Despite some residents’ doubts that the blighted district could ever become pedestrian friendly, they will soon be able to sip java at a new coffee shop called Culinary Delights, listen to live music at a soon-to-open restaurant called The Flomingo or walk on landscaped sidewalks recently installed along the Florida East Coast Railway.
“This is what we’ve been preaching about for years and years,” said Kevin Bernardi, a downtown developer. “Finally, things are clicking. Everybody has always said Dixie Highway would never be nice, but in the last two months things have changed from night to day.”
City officials are remaking downtown with an $18.5 million loan from the Florida League of Cities, hoping to create an urban area where people can live, work, eat and shop.
Two new residential projects are planned for the area, new stores are opening, storeowners are fixing up their properties, and Realtors say potential investors are routinely combing the streets looking for sites.
“If you haven’t been here in a while, it’s a big surprise,” Commissioner Don Migliore said. “People are starting to take pride in this city.”
The biggest visible change involves the area surrounding the train tracks, which last month received a $700,000 upgrade with new fencing, flowers and grass. Sidewalks will also connect both sides of the railway, making it safer for residents to cross the tracks.
Another major change will be along Northeast 12th Avenue, which runs parallel to Dixie Highway. The area will be revamped with new drainage, streets, landscaping, lighting and additional parking. The project should be under way by November, said Special Projects Coordinator Pat Himelberger.
As downtown improves, people are paying more attention to the area, said Realtor Hugh McKerlie. He said Oakland Park is becoming more popular among investors because it offers larger, more affordable lots compared with such neighboring areas as Wilton Manors and Victoria Park.
“Oakland Park is the next east neighborhood that people can find great buys,” said McKerlie, who works for Galleria Collection of Fine Homes in Fort Lauderdale. “People looking to move here can’t find a decent-sized lot for under $400,000 anywhere else.”
The proposed downtown district stretches from Oakland Park Boulevard to Northeast 42nd Street between Northeast 10th and 12th avenues.Migliore said a new wave of development is expected to hit the city after a land-use amendment called a local activity center is established in November, which will allow for residential, retail and commercial zoning in the 200-acre district. With the activity center’s mixed zoning, the city can be much more flexible in allowing developers to build, particularly on sites that have been zoned industrial. The amendment has received state approval and is being reviewed by the county, he said.
I moved here just in time. Other units similar to mine in this development are now going for $10,000 to $20,000 more than I paid for mine last year.