Publisher's Letter - December 2017
“Buddy Nevins, the former Sun-Sentinel columnist who writes a popular political blog, Broward Beat, gave us a nice shout-out last month. Our publisher’s message criticized the very unpopular WAVE streetcar that is planned for downtown Fort Lauderdale. Pointing out that our magazine gets a lot of ads from developers, he called us “gutsy” to go after an idea that only the development community seems to favor.
We appreciate Buddy’s accolade, but actually we were not that gutsy. Everyone in the business community, except the builders, seems to agree the WAVE is a disaster, which will only add to the traffic that has them upset already. These include long-time advertisers who are proud of the transformation they have seen over several decades. In fact, a principal in one of the area’s oldest businesses called to ask that we send the column to his city commissioner, for it represented his views exactly.
He, and most other business people we know, are generally proud of the city’s urban growth. They view the new apartments and shopping plazas along Federal Highway as a vast improvement over the light industry, including fleabag hotels and body shops, that previously lined that busy street.
Historically, this magazine has been a supporter of downtown redevelopment, going back to the days when it was called urban renewal. We wrote about the challenge facing Bill Farkas when he was the newly arrived downtown development director in the 1970s. At the time Las Olas Boulevard was sick, losing tenants and marred by gray empty store windows. There were just a few good restaurants. Commercial Boulevard was the center of nightlife.
At one point the city had knocked down blocks of aging structures, in the general vicinity of where the parking garage and Museum of Art now stand, but the plans to rebuild the area ran into legal challenges. Just to make it appear that something was happening, Farkas had nicely landscaped tennis courts built.
To make matters worse, the major downtown store, Burdines (now Macy’s) announced it was moving to the newly developed Galleria Mall. And Farkas did not even know it was happening. It turned out well, for Farkas was able to get the county to take over that big property for the Broward County Government Center. He stayed around to lead the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in its infancy, and by then his decades of work were paying off.
The problem is too much of a good thing. The traffic being generated has the old neighborhoods surrounding downtown up in arms. The Miami Herald, in a recent feature that read as if they’re written by developers, mentioned the convenience of living in the new downtown high rises, including a 10-minute ride to the airport.
But that’s exactly the problem. It isn’t a 10-minute ride anymore. If something goes wrong, say a tie-up in the Henry E. Kinney Tunnel, an increasingly frequent occurrence, that 10-minute trip can take a half hour or more. In approving buildings for new residents, the city is making life miserable for existing residents. Just to get around, people are cutting through once quiet neighborhoods where people walk baby carriages and dogs. It has become a quality of life issue.
Which brings us to this issue and features on these same neighborhoods (page 50) and challenges being met by shopping centers (page 40). If these articles seem at odds with some of our views, and the opinions of many of our readers, you are right. Such is reality. And you know the old line about consistency and small minds.