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Fort Lauderdale & North/Central Broward


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Here's a thread for information concerning Fort Lauderdale, county seat and largest city in Broward County. Also, Broward communities north of Interstate 595 are covered here.

Communities covered (not an exhaustive list):

Fort Lauderdale

Pompano Beach

Deerfield Beach


various Atlantic coastal communities

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I always liked that downtown Ft. Lauderdale had a movie theatre. I don't know how successful it is or anything, but it was still nice to have. They only way I could see a new theatre miving in, is if some huge retail/entertainment development come in, which is unlikely, considering the Riverfront is still keeping many of its tenants. Oh well...

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Posted on Wed, Jan. 26, 2005


Builders creating `urban village'

Developers have discovered the north side of Fort Lauderdale's downtown in a big way: Nearly two dozen multifamily residential projects with a combined construction cost of $700 million are in the works.


[email protected]

Downtown Fort Lauderdale's north end may well be the next hot residential area.

A wave of residential construction planned for the next few years may transform the neighborhood into what the city has long envisioned: an ''urban village'' downtown where people live, work and relax. Single-family homes and low-rise commercial buildings now dominate the landscape, but the new plans could bring high-rise condos to the area.

The interest from developers in downtown Fort Lauderdale's northern confines follows a residential development boom south of Broward Boulevard in recent years. But that section of downtown may have lost some of its development appeal because the city has no more units to allocate to multifamily residential developers.

Nearly two dozen multifamily residential projects -- with almost 3,500 units and a total estimated cost of more than $700 million -- are either under construction or on the drawing board north of Broward Boulevard. The projects include condominiums, lofts and town houses with a smattering of shops and offices.

What's happening in the so-called Flagler Village area is emblematic of the redevelopment trend sweeping the eastern corridor from Miami to West Palm Beach, said Michael Cannon, real estate analyst with Integra Realty Resources in Miami.

''We no longer have the suburban farmland to develop for our single-family subdivisions,'' Cannon said. ``The marketplace is rediscovering the urban core.''

Developers have shown such a significant interest that the proposed multifamily units exceed the development cap the city has set for the area. City leaders are scheduled to meet next month with Broward planning officials about increasing the units that can be built downtown.


And for the first time, major high-rise residential developments are planned for the area. In the works are three projects rising at least 30 stories, rivaling some of the tallest office and residential towers in the city's central business district.

Despite the flood of projects, developers say they aren't at risk of outpacing demand. The influx of new residents will easily absorb the added units, they say.

''There was this pent-up demand that wasn't being served,'' said Peter Feldman of New Phase Realty, which is targeting an August groundbreaking for its $39 million, 218-unit condominium project on Northeast Fifth Avenue.

There's no guarantee that all the projects will be built, and a sudden rise in interest rates could dampen excitement.

But the completion of the initial phases of such projects as developer Alan Hooper's Avenue Lofts at 425 N. Andrews Ave. and Downtown Lofts' NoLA Lofts at 313 NE Second St. has sparked additional interest, said Chris Wren, executive director of Fort Lauderdale's Downtown Development Authority.

''Now that you can see some of the projects coming out of the ground, people can see what this vision of an urban village looks like,'' Wren said.


Feldman was one of the first land owners to recognize the potential of the area, commonly referred to as Flagler Village and bounded by Broward Boulevard, Federal Highway to the east, and the Florida East Coast Railway tracks to the west and north. He had hoped to start construction in 2001.

''All of this is a slow process,'' he said. ``Redevelopment isn't easy.''

Even though Feldman now faces a lot more competition, he isn't worried.

Other developers share his faith. Perhaps that's best illustrated by Aventura-based Groupe Pacific's acquisition in November of 1.25 acres on the west side of the U.S. courthouse on Broward Boulevard. It wants to erect a 481-unit condo tower in the range of 30 stories. Groupe Pacific paid $10.5 million for the land, about three times previous sales prices in recent years.

''It is really a prime piece of property,'' said Alan David, vice president of Groupe Pacific. ``It's right in the heart of the downtown area.''

