Flagler Village Residents Fight for Vacant Downtown Lot to Become a Park | The Daily Pulp | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

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Flagler Village Residents Fight for Vacant Downtown Lot to Become a Park

Back in 2003, after months of meetings, the City of Fort Lauderdale adopted a downtown master plan. It defined how Fort Lauderdale should grow and become a livable, walkable city over the next few decades. The visionary document laid out a dozen guiding principles, including to "green the Downtown with a connected system of parks, trails, and streets."

The plan identified six locations that could be transformed into new parks. The property at 301 N. Andrews Ave., just north of Broward Boulevard, was one such site. This property is known as the "one-stop shop" -- it formerly housed city hall and, later, the building department. It's now shuttered. It might be best recognized for its distinctive and very cool-looking tree -- a dragon's blood tree, which produces a red sap.

But now, like a junkie at a check-cashing store, the city is floating the idea of deviating from the master plan and instead selling the land to a private developer.

Dylan Lagi, president of the Flagler Village Civic Association, says his group first became aware of the issue in October, after the city hired a private consultant to audit surplus land. The consultants' report said, "Either put a new city hall on that land or sell it to private owners," Lagi summarizes.

The consultants' report says:

Observations The City of Fort Lauderdale owns an irregularly shaped City Block which consists of 3.469 acres of land located on the northwest corner of Andrews Avenue and NE 2nd Avenue which is two blocks north of Broward Boulevard, the major east west artery that leads into the city of Fort Lauderdale. The site has a building that was once the site of the One Stop Shop for city permitting and licensing. The building is currently vacant and fully secured. The site has become a central gathering place for homeless citizens and also contains a City Public Parking Lot.

The site is large enough to build structured parking vs pedestal parking which equates to lower construction costs for a new building. The site is also on the new Wave street car route.

Conclusions The site is located near the site of the future All Aboard Florida Rail Station and proximal to the highly desirable Las Olas and Himmarshee areas of downtown Fort Lauderdale. The site is also within walking distance of over 1 Million Square Feet of Offce Space. Given the site size and location this site is a prime redevelopment candidate. The sale or ground letting of the site could unlock signifcant capital for the City while adding several acres back to tax roll. Any new construction would involve the demolition of the existing building and remediation of asbestos if present (see Appendix 7: Broker Opinion of Value - One Stop Shop).

Recommendations • Evaluate sale or ground lease to a multi-family or senior living developer. • Evaluate maintaining the site for the construction of a new City of Fort Lauderdale City Hall.

Lagi's group fretted and, he says, sent a resolution to the city stating "that we want this land to stay on track to become a park. We never got any response."

Meanwhile, Commissioner Dean Trantalis, who represents Flagler Village, says that City Manager Lee Feldman recently opined to him that this property "should be sold and developed."

Trantalis says that while commissioners have agreed to sell certain parcels -- such as a vacant lot next to Pet Supermarket, across from Holiday Park -- "I questioned the direction his office was taking with that [one-stop shop] property... It bothers me, because we had created a master plan through hundreds of hours of time spent by stakeholders and neighbors. To throw that work out the window to create an attractive urban environment -- just to pay bills -- is not appropriate."

Trantalis said "I'm not quite sure" what precisely Feldman wanted to fund with sales of this city real estate. "Operating expenses... He's looking at beach renourishment... our contribution to the Wave [streetcar]... all kinds of things that were never budgeted."

Lagi and friends have set up a website, ournextpark.org, made a video, and started a campaign to persuade the city to stick to the master plan. Lagi has also arranged to speak during tonight's 6 p.m. City Commission meeting at City Hall.

Trantalis noted that talk about what to do with this property is still preliminary and that the commission would need to vote on any sale. "Dylan is being proactive," he says, "trying to head off this effort by the city manager before it gets too embedded."

A secretary in Feldman's office said he was out most of this week.

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Deirdra Funcheon

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