A Fort Lauderdale board gave the go-ahead to a $400 million project for the Bahia Mar resort and marina, a key location of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
The redevelopment of city-owned beach property cleared its first hurdle on Thursday, when the city's planning and zoning board voted 6-2 in favor of the new plans.
Although they were concerned about two proposed 39-story condominium towers that would dwarf other high-rises on the city's barrier island, board members supported the project, which will provide economic development, public waterfront open space and a permanent home for the boat show, according to the Sun-Sentinel newspaper.
The public property, which has been virtually walled off from the public, is meant to become a magnet for tourists and residents with an 18-foot promenade along the Intracoastal Waterway, a pair of waterfront restaurants and a "fishing village" of small stores and restaurants near State Road A1A.
"We've seen the beach go from college kids to dirtbags to a world-class destination," beach resident Dominick Miniaci told the newspaper. "For me, this is the best thing that could happen on the beach right now."
Developer Rahn Bahia Mar LLC's plans include renovating Bahia Mar's existing hotel, adding a highly desired beach grocery store and opening up the private sky bridge over A1A that connects the property to the beach.
The planning board's recommendation now goes to the Fort Lauderdale City Commission, which deferred action on a new lease for the developer last week so it could get expert advice on whether the deal makes financial sense for the city.