The price paid by Groupe Pacific is comparable to land sales south of Broward Boulevard, particularly along the New River, where residential developers have flocked in recent years. Among the buildings: the 42-story, 287-unit Las Olas River House and Minto Communities' 315-unit WaterGarden condo project.

Developers sapped the supply of units earmarked for south of Broward Boulevard and are on track to do the same for the northern side.

In November 2003, the city increased the supply of residential units that could be built in downtown by 3,000 -- with 2,197 allocated for the area north of Broward Boulevard. But a chart compiled by the city shows that 14 projects either already approved or in the approval process would consume all of the 2,197 units -- and then some.

The city and the DDA are proceeding with a land-use amendment to allow for the construction of 13,000 more downtown units. The request will go before the county's Planning Council next month, Wren said.

Of the 23 multifamily projects tracked by The Herald, only one, Flagler Point at 600 N. Andrews Ave., intends to incorporate units that the city would deem ''affordable.'' However, the project's developer hasn't priced any of the 169 rental units yet.

Nearly all of the remaining projects have units with starting prices of more than $200,000. The high end tops $700,000.

''I'm concerned about the pricing of the proposed development,'' said Carlton Moore, a Fort Lauderdale commissioner who has advocated affordable housing. ``I am not trying to harm developers. I am not trying to harm the tax base. We are a city of citizens, and our first obligation is for them to have the ability to reside within our city.''

Moore supports the creation of a law that would require a percentage of residential construction to be affordable.

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Posted on Wed, Jan. 26, 2005


Plan for downtown gathers steam

A downtown campus project for Fort Lauderdale has wide support among county commissioners, who are grappling with where to build new government offices and courthouses.


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A sweeping plan to change the landscape of government buildings in downtown Fort Lauderdale took a step forward Tuesday after county commissioners got a hard-sell from their administrator, Roger Desjarlais.

''If you fly over Broward County, we just look like one big suburb,'' Desjarlais said. ``What we really don't have is the traditional economic center of a region.''

Commissioners are grappling with how to replace their aging government center, a former Burdines department store. But while they're doing it, they also want to bring millions of dollars worth of retail and housing to downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Plus, they're talking about how to create a new Broward courts complex and ways to make sure the federal courthouse stays in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

That could include a partnership with the city of Fort Lauderdale, which is pondering a new government center as well, and has a vested interest in any county redevelopment plans.

Desjarlais got tacit approval from commissioners to pay a consultant $500,000 to plan and usher the ''downtown campus'' project through its early stages. He'll bring back a proposal in a few weeks.

The centerpiece would be a $128 million governmental center; how it would be paid for and exactly where it would be is still up for discussion.

Desjarlais has backed a plan to sell the land of the existing governmental center to a developer to create offices, stores and housing -- along with the county complex.

Several commissioners, especially John Rodstrom, who represents Fort Lauderdale, have expressed concerns about how to pay for the project. It may require a bond issue, Rodstrom said.

''We're going to have to ask the voters to do this thing for us,'' he said.

Desjarlais pointed out that Broward, the first Florida county to approach 100 percent development, will be a model to other communities as they reach development limits.

Desjarlais said he plans to clear their agendas of other matters as much as possible over the coming months to allow the commission to focus on their plan.

''We have the opportunity to create Utopia,'' said Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle said it made sense for the city and county to work together on the project, as long as the city doesn't have to give up potential tax revenue.

''We'd love to help them plan their complex,'' Naugle said. ``We look forward to helping them achieve their dreams.''

The city-owned land eyed by county officials sits in a Community Redevelopment Area where, in the hands of a private developer, it could generate millions for neighborhood improvements.

Naugle said the county would have to compensate the city if it is to forgo the option of selling the land to private developers.

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Posted on Fri, Jan. 28, 2005

Nova advocates hospital

A proposal to build a new hospital on the campus of Nova Southeastern University is facing criticism from neighboring facilities.


