Wrecking ball levels Fort
Lauderdale’s failed Riverfront
Las Olas Riverfront is falling to a wrecking ball this week, although its obituary has been years in the making.
The 19-year-old shopping and entertainment complex along the New River west of Andrews Avenue in downtown Fort Lauderdale was described as a flop just eight years after its opening. It’s been mostly vacant in recent years.
In its place will be two high-rise residential towers — 42 and 38 stories tall — with 40,000 square feet of shops and restaurants on their lower levels by developer Property Markets Group.
City officials are hoping the new project will succeed where Riverfront did not in bringing life to the city’s Riverwalk linear park along the north side of the New River. The 254,000-square-foot complex was subsidized with $3 million from taxpayers.
Two issues stood out in Riverfront’s demise: Its lack of parking and its need for a concentrated residential population that had not emerged downtown before its luster had faded.
It opened in 1998 with the idea it could be a smaller version of Miami’s Bayside Marketplace. Riverfront had 18 restaurants, more than a dozen retail shops and a 23-screen cinema. In 2003, it hosted one of the Florida Marlins World Series championship celebrations.
However, instead of maturing into a Riverwalk focal point, it turned into a dead zone between the high-rise condos that rose in the blocks to the east and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and the historic district to the west.
In 2006, its new owner was already talking about tearing it down.
The latest sale, to Property Markets, was for $29 million in January. The developer expects to build one- and two-bedroom apartments, most of which will rent for under $2,000 a month.
The city and developers hope the 1,200 apartments above the new stores and restaurants provide a strong customer base in addition to all the people expected to live in other downtown projects now under development.
Officials expect the first phase of the project, including 650 apartments and most of the retail, could take about three years to construct.
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