That cranky old architectural genius Frank Lloyd Wright said it best: "No house should ever be on any hill or on anything. It should be of the hill, belonging to it, so hill and house could live together, each the happier for the other." Substitute building for house and you have an apt description of this jewel in the crown of downtown Fort Lauderdale's still-evolving Arts and Science District. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts so thoroughly belongs to the small hill it occupies between the western edge of Riverwalk and the eastern fringe of the historic Sailboat Bend neighborhood that it's hard to imagine it was never there in the first place. The center, designed by Massachusetts-based architect Benjamin Thompson, is a graceful conglomeration of curves and gentle angles that mirrors the meandering landscape below it. Marble, terra cotta, stucco, wood, and glass -- lots of glass -- conspire to create a luxurious complex that includes two auditoriums linked by a courtyard and characterized by spacious lobbies, sweeping staircases, and broad corridors. Now if they would just do something about that casino-style carpet....
You curse the devilish traffic and the paucity of open space, but these signs of overcrowding mean money in your pocket the day you sign on the dotted line of a warranty deed. Soaring land values mean money for nothin'. According to a recent Sun-Sentinel article, the median sales price for homes in the Fort Lauderdale area grew by 12 percent compared to last year, a jump from $161,200 to $179,800. The West Palm Beach-Boca Raton area saw a median sales-price increase of 14 percent, from $139,200 to $158,300. Why the upsurge? As Manhattanites learned long ago, when you're surrounded by water, you run out of anywhere to build but upward. New Yorkers built in that direction, but down here, single-family homes with a patch of backyard are all the rage. And you don't have to have a beautiful mind to realize there are only so many lots to go around.
You curse the devilish traffic and the paucity of open space, but these signs of overcrowding mean money in your pocket the day you sign on the dotted line of a warranty deed. Soaring land values mean money for nothin'. According to a recent Sun-Sentinel article, the median sales price for homes in the Fort Lauderdale area grew by 12 percent compared to last year, a jump from $161,200 to $179,800. The West Palm Beach-Boca Raton area saw a median sales-price increase of 14 percent, from $139,200 to $158,300. Why the upsurge? As Manhattanites learned long ago, when you're surrounded by water, you run out of anywhere to build but upward. New Yorkers built in that direction, but down here, single-family homes with a patch of backyard are all the rage. And you don't have to have a beautiful mind to realize there are only so many lots to go around.
Guised as a smarmy version of Fernando Lamas, comedian Billy Crystal has for years espoused, "It's better to look good than feel good." It's an apt mantra for Fort Lauderdale's waterfront milieu, where appearance is everything. After all, just how comfortable can those women on Las Olas Boulevard be, what with six-inch stiletto heels scrunching their calves into knotty fists and breasts rock-hard with silicone and/or saline? The Prowler, Chrysler's new-wave hotrod, is a joyous escape from that mentality. Tucked behind the steering wheel and breezing down the avenues, you can be cool and feel cool. Need to shave off a few more degrees? Head this 285-horsepower bullet to the Florida Turnpike, pay your buck, and take her up to warp speed. For a mere $395 a day, you can rent a limited-edition navy-blue Prowler from Unique Auto.
Guised as a smarmy version of Fernando Lamas, comedian Billy Crystal has for years espoused, "It's better to look good than feel good." It's an apt mantra for Fort Lauderdale's waterfront milieu, where appearance is everything. After all, just how comfortable can those women on Las Olas Boulevard be, what with six-inch stiletto heels scrunching their calves into knotty fists and breasts rock-hard with silicone and/or saline? The Prowler, Chrysler's new-wave hotrod, is a joyous escape from that mentality. Tucked behind the steering wheel and breezing down the avenues, you can be cool and feel cool. Need to shave off a few more degrees? Head this 285-horsepower bullet to the Florida Turnpike, pay your buck, and take her up to warp speed. For a mere $395 a day, you can rent a limited-edition navy-blue Prowler from Unique Auto.
We like Hollywood Beach. We like the smell of burning sausage and popcorn (or whatever the hell it is) on the Broadwalk. We like its chaotic, totally Florida feeling, the sense that everyone there is from somewhere else. Hell, we even like the Canadians. And when we escape for a weekend on the beach, we stay at the Diane. Why? Because the rooms are right on the Broadwalk and have great ocean views. They have kitchens. And, at $70 or less off-season (the price jumps to $95 or more during the winter months), they are incredibly cheap and pretty darn clean. Plus, when you get really bored, the place has Canadian cable TV. You can't beat that, eh?
