The Best Neighborhoods
The neighborhood you live in may define you. Here in Fort Lauderdale, you probably picture a type of person that lives south of the river, or on the north side, or in a downtown highrise. We’re lucky here in Fort Lauderdale that the neighborhoods that define us just happen to be some of the best in South Florida. They’re walkable. They’re diverse. Good schools and restaurants. All that. Here are our city’s best neighborhoods.
Las Olas Isles & Seven Isles
Drive east on Las Olas from downtown, toward the beach, and it’s hard to decide where to focus your attention. There are the rows of stately palms; the canals, straight as arrows in each direction; the homes, full of columns and grand entrances; and then the yachts. Everywhere are white and turquoise and blue ships, full of sun decks and bay windows to state rooms and curving hulls reflecting the water. This view is why many of Fort Lauderdale’s celebrities live in Las Olas Isles and neighboring Seven Isles. Or maybe it’s the water, says realtor Susan Rindley. “It’s known for its yachting. You’re in a great location to get out to the ocean and also right in the middle of everything,” she says. Las Olas is our Rodeo Drive, Rindley says, and it’s the heart of the isles, which is just a short golf cart ride to Rocco’s Tacos or the Floridian. There’s also Chima, right in the center, where Las Olas Isles residents meet under the banyan tree in the courtyard. Out over the bridge is the craziness of the beach, but here are all the reasons people move to this city. Says Rindley: “It’s really the perfect lifestyle for South Florida.”
Median list price in Las Olas Isles: $1.65
Million Change since last year: -8%
Median list price in Seven Isles: $2.59
Million Change since last year: -17%
If you’re new to town, you’d be forgiven for failing to notice Harbor Beach as you speed along the south end of Seabreeze Boulevard. It’s a neighborhood hidden back along the water, and that’s how the residents like it, says realtor Peter Barkin. “It’s among the best-kept secrets in Fort Lauderdale,” he says. “Because of two guard gates into the subdivision, a lot of people turn around at the entrances.” What they’re missing is a neighborhood with benefits, including a marina and a private beach club. For boaters, it has prime access to the inlet, which also provides fresh sea water to the neighborhood’s heart, Lake Sylvia. The lake is often full of boaters tying up for a swim and is surrounded by island streets with some of the most stunning architecture in town. “Harbor Beach is one of the most exclusive areas in Fort Lauderdale,” Barkin says. “Looking at Lake Sylvia, you can see why.” You don’t have to go far to find locals out on the town; head over to the Pier Sixty-Six, where a short walk from Harbor Beach rewards with waterfront dining and one of the city’s best spots for the sunset. It’s also a short walk over to the inlet, where a parade of ships awaits on weekends. Many of those luxurious personal ships you’ll see, there’s a good chance they tie up behind a home in Harbor Beach.
Average home value: $1.3
Million Change since last year: +29%
Back when Rio Vista first came to be in the 1920s, it was in the wilds. There were no bridges across the New River from Fort Lauderdale and little else around except swamps. Those early homes were tiny Spanish bungalows and craftsman-style wood cottages. Since then, the city has grown around Rio Vista, but it hasn’t lost any of the character of that early settlement. Few people know that better than Romney Rogers, the city commissioner who grew up on Rio Vista Boulevard and now lives on Seventh Street. “People often don’t even know it’s there,” Rogers says from his law office. “People don’t realize it’s this little enclave right in the middle of the city.” Like they did when Rogers was growing up, kids still play in the streets in Rio Vista. Smaller lots mean the wide boulevards with canopies of trees serve as playgrounds. You also see those kids getting ferried around Rio Vista on the backs of golf carts that serve as a major mode of transportation. The parents sip glasses of wine as they motor those carts to the neighborhood’s restaurant jewel, Valentino Cucina Italiana, or over to 17th Street and The Grateful Palate, or even bravely over one of the bridges to Las Olas. Many of the early bungalows remain, but around them have sprouted modern mansions, especially the estates along Ponce de Leon Drive, where businessman H. Wayne Huizenga lives in a sprawling compound. The fact that the kids who live in tiny clapboard homes play in the streets of children from eight-figure waterfront spreads is what makes the place special, Rogers says. “It’s always been like that, a little bit eclectic,” he says. “And that’s how people like it.”
