1. Society Las Olas
Location: SW 1st Avenue along the New River
Stage: Under construction
Anybody who’s been to The Wharf has seen the beginning of the change about to happen on the site of the former Las Olas Riverfront. The Wharf, a riverfront outdoor food hall with bars, will soon have company when phase one of Society Las Olas begins welcoming residents.
Society Las Olas aims squarely at a younger demographic that wants a walkable urban experience with amenities. In addition to two residential towers, the development will feature dining and drinking options. For residents, there will be communal kitchens and other spaces for activities such as working out and yoga. Some apartments will be in the 500-square-foot range, with rents set accordingly.
Similar developments have recently been built or are being built around the country, including Miami. All are based on the concept of social communities – residential spaces with shared amenities and a sense of belonging.
2. War Memorial Auditorium
Location: Holiday Park
The Florida Panthers are footing the bill for a massive remodel, upgrading and new construction in and around War Memorial Auditorium – but you don’t have to be a hockey fan to be excited by what’s happening.
A new building on the east side of War Memorial will house two ice rinks, one of which will become the Panthers’ main practice rink. (The team currently practices in Coral Springs.) There will be activity rooms, a rock wall and improvements to the overall facility, which will be able to seat about 3,000 for events.
The plan aims to breathe new life into a building that was Fort Lauderdale’s first public event space when it opened in 1950 and was once the site of everything from opera to professional wrestling, but which in the intervening 70 years has been eclipsed by other facilities. The auditorium’s home, Holiday Park, will also receive a number of improvements thanks to the 2019 parks bond. And the work should come not long after improvements to War Memorial’s neighbor, Parker Playhouse, which is currently undergoing renovations that primarily involve giving it an expanded foyer and other bar, lounge and entertaining spaces.
At the new War Memorial, plans call for Fort Lauderdale residents to receive discounts on skating and other activities. Work could start this month; the Panthers would like to be training in the new facility by the beginning of the 2021-22 season.
3. Tunnel Top Park
Location: Along the New River and Las Olas Boulevard, over the Henry E. Kinney Tunnel
For two decades, city leaders have contemplated a park over the north side of the Henry E. Kinney Tunnel, just before it dips under the New River. Now, a confluence of events might make this the perfect time to make it happen.
Money from a $200m parks bond voters approved last spring would go towards the upgrade, which would happen alongside a refurbishment of the tunnel by the Florida Department of Transportation.
The new space would blend seamlessly with the Riverwalk, which now extends in front of the Stranahan House and fully connects with Las Olas. Current plans call for it to be divided into four distinct spaces. Laura Ward Plaza would sit along the water between the Stranahan House and the Riverside Hotel. Just north of it, another plaza would sit next to the Cheesecake Factory along Las Olas. Across Fourth Avenue, another plaza would sit just south of the Icon Las Olas. A fourth plaza would sit atop an extended tunnel entrance to the north. Potential plans show all four sections with seating areas, expansive green spaces and architectural features.
4. New Searstown plaza
Stage: Early planning
It’s early. There will be debate. There will be meetings. It could change. But an ambitious plan for Fort Lauderdale’s landmark Searstown plaza got everybody’s attention when it was put before the city earlier this year. Real estate development company RK Centers put forward the plan that includes two 30-story and two 15-story residential towers, retail and office space, restaurants, a food hall and a 10,000-square-foot art gallery. The development would encompass all of the current Searstown site, including the areas going back into the neighborhood of low-slung warehouses-turned-arts-district called the MASS District. Architecturally, the development would keep elements of the original plaza’s mid-century modern design; the plaza was seen as groundbreaking when it opened in the mid-1950s. The project has just begun the city review process and, as city and residents contend with problems such as increasing traffic gridlock and the recent spate of sewer line breaks, debate over the massive project will be vociferous.