It has been 13 years since Jorge Perez's Related Group bought the popular Hyde Park Market on Las Olas. Perez then took a wrecking ball to it with plans to put up the city's tallest building -- a 42-story behemoth condo tower. But those ambitious plans hit a major snag: Lots of people hated Perez's plans.
Critics didn't want the project -- named the immodest Icon Las Olas -- towering over Broward County's most historic building. The Stranahan house sits next door, a two-story Cracker-style building built by one of South Florida's early development pioneers.
Last week, however, an appeals court dismissed the last legal challenge to the project, and Perez can now begin bringing in the construction cranes.
But now the question has to be asked: Are they crazy?
Adding 42 stories of condos to the Fort Lauderdale market may have seemed
genius 13 years ago, but the bubble that burst over the past five years now makes that idea seem like perhaps the city's next boondoggle.
Consider too that Perez hasn't exactly seen much success in recent years. He lost his flagship project, the 1,800-unit Icon Brickell, to a "friendly foreclosure" last year. Perez also lost Trump Hollywood to a foreclosure.
In a series of articles about Perez last week, the Wall Street Journal brought up a fine point: "The persistent, unanswered question, of course, is where all the money to build out the next wave of new condos is going to come from."
Meanwhile, there were 124,341 vacant homes in Broward County last year, up 44 percent from a decade ago. Adding 42 floors of condos downtown will certainly add a few more.
So while Perez has been approved to build his new towering monument to development, the question has to be asked: Why would he?
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