Oakland Park Community Redevelopment Agency
Economic and Market Research
CRA Plan Review
5-Year Strategic Action Plan
Business Attraction/Marketing/Special Events
Planning, Zoning & Code revisions
2011 – 2015
Oakland Park Strategic Plan, Downtown Branding, Marketing & Business Attraction Plan, PR/Special Events
Prior to RMA’s engagement, the City of Oakland Park had spent over $30 million upgrading the infrastructure in and around the downtown core, however that alone was not enough to attract private developers to invest in the city. Many buildings remained blighted or vacant and the city’s tax base was on the decline. In addition, the Florida East Coast railroad tracks separated one side of the city’s “downtown” core from the other, making a traditional “Mainstreet” difficult to achieve. The city lacked an economic engine to spur growth, such as a courthouse or hospital, and there were no public assets to build upon, such as a beach. There wasn’t a clearly defined downtown city center, demographics were very low, the city had a very limited budget, and the City had no clear vision for the Downtown.
RMA was initially contacted by the City of Oakland Park to create a five-year strategic plan for the entire City with twelve locations identified as redevelopment target sites. Actions plans were drafted for each site, however RMA suggested that the City focus on the Downtown area first. The City agreed, and RMA was again retained to assist the City in acquiring grant funds through Broward County’s Redevelopment Capital Program (RCP). As part of the redevelopment strategy, a marketing component was needed, so the city instructed RMA to also create a Marketing Plan and Business Incentive package.
The comprehensive approach to Re-Inventing this City included an economic and market research analysis, redevelopment strategic planning, a real estate development action plan, and a marketing and business attraction campaign.
Led by Sharon McCormick, the RMA team needed to identify a niche this city could use to brand itself and become a viable and desirable area for investment. This was a challenge considering Oakland Park is situated next to the very popular and well know city of Fort Lauderdale.
The RMA team quickly discovered that the City of Oakland Park had an existing cluster of culinary related businesses including caterers, upscale kitchen and appliance stores, cabinet makers, culinary kitchens, and the only shared commercial kitchen in Broward County. With these findings, RMA created a brand – “Downtown Oakland Park Culinary Arts District” and developed a strategic, results-driven plan that included launching a strong marketing and business attraction campaign.
To address the divide of MainStreet, the RMA planning team recommended to initially turn the focus to the east side of the railroad tracks enabling the cluster of restaurants and retailers to locate in one area. After promoting the culinary concept, RMA attracted the first brewery in Broward County, Funky Buddha, who wanted a large vacant warehouse space located in the downtown area for production and a tasting room. The existing zoning did not allow for brewing, so RMA assisted the city in creating a zoning category to support the new South Florida trend of brewery concepts. A full Local Activity Center (LAC) was codified to allow for flexible zoning on all properties in the downtown.
Using the new-found success of the culinary brand and the first anchor tenant of Funky Buddha Brewery, RMA then set out to realign the focus of the entire “downtown” by creating visual elements to tie the area together, including banner signage, street improvements and connection points for pedestrians, and increased special events to bring more visitors. The entire area now has seen almost 50% of the buildings undergo renovations or complete redevelopment.
- After the initial market investigation and analysis, RMA branded the downtown core as the “Downtown Oakland Park Culinary Arts District” and repositioned the area as a place where all things culinary could occur.
- The Funky Buddha Brewery, the largest craft brewery in South Florida, selected the emerging Culinary Arts District as their home and opened phase one of their two-phase plan in 18,000 SF of warehouse space at Oakland Station. They later doubled in size with the phase two addition of 19,000 SF for an on-site bottling operation and restaurant concept. Today, they have expanded to 180,000 square feet and are a major employer in the district.
- Throughout the first two years of the Culinary Arts District being established, over 8 properties valued at nearly $15 million had changed hands within the half-mile Downtown Local Activity Center (LAC).
- A popular local restaurateur selected the space adjacent to the Funky Buddha Brewery for restaurant/retail build-out in 3800 SF, attracting additional interest to the Oakland Station warehouse property including an indoor Central Market concept proposed by RMA.
- The Urban Farming Institute began development and operation of a first-of-its-kind Urban Farm Park, including a weekly Farmers Market component, bringing sustainability to the Downtown Oakland Park Culinary Arts District.
- The launch of a successful monthly “Farm to Chef Showcase” event during the weekly Farmers Market, featured local restaurant chef’s performing a live cooking demonstration utilizing fresh ingredients from market vendors.
- The Urban Art Park, at the center of the Culinary Arts District, re-purposed a blighted corner for the benefit of the community by creating additional green space and an arts & cultural outlet.
- Broward College, along with other culinary schools, researched the Culinary Arts District as a top location for their new Food Arts & Business Center campus concept (estimated 1,000 students).
- The well-known, successful Allied Kitchen & Bath opened a second location in 20,000 square feet in the heart of the downtown. They have plans to lease ground floor space to for up to three new restaurants.
- Lucky’s Market opened their third south Florida location in Oakland Park in 2017