Sign of the times: Developers want to add industrial to redevelopment of Pompano casino

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September 14, 2020
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As reported in The Real Deal.

Two companies redeveloping the 232-acre Isle Casino property in Pompano Beach want to make a pandemic-based pivot to industrial space and shrink the office component.

Cordish Companies and Caesars Entertainment want to change the zoning and approved land use for Isle Casino so they can include 1.5 million square feet of industrial space in their mixed-use redevelopment of the property, while reducing the maximum amount of office space by 650,000 square feet.

“What happened to us has happened all over the country as Covid has caused offices to work remotely,” David Cordish, chairman of Baltimore-based Cordish Companies, told city commissioners at a meeting on Tuesday.

In a 4-2 vote, commissioners gave approval on first reading to a rezoning and land-use plan amendment that would reduce office entitlements and introduce industrial space at Isle Casino at 777 Isle of Capri Circle.

The changes cut the maximum amount of office space from 2 million square feet to 1.35 million square feet and allow up to 1.5 million square feet of industrial space. Other components of the master plan for redeveloping Isle Casino would remain unchanged, including 950 hotel rooms, 300,000 square feet of retail space and 4,100 residential units. The property, which now includes a casino and a horse track for harness racing, would be rebranded as Live! Resorts Pompano.

Last year, the city approved a proposal by Cordish Companies and Eldorado Resorts that more than tripled the maximum number of residential units at the Isle Casino property and more than doubled the maximum amount of office space. Eldorado, which merged with Caesars Entertainment in July, acquired the Pompano Beach property as part of its $1.7 billion purchase of Isle of Capri Casinos in 2017.

Industrial development “is not our core business,” Cordish acknowledged during the virtual city commission meeting Tuesday. “Our core business is the rest of the site … residential, entertainment, retail.”

Cordish also said his company and Las Vegas-based Caesars have a non-disclosure agreement with a prospective industrial tenant that would occupy more than 1 million square feet and employ 1,200 workers at the Isle Casino property.

By late October, “we hope we’ll have a letter of intent, which would release us from the NDA,” he said. The prospect is a “major international e-commerce” company that could “jumpstart a project of this magnitude … in a difficult environment.”

However, several city commissioners and Pompano Beach citizens criticized the planned introduction of as much as 1.5 million square feet of industrial space at Isle Casino. They said the developers lack critical details about their planned industrial space, including truck traffic and hours of operation, and have not solicited opinions from enough homeowners in the nearby Palm-Aire and Cypress Bend communities.

“That’s too big a change without enough information,” said Pompano Beach Mayor Rex Hardin. He voted for the rezoning and land-use change, but said the developers “need to have better communication” with homeowners who live near Isle Casino. “You really need to nail things down between now and the second reading … You’ve really got to get out there and talk.”

City commissioners are expected to consider enactment of the proposed rezoning on second reading at their meeting on Oct. 27. If they approve the proposed land-use change on second reading, the change could be enacted sometime next year following a review by county and state agencies.