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An Example Of `Smart Growth'

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board Posted August 5 2003

Waterways have always been key to Fort Lauderdale's specialness. The Atlantic Ocean, the New River, the Intracoastal Waterway and other rivers, lakes and canals are highways to move people and goods around. They are places to fish, swim and go boating. They are drains to combat flooding and make the area livable. And they are sources of scenic beauty and quality of life.

Finally, the rich history of those waterways and their importance to the city will be told at the planned Fort Lauderdale Maritime Museum. Within two or three years, it will open as a place to show off boats, nautical instruments, photos, exhibits and other artifacts.

The museum is part of the $5.2 million New River Trading Post Development, covering an acre stretching north from the New River to the old downtown post office site at 330 SW Second St.

A 5,800-square-foot museum, resembling an early sailors' house of refuge, will rise on the New River and Riverwalk, with dock space for regular boats, water taxis and historical exhibit boats. To the north, along Southwest Fourth Avenue, will be the Riverwalk Theater Studios, a "live-work" space blending ground-floor offices and shops with second-floor apartments, with parking space behind. Along Second Street would be restaurants and retail stores.

The city leased the land to developers for 50 years for escalating rents starting at $50,000.

This project will enrich the city in many ways:

It will be developed by longtime city residents with a record of achievement in city betterment, developers Alan Hooper, Tim Petrillo, Kelly Drum and his grandfather, former Mayor Bob Cox, who has helped create museums elsewhere in the nation.

It is an innovative public-private partnership demonstrating many desirable "smart growth" principles. It strives to maintain both the character and scale of the neighborhood. The mixed-use facility merges places to live, work, eat, shop and visit, all in an easily walkable, user-friendly environment.

It is at a site urgently in need of revitalization and redevelopment. For years, Fort Lauderdale has tinkered with what to do with its closed post office, while development plans faltered.

And it fills a gaping hole along the Riverwalk. It will be the "missing link" between the Arts and Science District, including the Museum of Discovery and Science and the Performing Arts Center, the historic Himmarshee Village shopping and dining area, and the Las Olas Riverfront mall.

This is a "win-win" deal for all concerned.


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