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With a new South Broward hospital opening in far western Miramar and Broward General financing a $163 million expansion near downtown Fort Lauderdale, a bitter battle appears to be shaping up over a proposed facility on the Nova Southeastern University campus in central Broward.

Nova wants a ''world-class hospital'' in Plantation as part of its planned ''medical village,'' which already includes schools for pharmacists, osteopathic doctors and others. It would be operated by the North Broward Hospital District.

Wil Trower, North Broward's chief executive, says the plan fulfills the public district's long-standing desire to have a presence in western Broward, ''to fulfill our mission serving the uninsured'' in the area.

But the proposal, which must be approved by state regulators, will face serious opposition. Westside Regional Medical Center, an HCA-owned facility, is only three miles away from the proposed site.

''There are 1,500 licensed hospital beds within eight miles of that proposed location, and 47 percent of them are empty on any given day,'' says Earl Denning, Westside's chief executive. ``In my professional opinion, this hospital isn't needed.''

What's more, the proposed facility is within a mile of the line that divides the county's public, government-funded North and South hospital districts, and it's less than four miles from a South Broward's Memorial Hospital Pembroke, which has 300 beds.

''We're going to see what [North Broward] proposes,'' says Frank Sacco, chief executive of the South District. ``I think they have to explain why they're unique, why there's a need. On the surface, there doesn't appear to be a need.''

Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, says that simply seeking to serve the uninsured in central and western Broward isn't by itself justification for a new facility.

''All our hospitals serve both the indigent and unfunded patients,'' Quick said. ''No one hospital accepts sole responsibility for those people.'' Broward hospitals other than those in the North District provide $267 million annually in uncompensated care, according to association data. The North District says it provides $190 million a year in uncompensated care.


Another concern is whether an additional hospital would drive up healthcare spending in the region. Dartmouth researchers, who have been studying healthcare costs nationally for more than a decade, have found that the more hospital beds there are in an area, the more likely doctors are to send patients to them, thereby driving up the region's total medical costs.

Trower says that the Nova proposal is not adding licensed beds, since the plan would simply shift 150 bed licenses from other North Broward facilities. Nor would taxpayers fund the construction, which Nova has offered to pay for.

While some teaching would occur with medical students at the new facility, Trower says ``Broward General will still be the flagship teaching hospital.''

Getting approval for a new hospital from the Agency for Health Care Administration can take several years if other hospitals object, and there have been persistent rumors that Trower might do what other hospitals have been trying to do recently - get approval for open-heart programs -- bypass AHCA regulators and go straight to the Legislature for approval.

''I can't comment on that,'' Trower says. At the moment, he says he is focusing on doing an AHCA application for a ''certificate of need'' on why a new hospital is necessary.

If he did go straight to the Legislature, Quick says her South Florida hospital organization ``would be very concerned. The certificate of need process allows for public scrutiny and comments. We think all providers should take part in the process.''

Over the past two years, Broward hospitals have already spent $574 million in construction, according to Quick's group.


Work is just finishing up on South Broward's Memorial Hospital Miramar, two miles west of I-75, which is scheduled to open in March. The 128-bed facility, costing $122 million, is being hailed as an all-electronic, paperless site with wireless capabilities so that doctors and others can have electronic access to the network wherever they are in the facility.

The Miramar facility is in an area of young families, and Sacco estimates that the facility may be soon be delivering 2,000 to 3,000 babies a year.

Farther north in Fort Lauderdale, Holy Cross has been going through a four-year, $115 million expansion, which includes a new cancer center and a five-story heart and vascular center. In the past year, the oncology and orthopedic areas have been redone to offer private suites.

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St. Regis Resort

Project designed, built as Broward County's first five-star hotel

by Natalie Keith

It took two groundbreakings to get started, but Broward County's first five-star hotel, the $135 million St. Regis Resort, Spa and Residences in Fort Lauderdale, is expected to be completed in the fall.

Developed by Castillo Grand LLC of Fort Lauderdale this new St. Regis will be one of 13 worldwide and the first to have a condominium component. The 23-story tiered tower is located on the beachfront between the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway.

