The wee hours of the morning saw the Fort Lauderdale City Commission approve redevelopment plans for Bahia Mar. Over an expected decade, the site will gain reconfigured marina space, plus high-rise apartments, restaurants, shops, and a new hotel to replace the existing one.
The plans, unveiled earlier this year, meet the ongoing needs for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS). The show has used Bahia Mar as its centerpiece for nearly 60 years. Over the summer, the Marine Industries Association of South Florida (MIASF), which owns FLIBS, extended its lease of the site through 2050. At the time, MIASF indicated it had seen the redevelopment plans and was satisfied. That lease extension was a major sticking point for Jack Seiler, Fort Lauderdale’s mayor, before he’d consider voting on redevelopment.
According to a Sun-Sentinel newspaper article, Seiler voiced favor for the plans during a public hearing last night. “Right now, there is no public use of the property,” it quotes him as saying. (Bahia Mar occupies nearly 39 acres of city-owned land.) “You pull up, and there’s a gate, and if you get back there, you can basically hang out on asphalt. I think we can make better use of this property.”
The approved plans will see a public walkway rim the footprint. A two-level parking garage plus an underground garage will exist, too, as will a “marina village.” The latter features shops and outdoor dining in one- and two-story buildings. Yet another restaurant, plus a yachting-amenities complex, will be built as well. A new hotel will replace the Doubletree hotel currently on site. Bahia Mar will additionally gain seven apartment buildings rising 11 stories. The bottom four stories of all, however, will remain open to allow water views from elsewhere in the complex. Finally, a five-story building combining offices, a grocery, and parking will go on site.
The Bahia Mar plans are not without controversy. This, even after revising two previous redevelopment concepts last year. Initially, the vision was for two 39-story apartment buildings, plus a new hotel. Commissioners turned this down in February 2016. A few months later, the developer proposed two 29-story apartments. However, public outcry and lack of support from the boat show caused him to withdraw the idea. Even last evening, according to the Sun-Sentinel, many residents expressed concern over things like increased traffic and overwhelming the water-sewer infrastructure. The developer’s attorney reportedly indicated the company will replace pipes due to not knowing how old they are. The city deputy public works director added that pipes leading from the site can service the new buildings.