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Elements of Urbanism: Downtown Fort Lauderdale

Join Metro Jacksonville as we take a look around Downtown Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Published March 29, 2011 in Learning From      9 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


Tale of the Tape

Fort Lauderdale Population 2010: 165,521 (City); 5,564,635 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1911)

Jacksonville Pop. 2010: 821,784 (City); 1,328,144 (Metro) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Fort Lauderdale (36,328)

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2000-2009)

Fort Lauderdale (Miami): +10.77%
Jacksonville: +18.29%

Urban Area Population (2000 census)

Fort Lauderdale (Miami): 4,919,036 (ranked 5 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 882,295 (ranked 43 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2000 census)

Fort Lauderdale (Miami): 4,407.4
Jacksonville: 2,149.2

City Population Growth from 2000 to 2010

Fort Lauderdale: +13,124
Jacksonville: +86,167

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Fort Lauderdale: Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward Convention Center (1991) - 200,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1986) - 78,500 square feet

Connected to Convention Center:

Fort Lauderdale: N/A
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Fort Lauderdale: Las Olas River House - 452 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Fortune 500 companies 2010 (City limits only):

Fort Lauderdale: AutoNation (212)
Jacksonville: CSX (259), Winn-Dixie (306), Fidelity National Financial (366)


Urban infill obstacles:

Fort Lauderdale: Florida's housing bust
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off Downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.


Downtown Nightlife:

Fort Lauderdale: Las Olas Boulevard
Jacksonville: East Bay Street


Common Downtown Albatross:

Surface parking lots.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Fort Lauderdale: 97 out of 100, according to
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to

City Land Area

Fort Lauderdale: 31.7 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

About Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale is a city in the U.S. state of Florida, on the Atlantic coast. It is the county seat of Broward County.

The city is a popular tourist destination, with 10.35 million visitors in 2006. Fort Lauderdale is sometimes known as the "Venice of America" because of its expansive and intricate canal system. The city is a major yachting center, with 42,000 resident yachts and 100 marinas and boatyards in 2006. The city sits 23 miles north of Miami, Florida. Fort Lauderdale and the surrounding area host over 4,000 restaurants and 120 nightclubs in 2006.

Fort Lauderdale is named after a series of forts built by the United States during the Second Seminole War. The forts took their name from Major William Lauderdale, who was the commander of the detachment of soldiers who built the first fort. However, development of the city did not begin until 50 years after the forts were abandoned at the end of the conflict. Three forts named "Fort Lauderdale" were constructed; the first was at the fork of the New River, the second at Tarpon Bend, in what is now known as the Sailboat Bend neighborhood, and the third near the site of the Bahia Mar Marina.,_Florida

Las Olas Boulevard

Las Olas Boulevard is a popular thoroughfare in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States that runs from Andrews Avenue in the Central Business District to A1A and Fort Lauderdale Beach. The easternmost section of the boulevard is interlaced with canals and waterfront homes. The commercial stretch, approximately 1-mile in length, features cool sub-tropical breezeways and courtyards alive with bars, nightclubs, bridal stores, shops, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and hotels. The name "Las Olas" means "The Waves" in Spanish.

Las Olas has its own historic house, a museum of art, a nearby IMAX cinema and an art house movie theater within a short walk. Las Olas Boulevard can be accessed by the Fort Lauderdale water taxi. The boulevard is a popular attraction for locals and visitors, being ideally situated close to Fort Lauderdale beach, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Port Everglades. It is known as a dining and shopping destination.

Las Olas Riverfront

Notable Residents

In the early 1980s Las Olas went through a major renovation program to enhance property values. The land was worth much more than that of the standing homes. It was decided that anyone who wished to buy property on one of the isles would have to tear down the existing home and build a home of equal or greater value than the land. There were a few celebrities that already lived on Las Olas, but new homes and waterfronts made it more appealing to move to the area. Professional tour companies provide tours that take people down the waterways to show off the celebrities homes and yachts.

A few of the most notable are:

Johnny Weissmuller, noted as an actor who played Tarzan and invented the signature yell.

Wayne Huizenga, noted as the ceo of Waste Management, Inc and Blockbuster Video.

David L Cook, noted as a Christian music star and entrepreneur.

Connie Francis, noted as an actress and movie star who was featured in the movie, Where the Boys Are which was filmed on Las Olas Blvd at the famed Elbo Room.

Dan Quayle, noted as the former Vice-President of the United States of America.

Lee Majors, noted actor who played The Six Million Dollar Man and former husband to Farrah Fawcett.

Sonny and Cher, noted singers and actors.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, noted television and movie stars. Stars of I Love Lucy fame.

Gloria Vanderbilt, noted designer and socialite.

