Best Candidate for Urban Renewal 2005 | Downtown Dania Beach | Besttropical | South Florida

The two-mile drive west from A1A along Dania Beach Boulevard -- mostly between two towering rows of unbroken treeline, with nary a strip mall in sight -- is one of the more relaxing in Broward County. Then, just past the jai-alai fronton, you encounter Federal Highway, Dania's boon and bane. By far the most visible strip in the town, the stretch of Federal between the town's northern border and Sterling Road is regularly plugged with traffic. Why? Well, there's the nearby airport, Interstate 595, a dead end on A1A, and a lack of roadways connecting Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale. It's a glut of humans and cars -- yet storefronts up and down the strip are shuttered or in mild disrepair. Why? For starters, the buildings are pressed this close to the highway, and a great many of the businesses are dives, antiques shops, and the like. The city has offered money for business improvement loans in the downtown corridor, and the expected windfall of slot machines at Dania Jai-Alai will no doubt alter the landscape. But some new pink paint and gambling traffic aren't going to fix the infrastructure problems of Broward's oldest, funkiest town. Money must be invested, buildings redesigned to accommodate pedestrian traffic, and other things as fun as Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant opened. Otherwise, Dania Beach will remain an eyesore suffering in what ought to be a providential location.

Ladies, move on to the next category. This isn't likely to interest you. OK, now that it's just us guys, here's why Shuck's head is so fine: boobs. Big ones. Perky ones. Tanned ones. A couple of dozen framed photos adorn the wall above the two urinals and toilet stall. A few of them show the mammaries of professional football cheerleaders. But most display booberific Mardi Gras shots. These aren't, however, just crass titty shots; they show some real prowess in pictorial framing and composition. Consider one of the best, in which Shuck's owner, Daniel Stasi, and another man ham it up under a pair of 44 double Ds. A smiling young lady rests her bare mams upon the two men's grinning heads, which seem dwarfed in comparison. "Nice Tots" reads the photo's caption.

Even with its sparkling new condominium towers and rejuvenated downtown, America's Venice has nothing on its quaint little neighbor, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Billed as "The Prettiest Small Town in America," this burg is but a half-square-mile located between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. Its beach has somehow escaped the knickknack consumerism associated with Broward's other sandy, waterfront patches. And the city's 2,500-plus residents enjoy an extraordinary coral reef only 100 yards offshore. There are also happening bars and restaurants only feet from the pearly-white sand and a jazz concert at Pelican Square every Friday from 6 to 10 p.m.

Accused of abusing his fiancée, Dan Catalfumo followed the textbook defense taken by many a rich man before him. Catalfumo, who heads a $100 million construction empire, faced an aggravated battery charge for a November 2003 fight with girlfriend Heather Hill that could've landed him in state prison for 15 years. So he hired a high-priced legal team headed by Richard Lubin, brought in a cadre of friends to discredit his accuser, and then paraded a superstar list of expert witnesses to pick apart her story. Instead of being an indictment of Catalfumo, it became a three-week, 45-witness trial of Hill's credibility. Instead of choking and beating her, the story became that Hill was a messy drunk who fell into a glass picture frame on her own (don't you hate when that happens?). She caused the 53 stitches, not Catalfumo. And that ex-girlfriend who claimed Catalfumo had beaten her? She was deftly recast as a liar and backstabber who's nothing more than an ex-stripper. By the end, Catalfumo followed in the footsteps of O.J. and walked. A jury acquitted him March 1 on all charges. It was a victory for the justice sys... uh, no, a victory for rich men everywhere who have been accused of abusing their women. And in a court system in which everybody knows it's a waste of time to charge the rich with a crime, isn't Catalfumo the real victim here?

Still looking for a nice suburban home in Broward County? Poinsettia Park and Wilton Manors will set you back at least $400,000 these days. Have your eye on something out west? You better like inflated prices, cookie-cutter adobes, and I-595 traffic jams. In Broward, where anything under $250,000 is considered affordable, the North Andrews neighborhood remains one of the few reasonably priced areas near Interstate 95. Located east of Andrews Avenue between Prospect and Cypress Creek roads, North Andrews is home to roughly 9,000 residents whose single-family houses are set back from tree-lined streets and recently landscaped medians. Built in the early 1960s and now home to an eclectic mix of families, young professionals, and gay couples, the neighborhood has quickly become a happening enclave only three miles from the Atlantic Ocean.

Broward County's eastern parts have been mightily colonized in the past few years. These days, condo skyscrapers are more common than thongs on Fort Lauderdale Beach. But there is a stretch of this God-forsaken sprawl just off the Intracoastal Waterway where you can let down your hair, lean back, and feel as if you are miles from civilization. The southern stretch of West Lake, just north of Holland Park and south of Sheridan Street, is a bucolic area of birds and trees. No motorboats allowed. The best way to access it is in your own kayak by following the secret waterway just west of Las Palmas Restaurant on Hollywood Beach. If you don't own a kayak, you can rent one. Try West Lake Park on a weekend and paddle south. (You can also rent at Anne Kolb Nature Center -- 954-926-2480 -- on weekdays, but it's a longer paddle.) A kayak goes for $7 an hour or $13 for four hours. There are also kayak trails nearby and a moonlight paddle.

