In 2019, neighbors, civic leaders, and businesses spoke at a public outreach meeting and let the Federal government know unequivocally, to locate a proposed new Federal Courthouse elsewhere in favor of a park. The Feds heard the neighborhood loud and clear and decided to look south of the river.
Time and again we have cleared the way to open up the locale as a park. Past commissioners have stood with the neighbors and promised a park. Now the city commission has received an unsolicited P3 (public, private, partnership), proposal to develop an entertainment/eating/meeting venue, to occupy this sweet piece of land (or a significant chunk of it).
After all the public dialogue, one can only scratch their head and ask, no to a federal courthouse, but yes to an entertainment venue? In this real estate market, are there no other private parcels in all of Fort Lauderdale for entertainment venue to land? And if there aren’t, shouldn’t that tell us all just how irreplaceable the one stop shop site is?
Public, private, partnerships (P3s) are often used by government to deliver a public need that cannot otherwise be possible without the private sector’s participation. They are used to build highways, infrastructure, city halls, police stations, soccer stadiums, etc….
In the case of the one stop shop site, it is unclear what the public need is and why an entertainment venue qualifies as an alternative.
Do the citizens of Fort Lauderdale have a great public need for a music venue, a food hall, or a meeting space? Do we need another Parker Playhouse, Signature Grand, or Sistrunk Food Hall? Throughout our city, there are many businesses in those categories that are struggling just to stay open due to COVID. Do we really need to add more of the same, on a citizen-owned property?
Late last year, the ULI (Urban Land Institute) sent experts from all over the country to Fort Lauderdale for a 3-day park symposium that illustrated how valuable the “one stop shop” is for downtown’s network of green spaces and quality of life. At a time when sustainability, resiliency, fresh air, open spaces, and good health matters so much, it is now in the hands of the city commission to do the right thing for the residents of downtown.
We should take the advice of the ULI and emulate great cities like Boston and Savannah, that embrace green space. While our downtown grows, we should be smart and endeavor to create spaces that give people a moment of separation, an instance of freedom, a chance to relax in the open air, and to enjoy being part of our beautiful city.
Years from now, when most of Downtown is built and land values are a multiple of what they are now, we should be grateful that our city leaders saw the value and the beauty of nature and didn’t let this rare green space slip through their fingers. I am hopeful that our city commission will stand with us and say no to any private offers for the one stop shop, and tell the bidders that we want to save this citizen-owned property for its’ true value… A Park for the People of Fort Lauderdale!
Alan Hooper — Fort Lauderdale Native and Flagler Village Redeveloper