Neil Hamuy, a native of landlocked Plantation, spent much of his boyhood having fun on Fort Lauderdale’s barrier island, where his late father ran Beach Boys Plaza, a single-story, multi-tenant retail building across the street from the beach. Now, Hamuy is planning to renovate the aging storefronts and incorporate them into the development of a new mid-rise hotel and parking garage on his family’s property at 401 S. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.
The planned mixed-use development, which would retain the name Beach Boys Plaza, encompasses a 16-story hotel with 205 rooms and a parking garage with 381 spaces.
Whether the development proves successful will hinge largely on the city government’s vision of an upgraded oceanfront.
Beach Boys Plaza is a short walk from the city-owned Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex, which is getting a $27 million renovation to make the local landmark a better venue for swimming and diving competitions.
The Hamuy family’s property also borders the oceanside location of a new city park now under construction. The new park is replacing a public parking lot just south of East Las Olas Boulevard between Seabreeze Boulevard and A1A. Construction contractor Skanska is building the fenced-off park project a few blocks east of a public parking garage that Skanska finished last year. The city’s new Las Olas Parking Garage, just north of the east end of the Las Olas Bridge, opened in December with 650 spaces.
Hamuy says he initially planned to develop only a parking garage on his family’s property, which includes vacant land behind the retail plaza that the family rents to a parking lot operator. But “the city didn’t really want just a parking garage there, because they built their own parking garage. So, they also wanted a hotel developed there,” Hamuy says.
He also said the oceanfront park under construction next to his property has been a subject of talks with city officials spanning more than a decade. “The city approached us 12 years ago. They have been talking about that park for a long time, and they always wanted us to activate the park,” Hamuy says. “They always wanted us to have ground-floor retail [stores] next to the park.”
Hamuy says he plans to renovate the yellow façade of the original single-story Beach Boys Plaza and hopes the existing tenants – three clothing stores, two restaurants and a tattoo parlor – remain there during the entire hotel-and-parking development. “That was part of my hope and wish,” he says, “that we’d keep all the tenants, so the employees don’t lose their jobs during the construction period, which will take two to three years.”
Before he can break ground, Hamuy first must secure formal city approval of his planned 16-story version of Beach Boys Plaza. He expects Fort Lauderdale city commissioners to consider granting final approval this month. In February, the city’s Planning and Zoning Board approved Hamuy’s plan for the development.
Hamuy has responded to most of the requests that the city’s Development Review Committee made – items ranging from additional information to design tweaks – with the understanding that “there are other remaining items that need to be addressed before final DRC [consent] is given,” says Yvonne Redding, the DRC case manager for the Beach Boys Plaza.
After Hamuy initially presented his proposed project to the DRC in February 2018, his team also discussed the project in multiple meetings with a local neighborhood organization called the Central Beach Alliance, which voted late last year to support the development. The minutes of the organization’s Nov. 29 meeting show that six condominiums and 26 individual members voted yes, and four condominiums and 21 individual members voted no.
“To win their support was a huge victory for us,” Hamuy says. Yet dissent persists among some neighbors.
During that pivotal Nov. 29 meeting of the Central Beach Alliance, Courtney Crush, an attorney representing Hamuy, gave the group a presentation for the fifth time on plans for the new Beach Boys Plaza, and she specified that 150 of the spaces in the planned parking garage would be available to the public, the rest reserved for hotel guests.
Of course, getting a development approved and getting it built are two different things. Even if city commissioners grant final approval of Beach Boys Plaza 2.0, Hamuy still could face further challenges as a beach hotel developer, including competition.
A new hotel may be coming to the south side of the same block where Beach Boys Plaza is located, according to real estate investor Aiton “AJ” Yaari. He says he’s investing in a hotel development that would replace a retail building at the corner of A1A and SE Fifth Street, which houses a café-style restaurant called St. Bart’s Bean Company. “The building is mostly vacant, and we should be starting construction in a few months,” he says.