amenities.
In a few words, describe your vision for the Fort Lauderdale projects.
Ocean Land’s waterfront developments feature spacious condominiums and a variety of amenities that encourage an active lifestyle, including boat slips with ocean access. Our boutique buildings provide a private escape, but are also conveniently situated within walking distance of the Fort Lauderdale Beach and Las Olas Boulevard.
Our first four projects—AquaVita, AquaLuna, AquaMar and AquaBlu—cater to baby boomers who have empty nests but still desire plenty of space. AquaVue, which is spearheaded by my son, Marc-Andre, offers loft-inspired residences with wide-open, flexible layouts that are more attractive to the millennial generation.
Fort Lauderdale has long prided itself on being different from Miami. But with all of the recent development, the skyline is looking more like its neighbor to the south. What do you say to the naysayers who are fighting this shift?
In the past, Fort Lauderdale was seen as a second choice to Miami. Now, it has come into its own as a primary destination that people pursue for a unique set of reasons. The pricing for luxury condominiums in Fort Lauderdale is still much more affordable than condos in Miami of comparable quality, and people appreciate the more relaxed lifestyle and the fact that there is less traffic in Fort Lauderdale.
Rather than trying to transform Fort Lauderdale into the next Miami, Ocean Land has chosen to develop projects that are a natural fit and enhance our existing neighborhoods. Of our recent and current projects, four out of five stand just five stories. Adding boutique buildings with 16 to 35 residences is far less impactful to neighbors than high-rises with hundreds of units, which is all too common in Miami. We live in Fort Lauderdale ourselves and are committed to maintaining its beauty, and sense of scale and community.
You have a reputation for building relationships with the neighbors and existing communities around your projects. Tell us about that process and why it matters.
My family and I live in Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Isles, so when we are building relationships and asking for support on our projects, the people we are reaching out to truly are our neighbors. We have the utmost respect for their opinions and strive to maintain—and, ideally, enhance—the value of their homes, because this area is also our home.
Beyond garnering the support of neighbors, we’ve also negotiated with co-op associations in order to secure prime properties. For example, when we sought to purchase the site for AquaBlu, we needed all 16 owners of the existing complex to agree to sell to us. We worked closely with the co-op board and offered the owners well above market value for their individual units. It was a challenging strategy, but we were persistent and ultimately successful. We’ve found that when you seek to understand neighbors’ concerns and clearly communicate how your development will enhance their community, they are more willing to work with you and can become great allies and friends.
You moved from Canada to South Florida in the ’90s. What was the biggest adjustment to doing business in South Florida?
In Quebec, a business deal can be completed with a simple handshake.
What markets/cities do you look to for inspiration?
I look to Palm Beach for the lifestyle, but to Miami for the architectural elements of my projects.