Fort Lauderdale City Hall’s Lack Of Vision


South Beach.

It’s Hip. It’s Happening. It’s one of the world’s most desirable destinations for art, fashion, nightlife.and tourism.

And it’s so not Fort Lauderdale Beach.

South Beach was a economic development concept.  The idea was to save Miami Beach’s unique Art Deco structures and the open space that existed, creating something truly unique.

Clashing with developers, visionaries transformed a high-crime slum filled with crumbling single-occupancy hotels and elderly retirees into a world-class location. 

Fort Lauderdale?

Where are our visionaries?  Certainly not in City Hall.

Developers have led the city and staff around by the nose for four decades.  

Developers don’t do vision well.  They are primarily interested in how much profit they can squeeze from a project.

The result is visible all over Fort Lauderdale: 

Traffic and overcrowding. Paving over the open space.  A long line of unremarkable towers. The ongoing destruction of everything distinctive about Fort Lauderdale.

Developers again are driving the train on two abominable projects Bahia Mar and the First Presbyterian Church’s expansion plans.

The First Presbyterian project would destroy the character of one of Fort Lauderdale’s oldest neighborhood– off east Las Olas Boulevard.

If the church has its way, the neighborhood of leafy streets, spacious homes, open space and riverfront will be scarred by a five-story parking garage and a sprawling social center.

The project’s army of lobbyists are shoving this monstrosity down our throats, while they stuff boatloads of cash in their pockets.

The lobbyists’ new tactic is to exclude everyone from the planning and zoning vote on the project who have ties to the affected community.  

I guess representative government in Fort Lauderdale only includes representatives of the developers.

Nearby this project is the Bahia Mar, 38 acres of prime land on the barrier island. 

The city commission and its staff apparently have no ideas how to use this land.  Once again, the developer is running the show.

This ridiculous plan in the name of tourism and “preserving the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show would allow the developer to build a structure almost five times longer and three times wider than allowed under the current zoning.

On top of this block of concrete would be two towers almost 10 stories higher than the existing Bahia Mar.

Yet despite adding hundreds of new condominium and hotel units, there would be a 25 percent reduction in the parking requirement.  

Ever try to park on Fort Lauderdale Beach now? 

This Bahia Mar plan is insanity.  It’s an assault on a huge piece of city-owned open space.  It is an example of the total lack of vision and planning that permeates this city.

Why not plan something exciting?  Why not plan something different?  Why not make use of the open space and docks to create a real destination?

Instead, developers want yet another commonplace condo-hotel development.  And the city commission appears ready to approve it.

Supporters of the deal talk about $1 billion in benefits from the boat show over the next 100 years.

This 100-year deal yes, 100 years! won’t guarantee that the boat show will remain here. 

Despite all this talk about a better tomorrow, who has a crystal ball clear enough to look even five years into the future, much less 100?

Surely not the Fort Lauderdale Commission.  They see only as far as the next election.

This deal doesn’t guarantee that the developer won’t flip the property.  It doesn’t guarantee that any new owner won’t return to the city commission to negotiate an even more developer-friendly deal.

This 100-deal stinks.

But sadly, that’s what we’ve learned to expect from the Fort Lauderdale City Commissionno matter who is in office.

18 Responses to “Fort Lauderdale City Hall’s Lack Of Vision”

  1. Resident says:

    You nailed it, “They see only as far as the next election.”

    That’s it.

  2. eye on the prize says:

    It’s not about the lobbiest you see but the ones you don’t see…
    Like Judy Stern who is not a lobbiest in Fort Lauderdale but is considered to have sway with Roberts, Rodstrom, Rogers and Seiler. Why does this matter?

    Because all the big hitters involved with the Church do lots of business with the Broward County Commission where Stern is the top lobbiest. Get it.

    I wonder how many of the Church backers have donated to Momma Stern’s daughter Barbara Stern who is running for the House?

    Not hard to imaging this non lobbiest having coffee at the Floridian with the Bahia Mar developers at some point either.

    It’s not what you see but what you don’t see.

  3. Fort Lauderdale says:

    Fort Lauderdale is not just any Broward city. It is our economic, fiancial, civic, tourism and cultural center. It is downtown Broward. It is our local capital just like Miami is to Dade and Jacksonville is to Duval.

    Fort Lauderdale is a true city, not a suburb. Open space is very nice and Broward has a ton of it. This is not one of those luxuries you can have much of in a city environment. If you want open space, go to a park. Let our one great city grow and become more impressive.

