In February, Fort Lauderdale held a public meeting about a controversial proposal to build two 39-story towers at the Bahia Mar resort area. Proving there is nothing that South Florida residents care more about than land development, the meeting stretched for a staggering eight hours, until 4:30 in the morning. More than 70 people spoke out about the plan: Some cheered that the project, the brainchild of local developer Jimmy Tate, would create jobs in the area. Most, however, complained that the towers were far too high and would cast shadows onto a precious stretch of beach.
At times, Fort Lauderdale's city commissioners seemed to be on the verge of passing out. After the brouhaha ended, the commission delayed voting on the proposal and told Tate's camp to revise its plan and lower the towers.
Tomorrow, the City Commission may be in for another long night.
At 6 p.m., the city will host a public meeting to discuss the plan yet again. The resort, which originally called for 625 condominiums to be built, has since been revised — each tower has been lowered by ten stories, and one tower has been pushed 20 feet back from Seabreeze Boulevard to allow for a larger front plaza. Only 576 condominium spaces have been proposed.
Though there were concerns that the new towers would destroy the eternally popular Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, which docks at the resort's marina each year, city commissioners didn't seem worried about the plan in February.
Everyone, however, seemed nervous about the height, and it's unclear if a ten-story drop will alleviate people's concerns. In February, Fort Lauderdale retiree Craig Kurlander told New Times the towers would "totally obliterate" his view of the marina.
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The towers still seem to be riling people up — Jack Newton, a Fort Lauderdale resident, published a letter in the Sun Sentinel last week pointing out that the towers are still over the city's legal limit:
The developer has agreed to reduce his requested height of the two proposed towers from 39 stories to 29 stories. The legal limit on height is 24 floors. Why can't the developer obey the law instead of asking for an exception? Nothing in the area is taller than the legal limit.
A reduction of five floors from 29 floors to 24 floors would likely reduce the number of units in the towers from a revised 576 to a total of 550 condos — at an expected average price of more than $1 million each — or sales of more than $550 million.
Additionally, the deal has been cut up into three other leases, easy for the developer to sell, containing retail stores, offices, town house condos, a parking garage and one lease containing the marina and all it slip rentals. The total sales value of the pieces of the overall lease is likely to be $1 billion or more.
The city needs expert real estate finance advice and the appraisal long talked about. If we get short-changed, we are stuck for 100 years, which is the overall term of the lease. Let's not sell the "family jewels" without knowing what they are worth and having expert advice during the negotiations.
Check out a summary of the plan's changes here: