By Anne Geggis
The city’s blighted northwest section might be land-locked, but its vacant lots could soon become waterfront property.
City officials say they plan to build a set of canals in a kind of project never before seen in Florida. And once it is complete, they hope that high-density housing, hotels, restaurants and stores will then be built around it.
River Walk in San Antonio, built in the 1930s, is the model, said Emily Marcus, a project manager with the city’s redevelopment agency.
“Pompano is a blank slate to really develop properly,” said Nguyen Tran, who oversees northwest redevelopment.
A main canal would run along the half-mile stretch between Interstate 95 and Dixie Highway, north of Atlantic Boulevard and south of Northwest Third Street. A concept drawing shows small canals also running north to south. Currently, the only other canal in the area runs underneath Atlantic Boulevard.
In this new vision, pedestrian bridges would invite strolling over the main canal. Sidewalks and seawalls would line the waterway. It would build on the ambience created in the last two years with the opening of two city-owned art venues in the area.
Carlos Adoriso, a county engineering supervisor, said he’s never heard of a project like this in the area before.
But city officials are determined to transform this 38-acre swath of old houses, boarded-up structures and vacant lots into a place where people can work, live and go out for the evening without getting into a car.
“Pompano has very little urban housing for college graduates,” Marcus said. “You look at the millennials, who have the low rate of getting their driver licenses. They are looking to live in urban pedestrian locations.”
A designer for the project will be selected sometime this year. And city officials expect it will take two or three years before construction can start, depending on the speed of permits from the state and county. But some redevelopment is already starting to take place in the area.
The 731 Retail Shoppes, which the city redevelopment agency built and opened in 2014, was the first new retail in the area in 40 years, city officials say. It would be across the street from the main canal.
Last fall, ground was broken on City Vista, a 111-unit apartment complex with ground floor retail that the redevelopment agency will manage and that is within sight of the main canal.