More parks, more parks management, and more resiliency against sea-level rise might be the key to Downtown Fort Lauderdale's future development, according to The Urban Land Institute.
The real estate research group presented its big ideas to improve the city to residents and development leaders Friday, after an advisory panel of experts spent a week studying the city's downtown core.
The plan involves more parks, hiring more staff and updating existing green space to adapt to a hotter climate.
The panelists looked at how to make density more livable, and how to manage future downtown growth, when the current urban core is reaching its limits.
"We've got great opportunities to really integrate programming that really kind of educates and informs and celebrates water and the change that's going to come with it," Josh Murphy said. A panel member, he works at NOAA in Washington D.C.
Murphy told residents the city should embrace flooding in existing parks, like Esplanade Park, and use it as a chance to collaborate with the nearby Broward Center for the Performing Arts and the Museum of Discovery and Science.
Jenni Morejon, president and CEO of the Fort Lauderdale DDA, thinks that's a great idea.
"I think what's interesting and kind of fun is, when we're talking about public spaces and parks along the river, that we use resiliency capital improvements as a way to also celebrate public spaces - have a little bit of fun with water," Morejon said.
Other recommendations from the panel may not be as easy to achieve. Like moving the Broward County Jail farther from valuable real estate by the New River.
"The likelihood of any entity, especially the county, picking up and moving is not real. However, it takes a group like this to instigate new ideas," Morejon said. "Some of it is absolutely inspiring, exciting, we can't wait to get started tomorrow - but a lot of this is going to require more discussion, more consensus building."
The advisory panel also urged the city to hire someone to manage the parks, and help with a board for making decisions about the $200 million bond for parks voters passed in March 2019.
"When you look at public spaces that we all collectively own, and somebody in a leadership role waking up everyday focusing on that, I think that's what allows cities like Fort Lauderdale to take it to the next level," Morejon said. "$200 million it's a great start, but it's kind of a down payment on the future of our parks and public spaces in Downtown."
The DDA was able to receive expertise and research from the Urban Land Institute's advisory panel because of funding from the national 10-Minute Walk Campaign, which urges urban areas to make a park within a 10-minute walking distance from residents. The campaign is partially run by the ULI.
The full report from this week's recommendations will be available in about 90 days, according to the ULI panel.
Some of the key recommendations for the city include:
- Hiring a Chief Public Realm Officer to manage the park system in downtown with a more unified approach.
- Create a decision-making board for the $200 million bond for parks that voters approved in March 2019.
- Plan for three feet of sea-level rise when designing new parks, and updating existing parks that already flood.
- Relocate the Broward County Jail
- Redefine how, when, and where to build new development based on 2060 flood plain projections
- Create a Riverwalk Resilience District
- When building the new Huizenga Plaza near Las Olas Boulevard, keep storm water management, and things like permeable pavement in mind.
- Upgrade Broward Boulevard to be able to accommodate more density
- Focus on growing the downtown core of the city south of the New River, towards the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.