The Real Deal Miami

Mayor sees taller Fort Lauderdale skyline in future

By Roger Drouin | March 09, 2009 12:28PM

Developers are starting to respond to Lauderdale Mayor-elect Jack Seiler’s call for a new map laying out the city’s future growth.

Local architect Tamara Peacock is encouraged by Seiler’s focus on Sistrunk Boulevard, which the mayor calls a “blank slate” for new condos, apartments, office and retail. “It really could get things going,” Peacock said. The mayor wants to revamp the three-mile, crime-plagued swath of rundown storefronts and vacant land within blocks of downtown.

Peacock is part of a team that has pitched “Flagler Lofts” on city-owned land in this area.

Steiler also wants to allow taller, denser condo towers downtown and more shops and restaurants. He wants new developments to go up in the northwest corner of the city, including Sistrunk, close to downtown. In a concession to neighborhood groups, he promises to limit McMansions and townhomes in single-family residential neighborhoods.

If the new mayor can win enough support from fellow commissioners to reshape the city’s development regulations and master plan, it could change the city’s skyline for decades to come. Although construction is at a standstill now, a new plan for development would have a profound impact for 20 or 30 years, said Gene Boles, a land use professor at the University of Florida.

Peacock plans to meet with Seiler soon to talk about the proposal for retail below three floors of rental townhouses. The timing is ripe for such a project, she said, because the condo market is so cold. “We need something that could actually get built there,” Peacock said.

Sergio Contreras, the broker/president of HomeTerra Real Estate, doesn’t see new developments breaking ground anywhere in the city until some of the condo inventory on the market starts to sell. In five years or so, there is an opportunity for retail and residential in Sistrunk if Seiler follows through on his vision. Two candidates running for the city’s District III seat, representing the northwest quadrant of the city, are also calling for redevelopment in their district.

“If you want to convince someone to invest there has to be more than just one condo in the middle of Sistrunk,” Contreras said. A Starbucks or Publix supermarket, for instance, would make it more attractive for prospective buyers of condos in the mid to high end range.

The 151-acre Flagler Village development and future projects on two adjacent vacant parcels, along with others such as Peacock’s Flagler Lofts proposal, could end up providing the spark needed for redevelopment.

“If you walk out your door and see nice buildings to the left and right people will start taking the risk and buying there,” Contreras said.