    We need to stop this small minded foolishness. Broward is not a small 300,000 person county anymore. We have 2 million people in Broward now. That is a lot of folks to employ, feed, entertain and so forth. If you want the Fort Lauderdale of decades ago, go move further north. It is time for Broward to wake up and get moving forward instead of backward. For this county to thrive, Fort Lauderdale needs to be vibrant and grow.

  4. change the code says:

    Ever hear about property rights?
    If it meets the code, which I realize some commisioners vote for anything, and they own it how far do we go in telling them what they can build without becoming a communist city?
    Its all about getting 3 out of 5 in your pocket.

  5. Seiler A Major Disappointment says:

    None other than Jack Seiler is fully behind both these proposals. He is 180 degrees different from Jim Naugle. Naugle always stood with the people against developers. Seiler was in the legislature too long and brough his sellout attitude back with him.

  6. Hate south Beach says:

    South beach: drugs, strippers, wannabees, whores, obnoxious celebrities, drunks, rowdies…why would Ft. Lauderdale want to replicate that? Ftl- classy, calm, fun, sophisticated, professional, did I say classy….let’s keep it that way…

    FROM BUDDY: Fort Lauderdale beach “classy”??? Fort Lauderdale has all the types you mentioned, except maybe the celebrities.
    Classy means elegant and stylish. Have you driven there lately?

  7. S only says:

    This gigantic growth is disgusting and should be stopped. Whoever appproves this should be bumped out of office. Already it is too crowded and uninteresting by the beach. I agree with Buddy. Find a decent vision like Miami Beach did and then maybe people will want to come to Ft. Lauderdale.

  8. Raymond Dettmann says:

    Buddy Your Right I am concern that every area that the regular Resident would like to Visit will be unable to access because of expense or not accessible like No Parking so only for VIP’S and access and the Old charm of some areas like Colee Hammock will be lost I am very concern what I believe is a big disappointment with Mayor Seiler that He is not willing to be a All Inclusive Mayor I have read the E-mail that Mayor Seiler wrote to a Resident telling him if your so unhappy why dont you move out and other incidents like that.Also Commissioner Rogers is not looking at the big picture thru the average regular Resident concerns He stated that he was looking for a architect to appoint to Planning Zoning Board my view the board already has plenty of Professional on the board that make a living with the Development groups how about a regular common resident that cares about the City.

  9. Carla Vick says:

    Amen, Amen, Amen

  10. Frank White says:

    If we wanted something with vision, we should really petition to change the county seat to Hollywood. However, to even place it on the ballot would require a petition signed by 1/3 the registered voters of broward county.

  11. not so fast says:

    What do these 2 projects mentioned have in common? They are both trying to get rezoned PUD…Planned Urban Disaster! PUD is a gigantic loophole in the Zoning Ordinance which needs to be closed before the whole city is destroyed. Spot zoning at its worst. Lets get back on track Jack!!!

  12. Ray Williams says:


    It is too bad you don’t check your facts. Your understanding and description of the church project reflects a few hard liner representaitves of the neighborhood and not the facts related to the project or the intent and actions of the church to address neighborhood concerns.

  13. watcher says:

    just thinking about the wonderful royal poncianas planted on the swales by the city 30 years ago that are now so beautiful…are we giving our grandkids anything like that in what’s happening now?

  14. E. Miranda Lopez says:

    Excellent article. Every word speaks the truth.
    Good commentaries but for the one that recomends non stop building growth for our city. Good urban planning requires a balance between open spaces and buildings. The more generousity on inner parks, open spaces, the more liveble the city will be. The best cities on the world are the ones that preserve their character and take pride on their open spaces while adapting themselves into the XXI century.(Paris /La Defense, Washington DC, Chicago, New York, Buenos Aires, Lisbon, etc.)

  15. James says:

    Many politicians in south Florida give the farm away to special interests and suffer from lack of vision.

  16. PG says:

    We just don’t seem to get it. It is one thing to permit urban development in downtown areas, but it is another thing to allow neighborhood intrusion of development that is way too intense like a parking garage in Colle Hammock. Ivy Stranahan must be turning over in her grave. With regard to the proposed Bahia Mar project, please . . . give me a break.

  17. Frank White says:

    a parking garage or some solution to the parking situation is much needed in Colee Hammock/Las olas.

  18. OMG says:

    Have you driven by the church neighborhood recently?? It’s already destroyed that neighborhood, with the exception of a small patch of land they call a park! There is no doubt that project will pass–there’s lots of back door money to be had on both projects…follow the money as they say Buddy. Sadly both project will be a “go” and we all know it.