Las Olas Riverfront to be demolished in April to make way for retail, apartments

Las Olas Riverfront renderings (Credit: ArX Solutions) Inset: Ryan Shear
Las Olas Riverfront renderings (Credit: ArX Solutions) Inset: Ryan Shear

UPDATED March 16, 11:30 a.m.: Demolition crews soon will start tearing down the Las Olas Riverfront property in downtown Fort Lauderdale to clear the site for a new mixed-use development with 1,200 rental apartments.

Ryan Shear, a Miami-based principal of Property Markets Group (PMG), said fencing will be installed around the mostly vacant property next week and demolition will start sometime in April.

“We are approved and entitled for the project,” he said, but PMG’s application to the city of Fort Lauderdale for a demolition permit is still pending. “We’re going as fast as the city will let us.”

Shear also said the first phase of construction, including about 650 apartments and about 30,000 square feet of retail space, is scheduled for completion in 2020.

PMG plans to build a total of 40,000 square feet of retail space, mainly for food and beverage businesses, and 1,200 apartments with smaller-than-standard floor plans – about 525 square feet for one-bedroom units, for example.

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PMG recently bought most of the Las Olas Riverfront property from Fort Lauderdale-based developer Dev Motwani and his partners for $29 million.

PMG acquired about 2.4 acres on the western portion of the property. Motwani and his partners retained 1.3 acres on the eastern portion.

Speculation about the property’s potential for redevelopment suffocated Las Olas Riverfront after its successful 1998 opening. Weekend crowds flocked to the riverfront property in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, then a popular destination for dining, drinking and people-watching.

The original developer, Michael Swerdlow, sold Las Olas Riverfront in 2005 to a firm called Boca Developers, which announced plans to redevelop the property and triggered the departure of multiple tenants seeking a long-term address. Boca Developers subsequently defaulted on a mortgage loan from the old Wachovia Bank on the depopulated property. In 2008, the bank transferred the defaulted mortgage to New York City-based private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.

Motwani and his partners bought Las Olas Riverfront from Cerberus for $16.7 million in 2012. In 2015, Motwani looked for a partner to help redevelop the property, which led to his group’s partnership with PMG. Motwani said he is a partner in the rental-apartment element of the planned redevelopment and in the project’s riverfront-retail element, which would cover 20,000 square feet of retail space, or half of the planned total of 40,000 square feet. 

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly characterized Dev Motwani’s move to seek a partner in 2015.

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