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Fort Lauderdale Is Doomed to Suburban Sprawl

Fort Lauderdale is no stranger to luxury condos. Las Olas River House, the Waverly, and Nu River Landing all offer A-list amenities, if you're into that sort of thing. Besides making downtown a live/work/play area, they all also pack in a lot of people.

But they're certainly not gonna become the norm in Fort Lauderdale. One expert says that they -- and all condos -- are a dying breed there. Not only that but apparently Broward's county seat is more or less doomed to become all suburban sprawl while the areas around it flourish and turn into metropolises.

"Fort Lauderdale is not performing like its neighbor to the south, where [the condo business] is just booming," says Peter Zalewski, a rep from the site Condo Vultures. "The primary reason is that it's not really a friendly, conducive market. Government leaders tend to be anticondo and pro low-density."

Everyone knows that Miami has more city cred than Fort Lauderdale. (Would Will Smith ever write a paeon to Las Olas?) But Zalewski gave a startling example that shows just how badly the city is being left in the dust, and not just in terms of pop-culture shoutouts. In terms of new condos in the area, the county falls just behind Coral Gables and North Bay Village. Meanwhile, both Hollywood and Hallandale Beach are building about four times more.

With Miami's rental prices going through the roof, Fort Lauderdale has a big opportunity to capitalize on people looking north. Zalewski says the city won't take it.

"Miami has 17,201 units going in, and Fort Lauderdale has 786," he says with a laugh. "That pretty much indicates what's happening."

Between 2003 and 2007, Lauderdale allowed construction of 49 towers with 5,535 new units. Last year, CBS Miami reported that there were only about 40 for sale. So while property values have risen in Fort Lauderdale, it seems that the market has been almost completely saturated.

"The leadership of Fort Lauderdale is getting in the way of its own development," Zalewski says. "More buyers are going to be looking at the city soon, but will community associations encourage that growth, or will the market just skip over them?"

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Allie Conti was a fellow at Miami New Times and a staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, where her writing won awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. She's now the senior staff writer at Vice and a contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Atlantic.

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