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Dan Lindblade: Rental project important for Ft. Lauderdale
Sun Sentinel   Dan Lindblade  May 2013

Greater Fort Lauderdale continues to be the driving force for economic growth in Florida and it’s no surprise. We have made a concerted effort to get everyone on the same page — business leaders, politicians and citizens.

That is why Broward County leads the region with the lowest unemployment at 5.7 percent. We also have led in sustained growth in tourism, international trade and now, commercial real estate is coming back online with more than 4,000 multi-family units under construction in Fort Lauderdale — with another 5,000 under review — because of demand. However, demand is outpacing supply and that is one reason why the Marina Lofts project is needed.

The $150-million project, which would create 999 multi-family rental units just off the New River with a beginning price point of $1,100 per month, is unanimously supported by our 50-member Board of Directors as a way to attract and keep young professionals in our urban core while activating the Riverwalk, preserving the environment and enhancing marine interests.

Unfortunately, some short-sighted activists are spewing propaganda opposing the impressive project mainly because of the relocation of a rain tree. Several of these folks are of the “CAVE” dweller variety, better known as Citizens Against Virtually Everything.

Their tempest-in-a-teapot arguments fall short of any compelling public health or welfare interests and are far outweighed by the overall community benefits this architectural icon will create. In fact, under this plan the tree is saved, creating a focal point for the project in a park-like setting. Boaters will be able to use an upgraded marina. Our Riverwalk and regional activity center blossoms. Ridership on our newly established mass transit systems, the Wave Streetcar and All Aboard Florida Miami to Orlando passenger rail, will flourish with higher density.

As a Visioning Committee member for the city, I have listened to and read thousands of hours of input from my neighbors. Marina Lofts is exactly the type of project we dreamed about, one that will continue to put us on the map of international investors, site selectors and the rest of the country as a community that is progressive and able to take complex planning and put it into executable form and function. City coffers will receive millions of tax dollars to support services.

There is good reason why Fort Lauderdale was recognized as one of the Top 10 Small Cities of the Future by Foreign Direct Investment magazine and why companies are moving to and growing in the Venice of America. Projects like Marina Lofts, designed by internationally renowned architect Bjarke Ingels, get us to the future that much faster.

That is why it is critical for the Planning and Zoning Board to vote Yes on May 14 when it reviews Marina Lofts at a special hearing. There will be those in opposition that night sensationalizing the rain tree and condemning developer Asi Cymbal. The silent majority must rise to the occasion and stand united for the betterment of our collective future, bring iconic, affordable, rental units for our work force.

This is a perfect opportunity to approve a project and move us from a city to watch to a community you won’t want to leave.

Dan Lindblade, CAE, is the President & CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce.