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Leaders bullish on show home city

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Ten of Ft. Lauderdale’s business and community leaders gathered at the show yesterday to talk about the future of the city in terms of not only of the yachting industry but from everything from real estate to tourism.

Ft. Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler asked the assembled group what they thought the city would look like in 2020.

Fort Lauderdale mayor Jack Seiler

Fort Lauderdale mayor Jack Seiler

With the dredging of the Dania Cut-off Canal and the ICW finished, and hopefully dredging of the New River and redevelopment of Bahia Mar under way, “that’s transformational,” said Phil Purcell, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, which owns the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The city is also seeking redevelopment of Las Olas marina and the Hall of Fame property.

Redevelopment of the Bahia Mar property, which is leased from the city, is intended to spark a more community-based revitalization of the beachfront where people move without cars, live and enjoy recreation in the area. More than half the property will be dedicated public access space, including a promenade, transient boat slips, restaurants and retail, with the remainder being hotel, residential and marina — all the while preserving the boat show.

“Our entire development is being built around the boat show,” said Jimmy Tate of Tate Capital, one of the investors who now own the lease with the city.

Matt Allen of The Related Group

Matt Allen of The Related Group

Real estate values haven’t kept pace with neighboring hot spots, meaning it’s Ft. Lauderdale’s turn to appreciate.

“We look at Ft. Lauderdale as a hidden gem,” said Matt Allen of real estate development firm The Related Group. “Ten years ago, beachfront property values were similar to those in Miami Beach. Now, Miami Beach is three times what it is in Ft. Lauderdale.”

In an effort to safeguard Ft.Lauderdale as a destination for the kind of buyer that comes to the boat show, it needs to offer more in the way of luxury shopping, said Skip Zimbalist, owner of Show Management, which produces the boat show.

“When people come to buy a boat, there are lots of other things they want to do other than buy a boat,” he said. “We need a shopping experience here for high-end buyers, whether they are coming to buy a $5 million condo, to go cruise, or they fly in. I’d love to see a beautiful downtown area with high-end shops and restaurants. That would be the frosting on the cake.”

The panelists also reflected on what leads this optimism.

“I think it has more to do with what Ft.Lauderdale is doing right than a rising tide lifts all boats,” Zimbalist said. “You can look around the world and see cities not doing well. I’ve worked with a few governments … and you don’t see this everywhere, where all constituents come together to say how can we improve the situation. This can-do attitude that Ft. Lauderdale has is precious.”

Lucy Chabot Reed is editor emeritus of Triton Today, lucy@the-triton.com.

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