Why the Pier Sixty-Six redevelopment is different and deserves support

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Original Opinion appeared in the Sun Sentinel

By Bob Kramm

The City of Fort Lauderdale is a community like no other, and its residents know exactly why everyone wants to come here. Whether visitors, transplants or businesses, this city attracts a wide array of attention. For those reasons, it’s understandable that we must protect our home from those that don’t have this city’s best interests in mind.

Recently, Tavistock – the owner of the Pier Sixty-Six and adjacent Sails Marina site – has asked the city to enter into a development agreement. As typically is the case with large property developments, there has been opposition playing on the “smart development” campaign platforms to stall and stunt progression. Tavistock and their long-term plans for redevelopment are exactly what we all voted for, longed for – smart, thoughtful development. And so, while the unknown of something new, something different might seem scary, it’s exactly what we’ve all been asking for.

So how exactly is this agreement a benefit to our community?

The agreement creates a framework for a uniform design, beautiful landscaping, and the best mix of residential, retail, marina and public spaces. The developer has also agreed to restore and then historically designate the Tower – one of our City’s only iconic structures – and to create a public access Marina Promenade. Finally, the agreement works toward a single result, which is a cohesive reinvention of the property on both sides of 17th Street.

And despite misconceptions I have heard from my neighbors, what this agreement does not do is just as important when it comes to our protection: it does not permit construction to start immediately or let Tavistock skip the city’s normal building review and approval processes.

Residents have long rallied that the development process in our city needs to change, past mistakes not be repeated. Tavistock is promising “thoughtful development” and their actions have shown them to be true – look up Albany, Bahamas or Lake Nona in Orlando. Rather than just distract with a shiny rendering, they are taking the steps to lay long-term groundwork to reinvent a destination icon. If residents and the commission truly do want to embrace smart development, this development agreement seems to do just that.

In expressing this long-term intent, Tavistock is not only making a commitment to the city, but also agreeing that they don’t want to build what previous owners had received approval to build. Universally those plans were not well received, and something that nobody wants to see come to fruition. Working with Tavistock would give us a fresh start.

Taking this holistic approach on such a landmark site is what we should all want. Having a world-class developer come into our city and demonstrate long-term interest -- we should be welcoming them with open arms and not boxing them into our tired practices and plans.

Pier Sixty-Six and its Pier Top hold a special place for most of us. Tavistock is only looking to enhance that legacy and is taking the right steps to make that happen. They have been committed to an open dialogue to develop what’s best for our community, so like any good neighbor, we should reciprocate and give them a chance to deliver on their promise.

Bob Kramm is president of Compass Management and Consulting group. He resides in the Harbor Beach neighborhood, next to Pier Sixty-Six.

Jessi Blakley