No other 20th century planning term evokes more derision. Perhaps with the exception of Albany, New York has no other city had more blocks of its downtown cleared to make way for new development than this one. This makes downtown Fort Lauderdale doubly young. The town center began forming c. 1900 soon after the arrival of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railroad arrived in 1896. It grew and evolved until the 1960s as suburbanization sucked the commerce out of it.
Faced with a largely vacant downtown, stakeholders came to together and formed the Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority to reimagine and rebuild the downtown. Slowly, c. 1970, it began to grow again. A development boom in the c. 2000 brought the city center to a new plateau and the current development boom is transforming downtown before our eyes.
Yes, we’ve had swaths of Urban Renewal and lost some fine old buildings along the way, but this young downtown nevertheless retains its human-scaled grid, unbroken by elevated expressways, and it’s been appointed with museums, parks, a central library and a regional performing arts center to show for it.
The growing skyline is just the beginning.
The tour winds along Riverwalk from Laura Ward Plaza to Brickell Avenue, then north to Stranahan Park and back to Laura Ward Plaza through the downtown core.