The Wave Streetcar

The Wave, a new 2.7 mile electric streetcar system costing $125 million, is being planned for the downtown. Most of the construction funding will come from federal ($62.5 million), state ($37 million) and city taxpayers ($10.5 million), with approximately $15 million from assessments on properties located within the Downtown Development Authority. Broward County (BCT) has committed to operating the system for the first 10 years at an expected annual cost of $2 million, and has guaranteed funding to cover any shortfall in ridership revenues.[74] The construction cost of $50 million per mile is considerably higher than other recently-built streetcar projects, in part due to the challenges of building a electric transit system over the 3rd Avenue drawbridge.,_Florida

The New River Tunnel is one of three underwater road tunnels in Florida (the other two are in Walt Disney World), that replaced the Federal Aid Highway Bridge, a drawbridge opened on August 26, 1926 and closed in 1958. It carries U.S. Route 1 underneath the New River and Las Olas Boulevard in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

The tunnel was built after a lengthy debate on whether to construct another bridge or a tunnel. The old drawbridge operated so slowly that it sometimes took motorists 45 minutes to cross from one end of the bridge to the other, creating massive traffic jams in the heart of the city.

In 1986 it was renamed in honor of Henry E. Kinney, who had advocated its construction while he was chief of the Fort Lauderdale/Broward Edition of the Miami Herald.

Museum of Discovery & Science

Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale

Photos by Ennis Davis



March 29, 2011, 06:03:31 AM
Wow - bringing back some old memories for me with this one.  I grew up in Plantation, FL which is just to the west of Ft Lauderdale - basically one of the original classic suburbs of South Florida.  We went to Ft Lauderdale frequently, particularly for the beach.  My great aunt would spend her winters staying at a hotel on Las Olas.

I was down there last in early 2010 and was happy to see that downtown Ft Lauderdale has really come back to life.  The impression I had as a kid was of a sortof run down place that wasn't safe.  I remember one of the most controversial plans was when they decided to basically shut down spring break.  The goal was to make the beach area more family friendly, and having seen it in recent years, it appears that they succeeded.

I didn't know about the streetcar plan but I'm not surprised.  Anxious to ride it someday.


March 29, 2011, 06:30:27 AM

Project History

In 2004, a Downtown transit and pedestrian mobility study was completed through partnerships with the Downtown Development Authority of Fort Lauderdale (DDA), the City of Fort Lauderdale, the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), FDOT, Broward County, the Broward MPO, the Clean Air Cooperative, the Downtown Fort Lauderdale Transportation Management Association (TMA) and Tri-Rail that resulted in the need to invest in transit and pedestrian improvements in downtown.

Along with many steps taken to improve connectivity and the pedestrian realm, the DDA, in partnership with Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and the Broward MPO, hired Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) in 2005 to complete an Alternative Analysis (AA) and Environmental Assessment (EA). In simple terms, these are studies done to identify a potential route and technology and to determine the potential environmental impacts associated with completing a transit improvement.

During the AA process, there was a large outcry from the community to extend the project boundaries down to the hospital on 17th Street to link up to the local hospital district. So in 2006, the study area was extended to down to the Hospital.

In 2008, a locally preferred alternative (LPA) was endorsed by Broward County, the City of Fort Lauderdale, and the DDA. The route extends from Sistrunk/6th St on the North to SE 17th St on the South. The route map can be found on the Project Details page.

In addition, Broward County committed to be the owner and operator of the system and the City of Fort Lauderdale pledged a capital contribution of $10.5 million and agreed to go through a special assessment process to raise the remaining local share, all very significant steps to making the project a reality!

The proposed funding plan includes:

Federal dollars specifically programmed for transit projects across the U.S.
Specifically programmed State funds for mass transit projects across the State of Florida
Special assessment district of the benefitting property owners
A capital cash contribution from the City of Fort Lauderdale, City land donation for the Maintenance & Storage Facility, or a combination of both.
We are currently going through the Federal and State processes to secure funding, but have already been appropriated just under a million dollars from the federal government upon entry into Project Development!

Initiatives are being explored that could reduce the need from the local community.
Proposed Project Timeline
Start Project Development, June 2011
Start Procurement/Construction, November 2012
Ride The Wave! -- September 2014!

I suspect their streetcar plan will be negatively impacted by Scott being in Tallahassee as well.  Unless the state has already officially committed to funding their share, I would be suprised if it doesn't back out.  However, in this case, it is pretty expensive.


March 29, 2011, 10:28:26 AM
The Las Olas Riverfront Center has been a failure, much like the Landing.  It started out with lots of great stores and resturants, and slowly deteriorated into boarded up shops and little but tee-shirt stores and so-so fast food (sound familiar?).  There was a proposal to re-do it, but I don't know how that is coming along with the economic downturn.

[editorial note:  you have "West Palm Beach" under Connected to Convention Center]


March 29, 2011, 10:51:51 AM
Thanks.  Yes, the riverfront center is pretty much empty except for a restaurant or two and the movie theater.  However, the deterioration may also have something to do with the latest owner's plans to tear it down for high rise condos (before they got left standing up when the music stopped on the real estate game of musical chairs).


March 29, 2011, 11:17:06 AM
The LORC also suffered from the image (either real or perceived) of having a lot of petty crime.  Fortunately, I don't believe the Landing has that reputation.


March 29, 2011, 12:20:46 PM
Pier 66!


March 29, 2011, 01:31:26 PM
Gotta love that Publix


March 29, 2011, 04:15:52 PM
Another funny thing about lauderdale is that they also built a huge jail downtown on their riverfront.  It is directly across from one if the nicest towers in the city, RiverWatch Tower......


March 29, 2011, 09:37:19 PM
Honestly, whenever I go to Ft. Lauderdale, I can't wait to leave.
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