The first groundbreaking took place Jan. 11, 2002, but the event was merely a symbolic gesture meant to assure supporters of the project's viability after Sept. 11. "We held it to let our supporters know that we were planning to move ahead with the project," said John McDonald of Castillo Grand.

After Castillo Grand obtained project financing, another groundbreaking was held and construction started in July 2003. The project topped out in mid-December.

"I've been extremely happy with the project. It's both met and exceeded our expectations," McDonald said. "The contractor is doing an outstanding job, which is a good thing."

The contractor, Facchina-McGaughan LLC of Fort Lauderdale - formerly AMEC - has a special job on its hand.

The 750,000-sq.-ft. project includes the 169-room St. Regis Resort, 33 penthouse condominium residences and 25 private residence club suites. Facilities and amenities will include terraces with ocean views; a two-story, 22,000-sq.-ft. spa; five-star restaurant and cocktail lounge facing the ocean; outdoor caf

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Posted on Mon, Jan. 31, 2005


Dowdy downtown gets an extreme makeover

Oakland Park's dreary downtown district is mounting a comeback with help from public investment, new land-use regulations and developers who see a neighborhood on the rise.


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For years Oakland Park's drab downtown business district was the subject of wishful talk and hopeful planning among city leaders eager to create something better.

Their desire to replace industrial gloom with a thriving ''Main Street'' -- apartments above shops, tree-shaded sidewalks, outdoor seating, street-side bustle -- met with skepticism at first.

But words and maps are giving way to physical change, fueled in part by public investment in street improvements, utility upgrades, land acquisition, and redevelopment incentives in a nearly 150-acre area north of Oakland Park Boulevard along Dixie Highway.

''We have taken a city in a bad financial situation and turned it into one of the hot spots in Broward County right now,'' Mayor Layne Walls said. ``People are starting to see that it really is happening.''

The city's investment, boosted by an $18.5 million loan from the Florida League of Cities, has spawned results.

The Florida East Coast Railway tracks, once a bare scar cutting through the district, are now concealed behind lush banks of grasses, plants and trees. The city is installing new drains, sidewalks, and lampposts along Northeast 38th Street, a key east-west corridor, and will begin similar work along Northeast 12th Avenue, a major road running parallel to Dixie Highway.

The city (population 31,000-plus) bought two of the grimmest blocks along Dixie and cleared decrepit buildings, leaving grassy expanses ready for conversion into an urban plaza and mixed-use development. The city has acquired about 2.5 acres where a new park will replace a run-down parking lot. The county is expected to reimburse up to $2 million of the roughly $2.1 million land costs.

Private investment has followed.

New shops have opened. Townhomes are under construction. And developers say the city's momentum is drawing interest from would-be home buyers.

''We believe this is one of the last reasonable, affordable places to do new development,'' said developer Scott Brenner, who plans to build 300 townhomes, condominiums and lofts on the site of an old Sears warehouse he bought four years ago. ``And the interest in the community is there. The market studies prove the interest is there.''


Oakland Park is benefiting from trends that have fueled redevelopment in other eastern cities, including continued population growth, a scarcity of vacant land to the west, and new interest in urban living.

The city's proximity to booming downtown Fort Lauderdale, the beaches and Interstate 95, coupled with relatively affordable land, also have boosted demand, City Manager John Stunson said.

Deborah Mayor and her husband, Craig, moved their decorative arts and antiques shop to a Dixie Highway site they bought and renovated last year.

''I knew Main Street was getting ready to do something, that they were pushing for changes,'' Deborah Mayor said. ``I was hoping to get in for the start of it.''


City officials recently created a new zoning district around the downtown area, encouraging mixed-use development in place of industrial uses.

New regulations and design guidelines will ensure that builders contribute to public amenities and stick to the ''Main Street'' feeling the city is striving for, Stunson said.

Money for improvements underway has been secured through grants, tax revenue, and loans to be paid back over time, Stunson said.

The League of Cities loan will be repaid over 20 years with money set aside in the general budget and stormwater fund, he said.

''It has already been built into the budget,'' he said, ``and there are not expected to be any other increases.''

