Frank's Plantation

It was envisioned as a well-planned community in a rural setting. Too bad long-time mayor Frank Veltri couldn't make it happen.

Peters advertised his communal development with fliers proclaiming in boldface type, "A Full Acre With Every Home." The fliers explained: "The spacious lots ensure the homeowner against crowding by neighbors. Careful building and zoning regulations are provided in this modern planned community."

In 1953 Veltri got a job as comptroller of First Federal of Broward and promptly bought one of Peters' acres in Plantation. Two years later the Veltri family moved in to its new house in the new city, which then had just 300 residents. University Drive was then called Annapu Road, with nothing but swamp and cattle country to its west.

By the time Veltri moved into Plantation, Peters' plan had become more realistic. Rather than building a farming cooperative, Peters and his architect, Russell Thorne Pancoast, the grandson of Miami Beach pioneer (and Collins Avenue namesake) John S. Collins, decided to build an "antidevelopment." On August 1, 1954, the Miami Herald publicly unveiled the new city plan in a Sunday spread, with a banner headline calling Plantation "The City of the Future," and another headline declaring, "Ultra-Modern Master Plan Brings Rural Life to Town." Pancoast's plan was to build a town center with a shopping and business area. Near the town center would be apartment buildings and other forms of high-density housing, with population density decreasing as it radiated outward from the center.

Neighborhoods of single-family houses were to follow a square pattern to make getting around the city uncomplicated. August Burghard wrote in his book The Story of Frederick Peters that the city also had an "anti-look-alike" ordinance to prevent the uninspiring "development look" that was taking over South Florida.

"Uncrowded growth was the city's formula," Burghard wrote.
In addition to a bustling town center, Pancoast's diagram for the city included sections for commercial and industrial land use on parts of Sunrise Boulevard, along State Road 7, and in a few other pockets, which would provide the city a tax base and provide for the needs of the residents. Huge regional shopping developments were antithetical to the plan.

"We have what we think will be the finest city in the United States, one offering rural living within one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country," Ellsworth Gage, the first mayor of Plantation, said in the Herald article, adding that Plantation would "set a pattern all over the country."

Fred T. Peters, one of the founder's three sons, became the city's first fire chief, and Veltri became a friend of the Peters family when he joined the volunteer fire department in 1956. Four years later Veltri, who was still working at the savings and loan, became fire chief.

Then, in the early '60s, the senior Peters fell ill, and in order that his family wouldn't be burdened with the planning of the city's future, they decided to sell the undeveloped 5400 acres of land west of University. Peters' intention had been that it would become a part of the city. Early attempts to sell the land, according to the late Pancoast in Burghard's book, were fraught with the conflict between Peters' vision and the new buyers' plans. Contract negotiations collapsed as developers refused to follow Peters' plan.

Peters died in 1964, and then the family finally sold the land, at roughly $3000 an acre, to Gulfstream, a consortium of big-money investors led by Henry Epstein, a real estate mogul from Philadelphia famous for buying entire towns, and Edgar Bronfman, Sr., the billionaire president of Seagram's.

In 1969, while Gulfstream was busy planning the new future of Plantation, Veltri ran for office and won a seat on the council. By 1973 Gulfstream had acquired all the remaining acres of the Peters family's holdings. And the company had big dreams all its own.

Tucked away in a file at the state's South Florida Regional Planning Office is Gulfstream's 1973 application to build on its new, raw land. And Gulfstream made it perfectly clear to the state that it wanted nothing to do with the rural hopes of Plantation's founders -- the corporation estimated that $3 billion would be pumped into the area by the mid-'90s, and 54,000 housing units for 132,000 people would be built. Only a quarter of those units would be single-family houses, the rest a conglomeration of low-rise, mid-rise, and high-rise apartments, townhouses, and finally condominiums, which were all the rage at the time.

In addition to the dense housing, Gulfstream had already made agreements with Motorola, American Express, and the future builders of the Broward Mall. Gulfstream would "not be a bedroom community, but contain a large number of commercial, industrial, and home office establishments," wrote Gulfstream marketing consultant Reinhold P. Wolff in the application. West Broward, Wolff surmised, was prime development property because it "offers a great deal of building land in the relatively short distance from Fort Lauderdale, the core of the metropolitan area.... It is also in the path of the urban development which originates from the employment centers of Dade County and has moved northward through the West Hollywood and Pembroke areas. This development undoubtedly will eventually encompass Palm Beach County."

The plan caused some uproar at the time, as it called for 10.2 housing units per acre -- more than twice that allowed by the Broward County Area Planning Board. County officials warned that such a massive development would set dangerous precedents for the entire undeveloped region and that the ability for roads, namely University Drive, to handle such a development was highly questionable.

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