Bahia Mar makeover part of Fort Lauderdale’s organic growth.
The Bahia Mar makeover needs to move forward for consideration. The Rahn Bahia Mar team deserves the right to submit this application, regardless of their river dance with the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and city government.
The DNA of this makeover application began in 1953 when the citizens of Fort Lauderdale voted to split the Bahia Mar deed in half. That was 64 years long years ago. Everything east of Seabreeze Avenue was the “big P” — public land that will always stay park and beach. Everything to the West of Seabreeze was “little p” — city-owned land slated for economic development. The current city lease on this property is an antiquated economic disaster. The city needs to consider new formulas for profit sharing and a new lease that supports modern-day investment in this property. The boat show’s $857 million economic impact will come regardless of the terms of the lease between Bahia Mar and boat show.
The city has a financial and fiduciary responsibility to the people of this city who are clamoring for infrastructure improvements. With a city almost a billion dollars in the hole for infrastructure, we must look at this redevelopment opportunity. On one of the most basic fiscal levels, this project would bring over 3,000 linear feet of city-owned seawall up to code for climate resiliency. That’s over $6 million of resiliency that taxpayers don’t have to fund. Are we going to wait until the year 2063, when the lease runs out, and the property is underwater to address climate resiliency at Bahia Mar? That’s not responsible government and it is a terrible legacy to leave our citizens.
Also in the legacy department, we are lucky to have a world-class “starchitect” designing this project. Kobi Karp is an outstanding young architect committed to the future of Fort Lauderdale. I do not think Fort Lauderdale should turn its back on world-class international architects. Quoting the Sun Sentinel: Bahia Mar is one of the finest waterfront sites on the eastern seaboard. Public space should have good architecture on it.
You want the boat show to be happy? Then move this forward so folks can work on a deal that brings certainty to all parties. No business — be it the boat show or otherwise — can operate or thrive in this climate of uncertainty that has been created with pause, pause and pause. Pausing is the opposite of resiliency and legacy on all levels. We, the citizens, are tired of a tomorrow that never comes. We want action today.
We are growing as a city in many exciting and visionary ways. We’re growing organically and the evolution of the Bahia Mar application is part of that organic process. The time for pausing is over. Our commission cannot unreasonably withhold this opportunity from the people of Fort Lauderdale. They cannot unreasonably withhold this process from unfolding. The only shame on anyone’s plate is politicizing this special piece of land. We cannot continue to pause into entropy. This application for improvements to Bahia Mar should be accepted by the city and we should move forward today, not tomorrow.
Abby Laughlin is a retired real estate professional who lives in North Beach Village. She is a former vice president of the Central Beach Alliance.