The Real Deal Miami

Fort Lauderdale mayor: County cooperation would boost development downtown

City wants 5,000 more residential units in its land use plan
By Mike Seemuth | March 27, 2015 03:00PM

An aerial shot of Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale Mayor John P. “Jack” Seiler  said the city’s downtown area has good potential for further residential development that could improve through better cooperation with Broward County.

“We want to see a lot more density downtown,” Seiler said, speaking Friday morning at a meeting of the Builders Association of South Florida in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The mayor said about 4,000 additional residential units are now in some phase of development downtown, and the city wants to include 5,000 more in its land-use plan.

Fort Lauderdale has proposed a  land-use plan amendment to increase the allowable number of residential development in the Downtown Regional Activity Center by 5,000. To comply with the Broward County Land Use Policy, the city proposed setting aside 15 percent, or 750 units, of the 5,000 additional units for affordable housing. After state agencies review the proposed land-use plan amendment, it must be approved by the Broward County Planning Council and the Broward County Commission to become effective.

But Seiler said he is frustrated with Broward County’s affordable housing policy because Fort Lauderdale is doing more than its fair share in requiring residential developers to build affordable housing units for such residents as young workers and retirees.

“Fort Lauderdale has the largest gross number and percentage of affordable housing units in Broward County,” Seiler said. “Parkland and Weston and places like that have zero …. You can’t overwhelm one city with affordable housing.”

“I think there is a great opportunity here [in Fort Lauderdale] for development and redevelopment,” Seiler said, citing in particular the Riverwalk area along the New River, anchored by a linear public park, which he said has the potential to become as lively and famous as the popular River Walk district in San Antonio, Texas.

The mayor said relocating a Broward County correctional facility that is now adjacent to the New River would boost the development potential of the Riverwalk area.

“We’d love to see them relocate that,” Seiler said. “That property is worth tens of millions of dollars.” But “I’m not optimistic.”

He said the county rejected a city proposal to put a dog park on county land next to the correctional facility.

The long-planned relocation of the federal courthouse at Broward Boulevard and Northeast Third Avenue  to a site on Federal Highway at Northeast 7 Street is still pending approval from the federal government, Seiler said. The current courthouse location at the corner of Broward Boulevard and Northeast Third Avenue would be “ideal for a high-rise office building,” he said.

“But I don’t think you’re going to see any substantive projects east of Federal Highway,” Seiler said, citing the Victoria Park area, in particular. “Nobody wants to see that neighborhood encroached more.”