The downtown district sits in a 1,000-acre Community Redevelopment Area approved in 2002, making the city eligible to receive money from the county's redevelopment capital program.

If the ''Main Street'' feeling happens, it could benefit longtime business owners like Ellen Cirillo, who opened her restaurant By Word of Mouth 24 years ago, next to the tracks.


The name fit, partly because Cirillo didn't advertise and partly because nobody was likely to stroll past by accident -- not in a neighborhood of low-slung, warehouse-style buildings that shut down after dark.

By Word of Mouth has done well by word of mouth, but Cirillo said she will welcome the passersby she believes are finally coming. ``All of these things come in little mini steps, but it's definitely taking shape. It's definitely happening.''

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Higher density gets on track with planners

Darcie Lunsford

In an effort to lure South Floridians out of their cars, Broward County has become the first in the region to create a countywide roadmap for development along Tri-Rail and major bus routes.

The new Transit-Oriented Development land-use designation was cleared by the state last month.

The designation, dubbed TOD, is a fast-moving trend that promises to open up new development opportunities in land-crunched South Florida. By design, these developments are dense, urban centers created around mass transit venues.

At the same time Broward implements a planning structure, the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, the agency overseeing growth in Palm Beach County, is orchestrating the region's first site-specific TOD surrounding the Tri-Rail station in West Palm Beach.

Broward County's broader designation allows mixed-use development within a quarter-mile of any main-line transit site, such as a Tri-Rail station. Cities would still have to adopt the county framework for a TOD to be created.

To earn the designation, a project must include residential and two accompanying commercial components, such as retail, offices, light industrial facilities or a hotel. It also must be designed to encourage pedestrian and transit traffic and discourage cars.

Transit-Oriented Corridors

The county also created a parallel land-use category, called Transit-Oriented Corridors, with similar mixed-use requirements for major bus and transportation routes such as State Road 7.

The South Florida Regional Planning Council, Broward and Miami-Dade counties' regional planner, is working with the 14 local governments that span State Road 7 in Broward to embrace the new TOC designation and the projects that result.

"It allows for dense population on transit corridors so people don't have to have a car. It doesn't mean they won't," said Greg Stuart, assistant director of Broward's urban planning and redevelopment division. "Right now, we don't have a land-use pattern to get rid of our cars."

TOD and its other transit-oriented siblings are hardly a new urban revolution. Congested metropolises in California, Seattle and other areas have been pushing the concept for years.

But it has been only recently that the light bulb went off in South Florida, which is now awash with TOD talk.

Tamarind transformation

West Palm Beach is speeding ahead with what is the first detailed scenario to emerge with its plan to transform 36 acres along Tamarind Avenue into a mixed-use hub.

The land, largely a hodgepodge of state, county and federal property, between Banyan Boulevard and Fern Street could someday host 2,000 residences, 50,000 square feet of retail, more than 500,000 square feet of offices, hotel rooms and a higher-education satellite campus.

The site encircles the West Palm Beach Tri-Rail station. The region's public commuter train runs on CSX rail parallel to I-95.

The Florida East Coast rail corridor, which is further east and dissects the heart of most South Florida downtowns, also is an obvious spot for TODs. But it currently lacks passenger service.

The state has retained planning, design and construction management firm Gannett Fleming to study the prospects of passenger rail on the tracks.

Rapid bus systems and extending Tri-Rail to Jupiter also will be considered in the study, expected to cost at least $6 million and funded with federal transportation dollars.

Meanwhile, the Tri-Rail line remains the primary focus of TOD projects.

The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council is now drafting the West Palm Beach TOD, arrived at during a weeklong design charrette, into a formal proposal.

If the city and the agencies controlling the land agree, a call for development proposals could go out as early as this summer, according to Jonathan Pertchik, managing principal of Staubach Co., the real estate consultant hired to conduct a feasible study for creating a TOD at the West Palm Beach Tri-Rail and Amtrak station.

