2 min read February 2022 — Downtown Fort Lauderdale has come a long way in the past 10 years. Jenni Morejon, executive director of the Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority, spoke to Invest: about how the city overall “has come into its own as a vibrant, midsize metropolitan and sophisticated city.” She discussed what makes Fort Lauderdale a great place to live and work and provided her outlook for the area.
What makes Fort Lauderdale a great place to work and live?
Downtown Fort Lauderdale stands out as being the center of the South Florida region with a metropolitan experience that’s both sophisticated and relaxed. With new restaurant concepts, retail amenities, an international airport and seaport, and world-class beaches all in close proximity, Fort Lauderdale is an excellent destination to live and work with a range of housing and employment options that appeal to all. From an economic standpoint, lifestyle vibe, access to capital, and connectivity within the region, in Fort Lauderdale, you have something for everyone.
How has the Downtown region developed and what are the emerging opportunities?
Downtown Fort Lauderdale has experienced tremendous success through a strong residential development pipeline over the past two decades. In the past four years alone, more than 5,000 residential units have been delivered, and 10,000 more are approved to be built or are under review. We’ve seen a growing talent base choosing DowntownFTL as their home, evidenced by a 41% increase in young professionals aged 25 to 34 living here and a 39% increase in the number of families over the past 10 years. The attraction of Fort Lauderdale by those relocating from other cities attracts world class companies and nationally known restaurateurs and retailers.
What trends will emerge in the office space with the new work-from-home reality?
Office space will need to blend seamlessly with the experience workers have enjoyed at home over the past two years. If people have been living in relatively new apartments in Downtown Fort Lauderdale with amazing amenities, access to shops, restaurants and the outdoors, office spaces will need that same flexibility, comfort, and style. Whether that’s in large class-A office towers or through the renovation of smaller commercial spaces that can provide a higher level of service, we will start to see enhanced quality workspaces spread throughout the urban core and elevate distinct neighborhoods like Flagler Village as a destination for employers.
What is next for Fort Lauderdale in terms of development?
Quality of place is a major factor in attracting new innovative development, and Downtown Fort Lauderdale has been fortunate to experience sustained waves of private investment over the past two decades. This, combined with our natural assets of river, beach, and central location, has created a new momentum for public and civic investments to enhance our public buildings, public parks, our streets, sidewalks, and all the shared spaces that make up the heart and soul of a city. Projects like the joint government campus, a new Federal Courthouse, and activated Downtown parks are an opportunity to better utilize public land for future investments.
Is there starting to be a shift away from a commuter suburban lifestyle to a more urban walkable lifestyle?
The shift to a walkable, urban city happens when a critical mass of residents and employees flock to a targeted destination. This is almost always fueled by private investment in new residential and commercial amenities. It’s hard to believe but 20 years ago, there was virtually no residential population in Downtown with very few condominiums or apartments. Now, we have 20,000 residents and 70,000 employees in less than 2-square-miles. In many downtowns, 70 to 80% of all real estate is dedicated to office space. By contrast, DowntownFTL real estate is one-third office, and more than half residential. This means our urban center has a strong full-time population which also makes it better equipped to meet the needs of the post-COVID economy not relying primarily on office development alone. The real shift will be when more retail and commercial amenities follow the residential boom, providing an environment where you can truly leave your car behind and simply walk, bike, or rely on first and last-mile connections to meet all of your needs.
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