Fort Lauderdale zoning panel supports uptown corridor plans
For years, Fort Lauderdale’s Cypress Creek Road corridor has been a revolving door of major commercial activity, with big name companies setting up shop, only to leave within a short time. Now, the city’s Planning and Zoning Board has thrown its support behind sweeping code changes aimed at creating a greater sense of community and purpose.
Those changes, proponents say, would open the door to a so-called Uptown Urban Village encompassing 353 acres.
The idea — which has been five years in the making through a public-private partnership called Envision Uptown — includes leveraging transportation assets such as Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, the Cypress Creek Tri-Rail station and Interstate 95.
The corridor currently enjoys an economic resurgence with the presence of Hotwire Communications, Trividia Health, Microsoft, Zimmerman Advertising, and the soon-to-be-completed Cypress Creek Medical Pavilion. Their presence is reminiscent of the 1980s, when companies such as Harris, Bendix, Allied Signal and other technology companies had operations there.
But while commerce has rebounded, infrastructure problems remain. The corridor is clogged with 70,000 cars every business day, and there is scant local housing for thousands of corporate employees.
A 2014 Urban Land Institute study said Uptown’s success depends on transforming the car-dependent employment center around Cypress Creek near the interstate into a progressive village where people live, work and play and rely on their feet, bicycles or public transportation to get around.
The city board amended its underlying land-use plan for the area in a move that “basically streamlines the process” for change, said Dana Pollitt, a real estate broker, marketing firm owner and secretary of the executive board of Envision Uptown. “If one of the landowners owns an office building and they want to develop the parking lot into some type of mixed-use, they won’t have to go through the rigorous process that they typically would.”
The amendment would allow for the building of more than 2,500 additional residences in the area. And the city would be able to limit the size of new buildings as opposed to designating how they are be used.
Cary Goldberg, president of the Envision Uptown board, said “there are projects in the hopper right now” that are positioned to take advantage of the new approach.
One is a restaurant and hotel project on the northeast corner of Cypress Creek and Andrews Avenue. A Twin Peaks restaurant with outdoor seating would accompany a 10-story Fairfield Inn & Suites and a 230-space parking garage.
“It’s going to feel like a beautiful structure with pedestrians outside,” said Goldberg, who is president of Diversified Cos., a Fort Lauderale real estate development, property management and leasing firm.
Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Bruce Roberts, who has worked with Goldberg and the group on the concept, and whose district is part of Uptown, agrees that making the corridor safe for pedestrians is a critical component.
“You take your life in your hands,” he said of people who cross the road on foot. “It’s crazy. We had to do something about this.”
Although the new amendments still need City Commission and Broward County approvals, municipal planners are looking to reach compromises with developers to ensure their proposed projects at least approach the look and designs envisioned by the revised plan.
“It’s an awkward area,” said planner Jim Hetzel.
He said the city shares the proposed zoning and land-use codes with inbound businesses, hoping to reach a “happy place” with the developers.
He said the city has worked with the Twin Peaks-Fairfield developers, as well as with Starbucks and Wawa. Starbucks is open for business; the Wawa store’s site plan was approved with changes.
And to the west, Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, the nation’s fifth busiest general aviation airport, is expecting economic development benefits, said Karen Reese, who heads the airport’s Foreign Trade Zone, and Rufus James, the airport manager.
“This Uptown group is a great economic success story,” Reese said. “The businesses all share the same vision, and they’ve made something happen.”
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