Fort Lauderdale Chosen Ahead Of 2 Miami Locations In Bid For Outdoor Concert Venue At Riverwalk’s Esplanade Park
June 19, 2015 — A full-fledged outdoor music venue that would host 50 free concerts per year could be coming to Riverwalk’s Esplanade Park.
Levitt Pavilions, a national nonprofit that works with cities to develop public performance venues, has chosen to work with the city of Fort Lauderdale to build a state-of-the-art setting.
Fort Lauderdale was chosen ahead of two Miami locations, according to Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale president Genia Ellis, as the city was able to demonstrate that it has “great local public transportation, a diverse population and culture, a growing residential population in the downtown corridor and is also a desired tourist destination,” she said.
Eight other U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Denver and Memphis, Tennessee, currently have Levitt Pavilions.
Sharon Yazowski, executive director of Levitt Pavilions, said Fort Lauderdale’s selection had a lot to do with Riverwalk itself.
“The 50 free professional concerts every year will serve as a catalyst to activate the underused Riverwalk area,” she said.
Esplanade Park already plays host to a monthly jazz concert series and other local events, but the partnership with Levitt would help transform the underutilized area into a thriving destination—a goal city leaders have had for some time now.
In the past six months, Riverwalk has added new on-the-go food options and exercise-themed kiosks offering rentals for recreational activities. Plus, Fort Lauderdale recently approved outdoor dining along the New River in the hopes of bringing Riverwalk to life.
Yazowski said Levitt’s music programming would represent a range of genres and cultures to bring together Fort Lauderdale’s diverse communities. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts across the way would also be able to bring some of their performances to the pavilion in Esplanade Park, Ellis explained.
“It is a very cool option for Fort Lauderdale and as it moves ahead,” Ellis said.
Developing a Levitt Pavilion typically takes about three to six years, according to Yazowski. While it is too early to know the cost of the project, a Levitt venue typically costs $2.5 to $3.5 million, which is primarily funded by a fundraising campaign supported by private donations.
The Levitt program involves not only building a permanent outdoor music venue in a public space but also creating a Friends of Levitt nonprofit within the community to help with fundraising and programming.
“It is clear that Fort Lauderdale has leaders and individuals throughout the city who believe that vibrant community destinations are key to a healthy community,” Yazowski said.