Tuesday Meeting Will Decide Fate of 100-Year-Old Rain Tree and Marina Lofts Apartments

The time has come.

On Tuesday, August 20, the Fort Lauderdale city commission will vote in what promises to be one of most contentious meetings ever.

The commission must decide: Will they say no to a well-connected developer and the apartment project that was designed by the hottest young architect in the world? Or will they agree to it, substantially altering a quaint city neighborhood, and taking a chance on moving a 100-year-old tree -- a tree that a former incarnation of the commission had vowed to protect?

On one side, you have Asi Cymbal, the developer of the Marina Lofts project. Cymbal has worked on various development projects in New York and Miami. He has been involved in trendy clubs and eateries like Sra. Martinez, Gigi, and Bardot. He enlisted Bjarke Ingels -- a 38-year-old Danish architect known for his innovative projects around the world.

The design from Ingels' team is a blocky building with 960 0- to 3-bedrrom units which can house 1,200 cars. Proponents say it will be awesome to have this unique architecture, which offers access to the water and luxury accommodations at prices that young profesionnals can afford.

Here is their video about the project:

This is truly a David v. Goliath battle. Or a John Hughes movie.

Opposing the Marina Lofts development is a collection of neighborhood activists and everyday folks. (Loudest among them was Chris Brennan,who got fired from the water taxi for standing up against the project; neighborhood activist and blogger Cal Deal, and Jessica Kross, who started a petition to save the Rain Tree. ) They have argued that the tree will not survive a move, that development will be bad for the neighborhood, that Cymbal's past project have had problems, and that Fort Lauderdale simply doesn't need any more apartment buildings.

In May, the city planning and zoning board approved the project --- but had been given strict instruction not to factor in the tree as part of their decision.

Now, the power is with the city commission. Anyone interested in giving the commissioners an earful prior to the vote can contact them directly.

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