We like Hollywood Beach. We like the smell of burning sausage and popcorn (or whatever the hell it is) on the Broadwalk. We like its chaotic, totally Florida feeling, the sense that everyone there is from somewhere else. Hell, we even like the Canadians. And when we escape for a weekend on the beach, we stay at the Diane. Why? Because the rooms are right on the Broadwalk and have great ocean views. They have kitchens. And, at $70 or less off-season (the price jumps to $95 or more during the winter months), they are incredibly cheap and pretty darn clean. Plus, when you get really bored, the place has Canadian cable TV. You can't beat that, eh?
Phillip Gesue and his partners had to chase out the South Dixie Highway hookers to start in on the renovation of the old Mount Vernon Motor Lodge. The 1940s Bahamas colonial-style building had seen better days; well after the El Cid district it neighbors had gone high-end funky chic in the '90s, the inn's room-by-the-hour clientele remained notably louche. The seedy West Palm landmark's reincarnation as Hotel Biba has been an international effort. Gesue, who has a master's in real estate from Columbia University, jointly developed the property with Nihan Gencer (from Istanbul, by way of the same Ivy League schooling) and H. Wisner Miller (Swedish-American, Swiss raised). The design is by Barbara Hulanicki, whose '60s London fashion label the hotel is named for and whose signature palette of melon, lilac, and celery colors the rooms. The hues would be overwhelming, but the minimalist furnishings, with their simple, organic elements, let them work -- modern, hip, fun. If restless, hotel guests can party in the Biba Bar. Already a local hotspot, it draws "an intelligent crowd," Gesue says. If the party's too much, sit and listen to the fountain in the Japanese garden outside. And though the hotel is upscale, it isn't off-the-charts: No room costs more than $200, and some go for less than $100.
Hotel Biba
Photo courtesy of Hotel Biba
Phillip Gesue and his partners had to chase out the South Dixie Highway hookers to start in on the renovation of the old Mount Vernon Motor Lodge. The 1940s Bahamas colonial-style building had seen better days; well after the El Cid district it neighbors had gone high-end funky chic in the '90s, the inn's room-by-the-hour clientele remained notably louche. The seedy West Palm landmark's reincarnation as Hotel Biba has been an international effort. Gesue, who has a master's in real estate from Columbia University, jointly developed the property with Nihan Gencer (from Istanbul, by way of the same Ivy League schooling) and H. Wisner Miller (Swedish-American, Swiss raised). The design is by Barbara Hulanicki, whose '60s London fashion label the hotel is named for and whose signature palette of melon, lilac, and celery colors the rooms. The hues would be overwhelming, but the minimalist furnishings, with their simple, organic elements, let them work -- modern, hip, fun. If restless, hotel guests can party in the Biba Bar. Already a local hotspot, it draws "an intelligent crowd," Gesue says. If the party's too much, sit and listen to the fountain in the Japanese garden outside. And though the hotel is upscale, it isn't off-the-charts: No room costs more than $200, and some go for less than $100.
For visitors (or even us locals, who should know better) looking for a place to hemorrhage money, the nearly two miles of corridors of the Sawgrass Mills Mall offer more than 400 opportunities to spend. Get an aqua-massage. Buy new shoes in one of the more than 35 shoe stores. Have your jewelry cleaned. Buy clothes from places like Last Call! The Clearance Center from Neiman Marcus, OFF 5th-Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet, Tommy Hilfiger Company Store, POLO Ralph Lauren Factory Store, and Gap Outlet. Restock your shelves or even buy new ones from Target. See a movie at Regal 23 Cinemas at the Oasis at Sawgrass Mills. Eat out at one of the six sit-down restaurants in the Oasis or at the Rainforest Café. If more suitcases are needed, at least nine stores sell them, including Samsonite. Alternately, stop in at the U.S. Post Office to send things home. The pedestrian word for all this excess is "shoppertainment"; 26 million people partake of it annually at the mall. Thank goodness 11,000 parking spaces surround the mall. Additionally, 6000 tour buses each year drop off visitors to spend a day spending, spending, and spending. The mall is a testament to American consumerism and excess. It's everything Osama bin Laden hates about America, and he's probably just jealous.

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