A critical component of the West Palm Beach plan is workforce housing geared toward public safety and government workers, many of whom clog the roads commuting to work each day Pertchik said.

"We have to use the transportation infrastructure more efficiently or we are just going to sit in traffic," he said.

The newfound attention, paired with the possibility of erecting dense transit villages on public land, is catching the eye of private developers, as well.

More development at stations

The state Department of Transportation and the South Florida Regional Transit Authority, which controls land at the region's 18 Tri-Rail stations, are looking at development at stations in Boca Raton, Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale.

But a key to furthering TOD could ultimately lie in negotiations now going on between the DOT and the regional transit authority, which operates Tri-Rail.

The transit authority is seeking to win "beneficial use" of all of the region's stations and park-and-ride sites, said Joe Giulietti, the authority's executive director. That would open up development opportunities at the stations, most of which are now controlled by the state, and the 100-foot corridor that spans either side of the Tri-Rail tracks, he said.

Another promising TOD site is the 11.5-acre park-and-ride site on Cypress Creek Road in Fort Lauderdale.

Coconut Grove-based Swerdlow Group, through a long-term lease with the DOT, controls the site, but Swerdlow has a deal to sell control of the land.

Industry speculation names the buyer as a group involving Michael Masanoff, former co-developer of T-Rex Corporate Center in Boca Raton and a governor-appointed board member of the regional transit authority.

Masanoff declined to confirm his involvement in the buyers' group, but said the Cypress Creek site is ideal for a TOD project. To achieve that, however, the existing development entitlements allowing for offices, telecom and hotel spaces would have to be modified to include residential. So far, no formal push to change the existing plan has been made by any potential buyers, according to DOT officials.

Masanoff is a leading proponent of creating TODs regionwide as a vehicle for improving mass transit and road conditions. He said that giving developers the flexibility and support to make the projects economical feasible for private sector deals will determine their ultimate success.

And these days, that means residential density.

"You need a mix of uses. You need a balance of uses," Masanoff said. "You don't need more commercial."

E-mail Real Estate Editor Darcie Lunsford at [email protected]

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Fort Lauderdale commission OKs luxurious Trump Tower along beachfront

By Brittany Wallman

Staff Writer

Posted February 16 2005

FORT LAUDERDALE -- A hotel bearing Donald Trump's name and the design of renowned architect Michael Graves was unanimously approved Tuesday night, giving momentum to a project considered key to the beach's transformation to a classy tourist destination.

The 24-story Trump International Hotel & Tower will rise on State Road A1A on the beachfront, filling the block between Terramar and Windamar streets.

Graves, a noted international architect also known for his design of can openers, clocks and toasters sold at Target stores, attended the City Commission meeting, where Vice Mayor Dean Trantalis complimented him for redesigning the hotel to trim its size.

The 298-room hotel is more massive than would be allowed under today's development rules, but the city could do little to change the project because an earlier version of the condo-hotel was approved in 2001 and that approval is still valid, according to a memo by city staff.

Nevertheless the redesigned hotel has 215 fewer parking spaces and 22 fewer units than first approved.

"I think the building is a very attractive addition to the beach," said Trantalis, adding that the Trump insignia should help promote the beach to the outside world.

The gutted shell of the old Gold Cost/Merrimac hotel stands alone on the block now where the new hotel, to be operated by Trump, will be built.

Next door, the new The Atlantic condo-hotel, the first of the new luxury resorts, opened last year.

At least eight major beachfront condo-hotels were approved several years ago, and after a stall in the economy, are now under way.

Elsewhere on the beach, smaller projects are filling in where older, smaller buildings have been torn down.

The city hopes to create a posh tourist destination at the beach. To that end, they grappled Tuesday with the new form of hotels -- "condo-hotels" whose units are sold and used partly as short-term homes.

Generally, city officials don't want condo residents on the central beachfront; they want hotel tourists. So they announced plans to pass a new law to better define "hotel." Specifically, they want any buyers of units in the condo-hotels to know they can't stay more than 30 days at a time, three times a year.

"We're concerned that people from out of the area or internationally will buy one of these things and consider it a permanent residence," City Attorney Harry Stewart said.

