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Las Olas land fight to court


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Las Olas land fight to court

Fort Lauderdale and the owner of the former Hyde Park Market site are headed to court after city commissioners rejected the latest settlement offer.


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Fort Lauderdale commissioners on Monday rejected a developer's offer to settle a long legal battle over privately owned land near historic Stranahan House.

The settlement would have allowed the developer to move ahead with plans to build a 38-story residential tower on the site and forced the city to abandon efforts to take the land for use as a park.

In return, the developer would have dropped a lawsuit seeking compensation for lost profits and attorneys' fees accumulated since the city tried to condemn the 1.4-acre former Hyde Park Market site in 2000.

Another settlement offer is unlikely before the start of trial, scheduled for Nov. 15, city officials said.

The commission rejected the proposed settlement during a closed-door session, apparently by the narrowest margin. Vice Mayor Dean Trantalis and Commissioner Carlton Moore suggested that they had voted in favor of the settlement in hopes of avoiding a potentially costly court ruling.

'I'm disappointed that we are going to be rolling the dice with the taxpayers' money,'' Moore said.

The legal mess started after landowner Coolidge-South Markets Equities, affiliated with The Related Group, proposed a 38-story residential tower for the Las Olas Boulevard property in 1999. Residents and preservationists objected to the project, saying it would obscure nearby Stranahan House, a historic home where early pioneers ran a trading post.

The developer refused to sell after voters approved an $8 million bond to buy the land, and the courts rejected the city's efforts to take it through eminent domain.

The city appealed that ruling, and the developer sued the city for attorneys fees and lost time. The developer's suit will be adjudicated before the city's condemnation appeal.

In July, the commission rejected a settlement offer that would have given the developer city-owned land on the beach in exchange for a park on the Hyde Park site.

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Fort Lauderdale to allow 42-story condo next to Stranahan House

By Brittany Wallman

Staff Writer

Posted November 17 2004

FORT LAUDERDALE -- In a suspenseful meeting on the night before a scheduled court date, the city Tuesday gave up its bitter fight for a park next to the historic Stranahan House, agreeing instead to allow a 42-story tower to rise on the coveted land.

Rather than hearing passionate pleas today in court about the historically storied property at 500 E. Las Olas Blvd., Broward Circuit Court Judge Robert Lance Andrews will be asked to approve the final settlement between the city of Fort Lauderdale and the land's developer and owner, The Related Group and Coolidge-South Markets Equities.

The surprise last-minute settlement puts to rest a four-year city journey to buy the land for the public.

On the riverfront property, where the defunct Hyde Park Market sits, the developer will build one of the tallest towers in Fort Lauderdale. Only one other tower, River House condo a few blocks to the west, is as tall, and none is taller.

The 1901 Stranahan House next door was a trading post and home to city pioneers Ivy and Frank Stranahan. Supporters of the museum argued Tuesday as they have for the past four years that it is the city's historical "tap root" and deserved a fitting surroundings - a grassy park, not a high-rise "monster."

But citing a potential financial nightmare for taxpayers, commissioners voted 3-2 to accept the developer's settlement offer, with Mayor Jim Naugle and Commissioner Christine Teel dissenting.

Commissioner Carlton Moore suggested the $8 million voters approved for the park in 2000 -- considered severely inadequate to obtain the land even four years ago -- should be used to move the Stranahan House farther west to sit among a cluster of historic homes down-river.

Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson, the swing vote Tuesday, promised the packed audience of park supporters that though they would leave dejected, they would have open, green space on the property, and input in the development approval of the tower.

Hutchinson, Vice Mayor Dean Trantalis and Moore said they couldn't wager the taxpayers' millions on the hope that someday they might prevail in court and be able to afford the property.

The city's condemnation effort fared poorly in court, and today's scheduled court date was the forum for the developer's countersuit for damages.

Commissioners said Tuesday they've been told the park could cost $18 million, $20 million, $22 million, or more. If the city were unsuccessful and instead owed damages to the developer, commissioners said the tab could run as high as $58 million.

Tuesday's settlement carried no financial cost.

"We promised the taxpayers we wouldn't spend any money we didn't have in our checkbook," said Hutchinson. "Make no mistake, I understand what the ramifications of my vote here tonight could be to my political office.

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Fantastic news for Ft. Lauderdale...are we seeing a rivarly emerge between S. Florida's two big cities?

Lauderdale is doing a lot, but it doesn't even come close to the stuff going on in miami. They're still plagued by a lot of nimbyism. Really it's the whole coast that's on fire

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If only my dear West Palm could catch up.... But they actually have a decent number in projects, considering their size.

While Ft. Lauderdale might not be as expansive or "booming", I'm really impressed by it. It has retail-done-right and lots of pedestrian activity, a fine performing arts center, and it's fortunate to not have a monster expressway cutting through it. So many downtowns have fallen to the Interstate, but not this one.

I hope to see their planned streetcar system in place, but I'm not holding my breath. Hopefully, whatever transit they get, will have a connection to Tri-Rail.

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