By Robyn A. Friedman
James D. Tate describes himself as a “deal junkie.” Even as a boy growing up in Bay Harbor Islands, Tate loved business. He recalls sitting and watching his father, Stanley Tate – who began his career as a real estate developer in 1949 – talking on the phone and negotiating deals.
“It turned me on a little bit,” he says. “I loved the energy and passion I saw exude out of him, and I knew that’s exactly what I wanted to do.”
And so he has.
Today, Tate is the president of Tate Development Corp., a North Miami development firm, and he’s making his own deals — including a pretty significant one last year in which he and several partners acquired the iconic Bahia Mar Resort Hotel and Yachting Center in Fort Lauderdale.
Last month, Tate discussed his plans for the Bahia Mar project at a roundtable discussion on “Fort Lauderdale 2020” at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, describing how the massive redevelopment plan will transform the property — and the city as well. A rendering of his project was on display on the side of the Bahia Mar during the show.
Tate began his real estate career shortly after he graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in economics. He had planned to go to New York, but his father convinced him to work for his real estate development firm in South Florida in order to “learn a trade.” Tate started off working on a job site in Delray Beach, where the company was building condominiums, but he soon realized he wanted to work for himself. He purchased 12 vacant lots in Plantation, set up Tate Development Corp. with his brother Kenny and ended up building some homes and selling off the remaining lots.
After that, he built condominiums, apartments, single-family homes, a shopping center and more. Overall, Tate and his family have developed, built or managed over 7,000 residences and 2 million square feet of commercial space throughout the United States.
In July 2014, Tate and his brother joined up with Sergio Rok, Rialto Capital Management (a subsidiary of Lennar Corp.) and RCI Marine Inc. to purchase the 39-acre Bahia Mar. “It’s very underutilized,” he says. “It’s a significant asset in Fort Lauderdale, and we have an opportunity to now do something special there.”
The group plans to create a waterfront promenade at the site to attract pedestrians, invest $40 million to $45 million to renovate the hotel and add a 20,000-square-foot grocery store, 625 condominiums, restaurants, a Bahamian-style marina village and a permanent home for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
Tate is hoping to get all necessary approvals from the City of Fort Lauderdale by February and then plans to start sales on the first condominium building. He anticipates that it will take seven to eight years to complete the overall project. The hotel will remain open during construction.
“I think it’s going to transform Fort Lauderdale because we’re opening up the property to the public and activating the area with life and energy,” Tate says. “Once they get there, we know they’re going to love the experience — and that they’re going to leave energized, refreshed and excited to come back.”