For years, the central beach has been ground zero in the public debate about over-development. That was evident Tuesday, as beach residents spoke out against the 37-unit Marbella Place project, saying it was too big.

Attorney Don Hall withdrew the project in the midst of the public hearing, asking that it be postponed until March 15.

Residents complained that Marbella Place's two seven-story buildings at the northwest corner of Riomar Street and Birch Road would be too tall in their neighborhood, but Commissioner Carlton Moore said height alone is not the sole measure of compatibility.

"I happened to go to the Heat game the other night and saw Shaq with his wife," he said. "They're very compatible. But they're different heights."

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Posted on Fri, Feb. 18, 2005


City-county joint venture pushed

Fort Lauderdale and Broward County officials say they will work together to study the possibility of a joint downtown government campus.


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They didn't hold hands or sing, but the display of unity was unusual just the same: Fort Lauderdale and Broward County commissioners seated together, sharing ideas, calling for a new era of cooperation.

Their common purpose: creating a downtown campus with open greens, striking architecture, a mix of housing prices, busy sidewalks, and, not least, new government buildings.

''We are at a unique crossroads in the development of Broward County,'' said County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman. ``At some point we need to put our parochialism aside and forget that we're the county and you're the city.''

Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Christine Teel said she hoped to provide a ``shining example for the rest of the country of what can happen when a county and city work together.''

Their remarks and others in the same vein came at a joint meeting, apparently the first of many, on the best use of government-owned land in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Between them, the county and city own several blocks around the intersection of Broward Boulevard and Southwest First Avenue, and extending north.

County administrator Roger Desjarlais has pushed the idea of a public-private partnership in which the county, possibly with the city, would offer some of that prime real estate for private development in exchange for new government facilities, open space, and other amenities.

The county wants to replace its aging government center, a former Burdines department store. Fort Lauderdale wants a new city hall.

Just how or whether such a deal could work remains to be seen, and commissioners at both levels of government have expressed some skepticism about bringing in the private sector.

But following presentations Thursday by Desjarlais and Fort Lauderdale City Manager George Gretsas, A consensus emerged to explore the possibilities further -- and together.

The two administrators proposed that Fort Lauderdale hire its own consultant to help the city refine its vision for the downtown core.

Commissioners told Desjarlais and Gretsas to come up with more details and discuss them at a future joint commission meeting.

The city and county may end up moving in different directions with their properties. But both would benefit from exploring common interests and, the administrators said.

''Roger and I have a handshake agreement to make sure that our bureaucracies, our governments, our teams will work hand in glove,'' Gretsas said.

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What a difference half a decade makes. When I left Fort Lauderdale in April of 2000, the downtown was a speck, an embarassment, really. There were signs up, of course, about all these wonderful new projects that were going to be built--just as soon as they leased out. Some of the signs were for buildings that were supposed to start construction in 1998...

Suffice to say, I hardly recognized the place when I went back this weekend. Fort Lauderdale actually looks like a city now.

Twill be a shame if they plow under the movie theatre in Riverfront to put more condos on top of it. Looks like some few hundred units are still under construction; eliminating some part of the entertainment district now seems, well, short-sighted. I was, however, disappointed to see that the Hyde Park Market sits empty and neglected. Downtown will need a quality supermarket once 3500 people move in there. Does anyone know of any plans to revive the market, or (more likely) are they planning to destroy it and put something else there?

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I suppose that qualifies as irony. Where will the people in the 42 stories buy their food? I suppose there is that publix on the south bank of the river. I'm just disappointed to have lost the Market; it was quite chic to shop there, despite the fact that it was a horrible grocery store.

I do hope the design is something nice. That big blue one is an incredible building.

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Broward approves thousands of new residences in Lauderdale, Hollywood

By Scott Wyman

Staff writer

Posted March 16 2005

The eastward march of Broward County's development picked up speed on Tuesday as county commissioners agreed to allow 3,000 more residences to be built in downtown Fort Lauderdale. It also gave Hollywood the power to better use blighted parts of its city core for new housing.

