When Reality Sets In

by Bernard McCormick Tuesday, June 04, 2013 No Comment(s)

We are looking at a copy of CITYVIEW, which does not have a space between "city" and "view." This appears to be the first issue of a publication sponsored by the Downtown Fort Lauderdale Civic Association. It seems to be one more attempt for a quasi-government or quasi-community group to get into the magazine business. This has been going on forever. One of the best city magazines, Philadelphia, had its origins as a chamber of commerce publication which nobody read. For more on that, read The Philadelphia Magazine Story, written by Bernard McCormick, no relation to us except the same person.

We wonder why such groups always want to have publications, which sell ads. Why not start a bank? Northern Trust would love that. Why not just a nice little restaurant, or a marina, or better still, a high-rise apartment? But that’s not the point today. The point today is that the cover of this new pub (not be confused with a real pub, such as Maguires Hill 16) features a shot from space, or somewhere aloft, showing all the planned new buildings in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Some, as regulars on Federal Highway notice, are seriously underway. Others are just waiting for approval. The outline of the geography into which these new buildings fall is outlined in yellow on the magazine’s cover. It resembles the helmet logo of a pro football team. Maybe the Atlanta Falcons.

But pageantry is not the theme today. The theme today is that inside the book there is a page devoted to “Downtown Development Projects” which shows all the buildings involved, in type so small that we needed the young eyes of one of our beautiful editors, aided by a magnifying loop (a relic of the days when we used them to blow up photography proof sheets) to read the tiny print. And that print revealed that the 15 projects listed, if all built, will produce nearly 4,000 residential units and 108 hotel rooms. That is an enormous increase in population in a section not much more than a mile long and half as wide at its fattest point. The magazine articles accompanying the map describe this as a wonderful event for downtown Fort Lauderdale. All these jobs, all these new residents, etc. But it doesn’t mention all these cars, which typically will be more than one per unit.

That is our theme. All this development comes at a time when those already living in downtown, especially those in residential neighborhoods such as Victoria Park, Colee Hammock, Flagler Heights, and (although most of them don’t seem to sense it) even Rio Vista, are increasingly concerned about traffic already here.  It has been going on ever since the city, in an effort to preserve the residential quality of convenient downtown neighborhoods, began closing streets more than 20 years ago. The idea was to redeem old neighborhoods caught between the growing beach and the sprawling western areas. But the agitation is recently renewed, especially from those living on the Las Olas Isles who want to see streets between Las Olas Boulevard and Broward Boulevard reopened, so they can more easily visit the Galleria Mall, or wherever they want to go to the west. Obviously, the people in Colee Hammock are not thrilled with that idea. Some of the city’s most impressive new homes have been built in that neighborhood precisely because the city had the good sense to reduce cut-through traffic years ago. Business on Las Olas has sent employees parking all over the nearby residential neighborhoods, to the chagrin of those who live there. You see landscaped swales, and those spiky things, popping up all over.

Even before all this new downtown construction, you see the Henry Kinney Tunnel backed up during the season (take note, Rio Vista) and the office building where Gold Coast magazine resides sometimes has its own traffic jam trying just to get out of our own parking lot.

Is this an easy problem, Fort Lauderdale veering toward New York, where no sane person ever drives? Obviously not, but some thought should be given to the traffic problem, before the euphoria of all this new growth confronts reality.

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