A new apartment building next to an Oakland Park landmark, the cylinder-shaped KenAnn office building, will contribute to an ongoing makeover of the city’s Federal Highway corridor across from the Coral Ridge Mall. Oaklyn Apartments, an 11-story building with 274 apartments, was in the final stages of construction as summer began. Few companies are doing more to modernize the area than Oakland Park-based Newrock Partners, the local company behind the development of Oaklyn Apartments, where monthly rents range from about $1,800 for a studio and up to $3,820 for a two-bedroom penthouse apartment.
Brickbox started pre-leasing units at Oaklyn Apartments in mid-May while construction was still underway, and the company’s early success was encouraging, said Newrock executive Joshua Deitchman. “We’ve signed 10 leases in two weeks without having any access to the property, without any power, no photographs, no videos,” he said in a June 6 interview.
Commercial redevelopment is transforming the southeast side of Oakland Park along Federal Highway, once a seedy stretch with two strip clubs that have been demolished in recent years. An ABC liquor store and two restaurants, a Bahama Breeze and a PDQ, now occupy the site of the old Solid Gold strip club, and a redevelopment of the former site of the Pure Platinum strip club is in the works. Brickbox is doubling down on the area by developing another rental apartment building on the vacant lot that Pure Platinum once occupied, just north of Oaklyn Apartments. The planned seven-story building, called O2, will have 165 apartments and 30,000 square feet of retail space.
“That’ll be the next one. We expect to break ground around October of this year on that project,” Deitchman said. “We’re hoping to finish up the Oaklyn building, 100 percent, before we focus our attention on that one.”
Oaklyn Apartments has been a more challenging construction project than the O2 development will be, he said, because Oaklyn has been built around two office buildings. One is the eight-story KenAnn Building, where Citibank has a branch office and its logo on the building’s exterior. The other is a three-story office building that bears the Chase Bank logo and houses a branch of the bank. Brickbox acquired majority ownership of both office buildings in 2017 and full ownership in 2020. The company paid a total of $15.9 million for the KenAnn Building and $6.4 million for the smaller office building with the Chase branch, according to Broward County property records.
Compared to the O2 multifamily rental project planned at the old Pure Platinum site, “the Oaklyn project entails much more,” Deitchman said. “It’s on a campus with two operating office buildings, so it’s a little bit tougher project to build … There isn’t any product like Oaklyn in Oakland Park. This is the only mixed-use, multifamily high-rise in the city.”
The KenAnn Building, named after the husband and wife who developed it in the mid-1960s, is undergoing a $3 million renovation with a 40 percent vacancy rate, Deitchman said. “What that means is new storefront doors, new elevators, new AC, new fire alarms. Redo the stucco, exterior, paint, windows, everything,” he said. “It’s a little bit intrusive to the tenants. We’re trying to keep it a little more vacant right now. We haven’t been signing leases for the last two years” – except for one major commitment by a future tenant that Deitchman didn’t identify. He said the lease deal involved “a public company and pretty much the entire fourth floor of the building.”
In addition to Citibank, current tenants of the KenAnn Building include lawyers, a dentist, a spinal doctor, a fitness center, and an interior design firm. No one occupies the seventh and eighth floors of the KenAnn Building, where previous tenants had naming rights that allowed them to put their signs on the building.
“Prior to [accounting firm] Kaufman & Rossin being up there, it was the longtime home of Raymond James,” Dietchman said. “They actually had the naming rights of the building before Citi. So, we’ve been kind of chasing them down, to see if we can bring them back home.”
Brokers working for Brickbox are contacting other companies that previously leased offices at the KenAnn Building. A previous owner of the building “gave me a list of all the tenants who were there in the ’90s,” Deitchman said. “So, we intend to target those guys first and see if there is anything we can do to bring them back.”
The vacant second floor of the KenAnn Building is fully equipped to operate as a restaurant and a nightclub. But Brickbox sees little potential for a restaurant there.
“Second-floor restaurant space is just a recipe for failure, in my opinion,” Deitchman said. “It’s a destination sort of location. There’s no sort of Las Olas [experience] – you’re walking down the street, and you pop in somewhere to get a bite. You need to be going there for a purpose.”
He has a funnier idea. “I think what’s going to be most successful there is a comedy club,” Deitchman said. “Obviously, I’m open to listening to other people’s ideas. But that’s the direction I sent the brokers in.”
In his view, a comedy club at the KenAnn Building, on the northwest corner of Federal Highway and Oakland Park Boulevard, and the Culture Room live music venue on the southwest corner of the intersection, would mutually benefit each other. “I think it would be a pretty neat amenity for the corner,” he said, “to have Culture Room on one side of the street, a comedy club on the other, and bring more entertainment over here.”