This mile has two possible endings -- kind of like one of those interactive mystery stories. And you've got to hoof it. But it has only one beginning, the mansion built by G. Sherman Chides in 1925 at 1 Fifth Ave., the southernmost end of Bryant Park. You can't miss it -- "La Florentia, The Wedding Cake Castle," a fantastical confection decked out in turrets and chimneys, festooned with pineapples, and gates guarded by two stone lions (and, judging from the signs, at least that many German shepherds). Stand there gaping. Then take the path by the Intracoastal, feeling glad that the unbroken line of condos across the water is -- well -- across the water. Pass the Guatemalan boys playing soccer on the green and the teenagers groping each other on picnic benches. Tempting as it is, just walk on by the multilevel wooden playpark -- you're too heavy for that rope swing and too fat to fit through the tube slide. Pass the listing old cypress trees carved with lovers' names ("Alex and Amber," "J.D. loves Amanda"), the boat ramp ("Be a Better Boater! Watch out for Manatees!"), the fogies parked in their lawn chairs, the shuffleboard courts. Here's your crucial decision. Straight on takes you to the remnant of the old Lake Worth bridge, stinky with bait blood and spilled wine, populated by the most diehard group of fishermen you're ever gonna meet (no one has hooked so much as a boot there since 1975). Or if you're coming with us -- up the new bridge, puffing along that gigantic arc right to the top, queasy and giddy with the cars whooshing past and the slow river moving under you. Don't forget to turn around and look back! Those minuscule palm trees and baby park benches, all that glittering water, look like an architect's model, don't they? Now it's just a straight slide down to the beach. A cold beer's waiting for you on the pier at Benny's.

You can lay off the booze, renew your wedding vows, pay down your Visa bill, and apologize to your mother -- maybe that'll steer you clear of the gaping maw of hell. But if you've gotta get to work, there isn't much we can do to keep you from entering the inferno. Like most Floridians, you probably spend 100 hours a year commuting (tally that up against your yearly vacation hours, chump), and for 52 of those hours, you're stuck in gridlock. Recent estimates figure that's costing you $927 a year in wasted fuel and lost work time. The news isn't getting any better: I-95 has developed magnetic force fields (Broward-Hollywood, Lake Worth-Boynton) into which drivers mysteriously disappear, cell phones and all, never to be seen again. Don't get mad; get moving. At, you can post your most vicious traffic rants, send indignant hate mail to your legislators, and cast your vote for "the worst road in Florida." It won't bring down gas prices, but it might check your blood pressure a notch or two.

Basketball was about all that Sandora Irvin had when she grew up in Pompano Beach. Her mother spent her time on the streets, a drug addict. Her father, Daughn Irvin (former Dallas Cowboys' star Michael Irvin's younger brother), wasn't around much. So she was raised mostly by grandparents, coaches, and anybody else kind enough to help. The only place that Irvin, who was so thin she was nicknamed "Paper," really felt at home was on the court. Growing to six-foot-four, she excelled on her Fort Lauderdale High School team, earning numerous All-American honors and leading the Flying L's to a state championship in 2001. Heavily recruited by major programs, she chose to attend little-known Texas Christian University. And there, during the past four years, she became the all-time -- that's right, all-time -- NCAA blocks leader. In her 2005 senior campaign, she swatted an incredible 4.7 shots a game. She also averaged 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 2.4 steals -- and solidified her status as a sure-fire top-five draft pick in the WNBA. But it wasn't easy. During the middle of her college career, she was wracked with anger at her parents for abandoning her and nearly quit the game. Rather than succumb to self-destruction, she achieved perhaps her most significant feat. She forgave them.

Hollywood police do heinous things to patriotic American citizens, so just imagine what they would do to Middle Eastern terrorists if they got their heavy hands on them. There have been accusations of manslaughter, assault, and sexual battery -- and that's just one officer, Pete Salvo. How does the city respond to the brutality? It makes Salvo the Officer of the Year. For photographic evidence of just how much damage Hollywood cops can administer, check out the snapshots of Donald Baker, a 52-year-old construction worker who was beaten silly -- and quite bloody -- by officers after being detained on an open-container violation. Then there's Officer Joe Pendergrast, whose nickname "Heavy-Handed Joe" says it all. He was accused of beating a man and breaking his ankle. The man's crime: He was playing music too loudly in the vicinity of Pendergrast's father-in-law. Forget Texas, Osama. Don't mess with Hollywood.

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