By Joseph A. Mann Jr.
Pompano Beach, a centrally located seaside city in Broward County, is developing an “innovation district” as part of a plan to renovate its aging, downtown center.
The city has been working “to build a second century downtown since 2007,” said Thomas DiGiorgio, an architect and builder who is chairman of the Pompano Beach Economic Development Council, a public-private organization. Among the goals is creating new economic appeal for the city and making it more attractive for companies, their employees, tourists and year-round residents.
DiGiorgio was one of the speakers at the Urban Land Institute symposium on Friday, held in Pompano Beach’s new cultural center. The event attracted about 200 people, including local government officials, developers and business representatives.
The plan is to develop about 750,000 square feet of office space, 165,000 square feet of retail, 35,000 square feet of restaurants, 1,500 residential units, and two hotels with a combined 420 rooms in and near the old downtown area. The area covers a total of about 170 acres that currently house many rundown residences and small businesses.
Pompano officials expect the redevelopment to add to the city’s growing real estate valuation and property tax revenue, even if millage rates remain stable. Planners are looking at different options, including building man-made waterways to make the area more attractive, like downtown areas in some European cities, such as Amsterdam, where businesses, restaurants and residences line canals.
The city should also add more trees and walking spaces, improve connectivity between the beach, the innovation district and other parts of the city, panelists said. In addition, Pompano should make the utilitarian traffic intersection at Dixie Highway and Atlantic Boulevard, near the heart of the new redevelopment zone and along the Florida East Coast Railway line, more friendly to businesses and pedestrians, they said.
Founded in 1908, Pompano Beach has about 109,000 residents, with more than 3 miles of beaches. The city and the Pompano Beach Community Redevelopment Agency have made improvements in recent years, including upgrades to public beaches, building a parking garage on the beach, converting an abandoned hotel into the Baily Contemporary Arts center, erecting the new Pompano Beach Cultural Center, converting an historic building into the Ali Cultural Arts Center and other projects.
The city and CRA are now focusing on the innovation district, an area located between I-95 on the west, Dixie Highway (and eastward) to the east, Atlantic Boulevard to the south and MLK Boulevard (Hammondville Road) to the north. The city and the CRA already have some funds for redevelopment, but may have to turn to bonds or other new sources of revenue, said Pompano City Manager Greg Harrison. Private sector investment will be essential.
Developers who see a positive outlook for Pompano Beach are already investing in projects outside the innovation zone. Mark Corlew, principal of Grover & Corlew, pointed to his firm’s major renovation of a commercial building on 2335 East Atlantic Boulevard. The firm bought the 28,000-square-foot building in 2015 for $3.7 million, attracted by the shortage of commercial space in Pompano. “We saw a lot of grossly underdeveloped properties,” Corlew said. The building is now 100 percent occupied.
Tim Hernandez, founder of New Urban Communities, is developing the Pompano Fishing Village on the ocean. The project will have 40,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, a 150-room dual-brand Hilton hotel, a pier that connects the ocean to the Intracoastal Canal, plus a plaza, an arch and other amenities. Three restaurants have already signed onto the project, which covers 6.5 acres east of A1A and is projected for completion in early 2020. The project took a long time to gain city approval, Hernandez said.
“Why Pompano?” asked Adam Adache, co-founder and managing partner of Cavache Properties, which is developing Old Town Square, a mixed-use project in Pompano. Pompano has more redevelopment opportunities than other regional cities, he said, and the city leadership and CRA have a proven track record. “No one wants to invest in city of the future that will always be a city of the future,” he said. Pompano is a city with a future, he asserted.