Average home value: $858,500
Change since last year: +20%
Coral Ridge & Coral Ridge Country Club Estates
It’s no mistake that many of this city’s finest shops, restaurants and schools end up right in the heart of Coral Ridge. This is a neighborhood of people who know the finer things, like to select a neighborhood with such stunning Intracoastal homes and meandering streets full of family homes. “It’s a nice mix of a neighborhood with all kinds of beautiful architecture,” says Sandy Tagliamonte, a realtor here. The neighborhood begins at the Galleria Mall and heads north along Bayview, which dances left and right slowly all the way up to the tony Coral Ridge Country Club Estates. You’ll pass the Coral Ridge Country Club along the way, as well as Cardinal Gibbons High School, two places you know well if you’ve been in Fort Lauderdale. On the west side along Federal are the places you’ll find Coral Ridge residents, restaurants like d.b.a./café, Kitchenetta and Casa D’Angelo (just “Casa” if you’ve lived here long enough). There’s a neighborhood Publix on Sunrise and a Starbucks next door that always has people sitting out front. There are also boutiques like Denim Lily, and Lilac and Lilies. That closeness to stellar shopping and dining is what helps define Coral Ridge – this is a neighborhood that might seem like the suburbs, with its great schools and large lots. But it’s also a neighborhood where you never have to go far to find something nice.
Average home value in Coral Ridge: $563,900
Change since last year: +12%
Average home value in Coral Ridge Country Club Estates: $322,400
Change since last year: +13%
It wasn’t long ago that downtown really wouldn’t be considered a neighborhood. Maybe you worked there in one of the bank towers or went to happy hour along Himmarshee. Then you lived elsewhere. But then came the building boom and condo towers that sprung up as if planted by seed. It’s fair to call those condo sales up and down over the years, but now those towers are full of lights at night, and that means downtown residents. One of them is Ashley Turner, a 29-year-old who works at a landscape architect firm. She grew up in Coral Ridge and, back then, didn’t give living in downtown much thought. Now she talks about it being a community. “On Friday, I can park my car in the garage and not get back in it all weekend,” says Turner, who lives in the Esplanade. “You can walk to everything.” She takes the water taxi out to the boat show or the Sun Trolley around town. She hits the farmers market on Sundays in front of YOLO. And she spots others from her building and elsewhere in downtown doing the same thing. They’re the reason so many local-attracting places have sprung up downtown, like American Social, the Old Fort Lauderdale Breakfast House, and Public House. Sure, Himmarshee and Las Olas will always be tourist destinations; but now they also have a new crop of customers who actually live in a neighborhood called downtown.
Average home value: $404,800
Change since last year: +21%
Victoria Park & Colee Hammock
Realtor Larry Wallenstein grew up in a walkable, friendly Chicago neighborhood right outside downtown, so he looked for the same thing when he came to Fort Lauderdale. And it’s pretty hard to find a neighborhood more in the middle of everything than Victoria Park and Colee Hammock. “It’s the greatest neighborhood in the world,” Wallenstein boasts. “It’s an old-fashioned, downtown neighborhood.” It’s close enough to downtown and Las Olas that the residents of this eclectic mix of homes and apartments think of those entertainment areas as their own. But it also has plenty of neighborhood spots where you’d find residents dining, like Christina Wan’s, Jalisco and The Foxy Brown, or working on their laptops outside Brew. Outsiders might think of Holiday Park as the neighborhood gathering spot, but it’s more Annie Beck Park, at the corner of Victoria Park Road and Broward Boulevard. It stretches along the canal, with a path next to the mangroves leading to a gazebo. It’s sometimes a dog park, a paddleboard launch spot, a place for hula hoopers, and a fine place for moms with strollers to watch boats pass. During the building boom, some of the older homes and empty lots gave way to rows of stately townhomes, and now Wallenstein says that’s happening again. “There are so many projects under way in this neighborhood. It’s hard to drive down a street and not see one.” Considering Victoria Park’s prime location, that’s not about to change anytime soon.
Average home value in Victoria Park: $355,000
Change since last year: +20%
Median list price in Colee Hammock: $350,000
Change since last year: -65%