The Wrong Idea in the Right Place
Coverage of Broward Crossing in Sun Sentinel's January 14, 2022 edition
Our recent blog on the wall-to-wall development being permitted in downtown Fort Lauderdale appeared a day too soon. Almost on cue, the Sun Sentinel reported on a proposal for the tallest condominium in the city, located just west of the Brightline station on Broward Boulevard. The novel modern design would provide for 1,000 new units.
In describing the 47-story structure, to be known as Broward Crossing, the paper illustrated the divide between the city officials' attitude toward growth, and the thinking of people who have to deal with the consequences of the seemingly endless parade of cranes signaling tall new buildings. Nobody questions the location. It is within a short walk of the commuter train.
"It's very dramatic," Mayor Dean Trantalis said. "It's dramatic in form and shape as opposed to a static rendering that we see in almost all the other buildings in our downtown. It creates movement and awe as you look at it."
Commissioner Steve Glassman, who represents the district where the building would rise, also sounded enthusiastic. "My first impression was ‘Wow,’" Glassman is quoted. "I thought the architecture was really cool. We have several cool buildings downtown, but we have too many boxes. This design really does make a statement for Broward Boulevard as a gateway for people heading into the city from the west."
Charlie Ladd, a developer and board member of the Downtown Development Authority, thought the design's flair would inspire other developers to be more creative in their designs. But none of those individuals mentioned the impact of all those new units on those of us already living here. To the contrary, some of their quotes sounded as if they were written by the developer's PR firm.
Christian Garay, president of the Sailboat Bend Civic Association, praised the design and added that he has friends in real estate who tell him the city needs more high-rise towers. "Now more than ever you're seeing a lack of available properties out there, both commercial and residential," he said. "There's not enough properties on the market to keep up with demand. The city needs to progress. And buildings like this show progress.”
Charlie Ladd concurred, and responded to people who said the new building was just too much. His comment: "Last I heard they don't have cities in the United States where they say, ‘No one else can come here.’ Builders will stop building when people stop filling up the buildings."
He said current high rises are full and the city needs to facilitate new development. The comment seems doubtful to anyone who has seen buildings at night with few lights on suggesting occupancy.
As far as cities that don’t welcome newcomers, you don’t have to go very far to find Florida communities which don’t want many newcomers. Stuart and Vero Beach, for instance, in the 1970s passed height limitations (about four stories) to prevent what they saw going on to the south. And this was before Fort Lauderdale’s downtown took off. Fort Lauderdale’s one tall building was nine floors. It was rather a reaction to wall-to-wall high rises along the beaches of Dade and Broward counties.
Fort Lauderdale was — and still is — used as an example of what these cities don’t want to become. And it is no coincidence that both Vero and Stuart are filled with people who fled South Florida to return to an unhurried lifestyle that attracted them in the first place.
The irony of the opposition to the proposed latest big building is that the site just west of the railroad could use development. It is a perfect location for a nice four-story office building which would attract commuters using the convenience of Brightline from up and down the coast, and be gone after work, rather than new residents who would rarely use the train but add their cars to the worsening traffic mess.