By Brian Bandell – Senior Reporter, South Florida Business Journal
Mar 15, 2022, 12:42pm EDT
Developer Asi Cymbal has revised his project along the New River in Fort Lauderdale, and the controversial relocation of a historical African rain tree is once again part of the plan.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Board on March 16 will consider plans by Downtown Fort Lauderdale Waterfront 18 LLC, an affiliate of Cymbal Development, for 2.42-acre project site at 408 S.W. Fourth St. and 403 S.W. Third Ave. The new plan is significantly smaller than the previous versions of this project, although the Raintree Riverwalk Residences would still be among the largest new apartment buildings in Fort Lauderdale.
In 2013, Cymbal’s company obtained approval to build 856 units, plus retail and restaurant space, in the three-tower Marina Lofts. The city approved a controversial plan to move the rain tree, which is nearly 100 years old.
In 2020, Cymbal’s company returned with a revised plan for 784 apartments, and 18,243 square feet of retail spaces in towers of 35 and 32 stories. The rain tree would have stayed in place.
Now, the new plan calls for relocating the rain tree closer to the New River. In February, the city approved the new plan to relocate the tree, which includes the developer depositing $1 million to hold for five years as a warranty with the city based on the health of the tree.
Fort Lauderdale-based attorney Stephanie J. Toothaker, who represents Cymbal in the application, said they wanted to move the tree to a location where it could be celebrated by residents of the project, visitors to the riverwalk and people boating along the river. The developer’s tree experts determined the tree would be healthier in the new location near the river, she added.
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Raintree Riverwalk Residences was reduced in size. With towers of 29 and 28 stories, it would have a combined 677 residential units, 21,000 square feet of commercial space, and 1,075 parking spaces. The restaurants and retail space would face the public riverwalk.
The apartments would range from 491 to 1,298 square feet. There would be 88 studios, 328 one-bedroom units, 209 two-bedroom units, and 52 three-bedroom units.
Toothaker said Cymbal scaled the project down in response to concerns from neighboring residents, who wanted reduced height, improved view corridors from neighboring buildings and more parking The result of meeting those requests was fewer units in Cymbal’s project. While the developer could have moved forward with his original plans, Toothaker said it was essential to replace the original plans with a more modern design in line with today’s market.
If Cymbal obtains approval from the Planning Board, he’ll immediately apply for building permits, Toothaker said.
Chicago-based Jo Palma + Partners is the architect on the project and Fort Lauderdale-based Keith is the planning firm.
While it has taken nearly a decade for Cymbal to work through the approvals for this project, the rapid increase in rents in Fort Lauderdale make the development of apartments more lucrative than ever.