Dixie Highway, between Oakland Park and Commercial boulevards, is not exactly what one would describe as a walking and eating district. Downtrodden strip malls, dodgy warehouses, old apartment buildings, and the old FEC railroad track lines the street. Ever heard the term "wrong side of the tracks"? It's not the worst neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale, but at the moment it's certainly nothing to write home about.
Well, that's starting to change.
The city has been eligible for grants through the Community Reinvestment Act. And it is attempting to turn this once unattractive, industrial neighborhood into a walking culinary arts district. After years of street improvements and underground projects, the city is making headway with the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Funky Buddha Lounge.
On Monday, November 26, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm, the city of Oakland Park will commence the construction on the first part of the new culinary district, the public plaza of Oakland Station (1202 NE 38th St.). The station is intended to become the northern anchor to the new culinary district. Along with the Funky Buddha, the city is working to bring in a European style market, with all sorts of vendors ranging from cheese mongers to vegetable stands, to fill the eastern end of the plaza.
The city is currently talking with a couple local institutions about bringing a culinary school in to serve as the southern anchor to the district. The idea is to create a walkable strip filled with restaurants and shops. According to Community and Economic Development Director Ray Lubomski, "We're trying to create a meeting place where people can get together, people watch, and look for entertainment."
The City Commission and Mayor Anne Sallee will be present and commenting on the activities of the event. The city will be honoring the Funky Buddha Brewery, as well as the property owner, Sam Jazayri. The event, which is open to the public, will feature refreshments, a sample beer tasting from the Funky Buddha, and live entertainment by Oakland Park native Mark Zaden of the Weedline Band.
As of right now, the Funky Buddha is planning to open in February. The brewery and city are hoping for a 90 day construction period for the plaza. "February might not be a full opening, maybe a soft, but the overall goal is to be in full swing by St. Patty's day and to have a big bash," says Lubomski.
The city commission just approved an incentive program to lure new businesses and improve already existing businesses in the area.
Will the plan work? Well, with the Funky Buddha in tow, the city sure is off to a good start.
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