Yachts are becoming bigger and more luxurious, forcing the marinas where they dock to adapt. As the yachting capital of the world, Fort Lauderdale must upgrade, expand, and redevelop the Las Olas Marina, advocates say. It's a move that could cost $25 million and create 330 new jobs.
"This is an expanded marina, not a taller building," Mayor Jack Seiler tells New Times. "I know most people in Fort Lauderdale are extremely supportive of the marina industry and its $10 billion impact on the economy."
A group called Suntex Marina Investors submitted the only response to the city's call for redevelopment plans. The 192-page proposal details four scenarios varying in cost and scope, but they would ultimately double the marina's linear feet of dockage to accommodate the larger, more luxurious megayachts. The plan would also bring a pedestrian promenade and space for restaurants and shops. At tonight's city commission meeting, officials will vote on whether to consider Suntex further. The more specific details would be approved at a later meeting in February 2017. Officials are already thrilled with the prospect of a multimillion dollar facelift for the somewhat outdated Las Olas Marina.
"Redeveloping the marina will strengthen Fort Lauderdale’s prestigious reputation as the Yachting Capital of the World by enabling our community to attract and serve an even wider variety of boaters and vessels," city spokesperson Shannon Vezina stated in an email. "We look forward to this opportunity to venture into a successful public-private partnership that benefits our entire community."
Currently, the Las Olas Marina has 3,430 linear feet of dockage. Any of Suntex's four plans call for significantly increasing this and creating more boat slips. Docks on both sides of the Las Olas Bridge would be replaced. The marina would have to be dredged by the developer to fit bigger boats. It would take years to complete, and boaters would use temporary floating docks.
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Residents are curious about the redevelopment plans. There are some concerns about traffic and boat congestion. Suntex will be meeting with residents before the commission meeting.
Suntex Marina Investors is a joint venture between Miami Beach-based Suntex Marinas and West Palm Beach-based Edgewater Resources. The latter has designed marinas all over the world, including Marina at Keppel Bay in Singapore, Liberty Landing in New York Harbor, and Yacht Club Port de Plaisance in St. Maarten. Edgewater Resources also engineered the 31st Street Harbor in Chicago.
For Las Olas Marina, the developers proposed using renewable energy, LED lighting, and recycled building materials. They will also include plans to adapt to sea-level rise and to protect the natural marine habitat. The application also states that the project would bring 330 new jobs (193 of them would be permanent) and would partner with the Minority Builders Coalition.
"It'll be a bigger marina space and bring in more revenue," Seiler says. "If we're able to pull it off, it'll be a huge success."