In the summer of 2014, the City of Fort Lauderdale invited a panel of experts from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Southeast Florida / Caribbean District Council to provide strategic advice and recommendations to the city regarding the activation and climate adaptation of the Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk.
The Riverwalk TAP focused on climate adaptation and space activation along Fort Lauderdale’s Riverwalk. Funded by the City of Fort Lauderdale, The ULI Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation, this TAP was part of a ULI effort specifically designed to address climate resilience issues related to the built environment and the rising water impacts along the New River corridor.
Recommendations include general advice on how to better activate the linear ribbon along both sides of the New River, as well as adaptation strategies for the climate changes already occurring in the area.
The TAP was asked to focus on a number of critical issues related to long-term strategies for the Riverwalk District’s resiliency. The primary focus questions for the panel were:
- How will climate change issues including sea level rise and more extreme weather (hotter temperatures and more intense rainfall) impact uses on the Riverwalk?
- How can we address buildings and land uses that are currently affected in the Riverwalk District by seasonal tidal inundation (e.g. Stranahan House)?
- What infrastructure improvements and adaptation strategies could be considered to address existing and planned development along the Riverwalk Corridor to ensure climate resiliency?
- What controls (design standards, zoning, building codes) could be changed to improve climate resiliency of future development?
- What redevelopment strategies can be used to activate more sections of the Riverwalk corridor to allow the corridor to reach its full potential and how can climate adaptation be incorporated?
For the Riverwalk to thrive in the future, a number of obstacles must be addressed:
- Despite its proximity to downtown, the Riverwalk receives very little foot traffic. This is largely due to the fact that it can not be seen from the streets that run by and towards it, keeping it hidden from passerby. Visual and pedestrian connectivity along and to the riverwalk are limited and disconnected
- Destinations and points of interest throughout the Riverwalk district are limited and spread out
- Major development projects on the south side of the river have no good connections to the Las Olas commercial district
- Gaps of residual and inactive space (such as surface parking lots, under-bridge areas, and underutilized property) are common throughout the Riverwalk
- Lack of variety of dining, entertainment, and retail uses fronting the Riverwalk
- Adopt an overall, unified approach to resilient placemaking for the Riverwalk that focuses on activating and transforming dead zones and overlying long, uninterrupted passive areas and forging stronger connections to cultural anchors and the Las Olas main street.
- Concentrate investments and placemaking interventions on activity nodes and primary access points to the Riverwalk.
- Codify the design guidelines in the master plan and make the standards applicable to all forms of development, not just residential.
- Strategically link the capital improvement program and other financing mechanisms to achieving the desired outcomes of the master plans.
- Consider pursuit of an Adaptation Action Area designation for the Riverwalk to leverage sea level rise adaptation funds and connect those funds to public realm improvements.
- Create a formal partnership entity with the authority to manage and curate the Riverwalk’s activities and uses and the public realm, ensuring that it is clean, safe, and well lit.
- Create innovative ways to engage and activate the riverfront, such as:
- Locate commercial uses (cafés, restaurants, and other food and beverage venues) with outdoor seating to activate some of the existing parks and elevated terraces and capitalize on river views.
- Utilize residential development to enhance the scale and character of the riverfront.
- Coordinate public uses to increase traffic in the downtown and riverfront area
- Establish clear and safe connection points for pedestrians to experience the Riverwalk, to include:
- Easily-accessible parking areas with clear directional signage
- Iconic elements to orient people through the district
- Safe and attractive pathways day and night
- Redesign Huizenga Plaza so that it faces and engages, rather than turns its back on, the Riverwalk and the River, and:
- Activate the space under the Andrews Avenue Bridge within Huizenga Park
- Fill gaps in established districts with existing and adaptive reuses in order to create a destination with a cohesive offering of programs
- Ensure that future designs along the Riverwalk incorporate water level variations and make them a valuable and attractive element of the design. Designs should celebrate the presence, flows, and fluctuations of water to heighten the experience along the Riverwalk
- Create a cohesive design that treats the Riverwalk as a single place, not a piecemeal series of separate parts using consistent landscaping and design scales