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How Fort Lauderdale's long-overlooked downtown became South Florida's latest hotspot

Andres Viglucci, Miami Herald on

Published in Home and Consumer News

If downtown Fort Lauderdale is playing catch-up, it's doing so with a vengeance.

The city says some 7,000 residential units are under construction or already approved, with thousands more under review. All are located in a downtown district that runs roughly between the Florida East Coast rail tracks to the west and U.S. 1 on the east, and from Davie Boulevard south of the river to Sunrise Boulevard on the north.

Among the significant projects just completed, under construction, approved or under review are:

? Icon Las Olas, a 272-unit, ultra-luxe rental tower on the river by Miami's Related Group that opened earlier this month. The tower tests Related's proposition that Fort Lauderdale's affluent class is ready to rent instead of own, at rates that range from $2,000 to $8,000 a month.

"We let the market decide," said Related vice president Patrick Campbell, who added the bet has paid off with 60 percent of units leased in just four months, a record rate for the company. "We have an interesting group of middle-aged people who have given up on the hassles of homeownership."

? X Las Olas. It will replace most of the failed Las Olas Riverfront festival marketplace redevelopment, which opened in 1998 and is now undergoing demolition. The new mixed-use project, by Property Markets Group, comprises two residential towers with 1,200 units. The first phase, a 639-unit tower, will feature small units with modest rents aimed at young renters. A quarter of the units will be about 500 square feet and 70 percent will rent for under $2,000, a spokeswoman said. The project also includes 100,000 square feet of shared amenities for "social living."

? 100 Las Olas, which recently started construction, will be Broward's tallest tower at nearly 500 feet, a smidge higher than Icon. The high-rise, by developer Kolter Group, includes 120 condos, 228 hotel rooms and ground-floor restaurant space. Units at the tower, the only new condo project with active sales listings downtown, start at $800,000 and top out at $2.27 million, with an average list price of just over $1.37 million.

? FAT City, on North Andrews Avenue in the heart of Flagler Village and just two blocks from the Brightline station. The mixed-use complex, approved by the city commission in July, consists of two 30-story towers with 270,000 square feet of Class A offices and retail space, and 612 apartments "right-priced" for middle-class renters who have been shut out of luxury-level housing in the downtown core, according to developer Joe Traina, Jr. That means rent that starts below $1,000 a month.

? 201 East Las Olas and 212 SE Second Ave. Developer Stiles Corp., based in downtown Fort Lauderdale, plans two towers on the site of a complex formerly occupied by Broward College. One tower will house 400,000 square feet of offices and the other residential, with a ground-floor supermarket. Stiles vice chair Doug Eagon, whose firm has played a key role in the resuscitation of the district, said commercial demand is high on Las Olas, with vacancies at just 5 percent.

? The Dalmar/Element hotel, under construction on the edge of Flagler Village on North Federal Highway (U.S. 1). The dual-branded, 24-story complex aspires to a high coolness quotient. It comprises 323 hotel rooms with a rooftop bar, 12,000 square feet of amenities and meeting spaces, and a ground-floor coffee shop.

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