Fort Lauderdale wanted the right to add 13,000 residential units downtown, but city officials could not overcome concern that roads, schools and utilities could not keep pace with such rapid growth. Still, the expansion agreed to by the county could result in 10 high-rise condos the size of downtown's current largest building, the 42-story Las Olas River House.

Hollywood, on the other hand, is expanding the area designated as its downtown so it can bring residential and commercial development to the Federal Highway and Dixie Highway corridors that so far have been left out of its revitalization. Hollywood's proposal does not increase its downtown density, but focuses where the remaining 4,400 units allowed under its current cap are built.

Tuesday's decisions will not result immediately in any construction in either city because the state Department of Community Affairs must approve both proposals, and then the county must conduct a second round of review. But officials said the decisions signal how development is shifting away from the western suburbs where open land is increasingly scarce to older coastal communities.

"Broward County is going from a sleepy, suburban community to the sixth largest urban area in the nation," County Mayor Kristin Jacobs said. "We are waking up to that fact and realizing we must figure out how to maintain our quality of life and build a sustainable community."

While some slow-growth advocates and environmental activists remain concerned about the effect of such plans, Fort Lauderdale officials complained that the county had set back efforts to expand affordable housing and mass transit. A dearth of additional housing units will drive up the price developers can seek and mean fewer people to sustain any type of downtown rail or trolley system.

"The people are coming and the question is how do we properly plan for growth," said Chris Wren of the Downtown Development Authority.


Fort Lauderdale wanted to raise the cap on housing from 8,000 units to 21,000 allowed between Sunrise Boulevard and the Tarpon River and between Federal Highway and Northwest Seventh Avenue. That would have meant as many as 26,000 additional residents.

Although major residential projects have been under way downtown for more than five years, city officials told the county that more are needed if the area is to become an urban center. The city has reached the maximum number of units allowed south of Broward Boulevard and has plans on the table to eat up those allowed in the downtown area north of Broward.

In an effort to win approval, city officials agreed to set aside 15 percent of the new units for affordable housing and pledged about $6 million in impact fees to address overcrowded schools. But they could not reconcile starkly different views about the impact of the extra growth.

County Commissioner John Rodstrom, who represents downtown Fort Lauderdale, joined neighborhood activists in charging that roads, sewer and water systems, parks and the electric supply are inadequate. Rodstrom persuaded his colleagues to limit the number of new units to 3,000 and to require the city to come back with better justification for more.

The city's traffic study said 13,000 additional units would more than double the traffic downtown even if some residents walked and others rode mass transit. Rodstrom said the city has not approved a needed switching station to bring more electricity downtown or a needed water tower to improve water pressure.

Rodstrom was particularly concerned about overdevelopment because another proposal that county commissioners will soon consider would allow the city to shift 20,000 more residential units downtown.

City commissioners and their planning staff promptly criticized the county decision.

They said utilities would be upgraded and that improvements in mass transit could only occur if more housing is built downtown. Currently, plans are on the drawing boards for a downtown light rail, a rail system along Interstate 595, an automated people-mover at the airport and seaport and public transit along the Florida East Coast Railroad tracks.


With the Hollywood project, the area designated as downtown would expand from 384 acres to 1,486 acres, encompassing most of the area south of Sheridan Street, east of Interstate 95, west of South 17th Avenue and north of Pembroke Road.

The expansion allows the city more flexibility in deciding which properties to develop. City officials would be able to focus a mix of housing, office and commercial development along major corridors served by mass transit.

Some residents had been concerned that the city planned to place all of the 4,400 remaining housing units in its primary downtown area around Young Circle, saying such a move would create a blighted outer Hollywood and an inner core of luxury housing.

City officials assured the county that was not the case. They pledged that half of the units would not be built in the core area.

City Commissioner Beam Furr said Hollywood planned to target the west side of Dixie Highway, the area south of Adams Street and corridors like Federal Highway. Furr said the city had to put the brakes on redeveloping those areas because of planning restrictions.

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