Bahia Mar overhaul plans take step forward

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The $250 million plan to redevelop Fort Lauderdale’s Bahia Mar hotel and marina complex on the beach took a major step toward reality.

City commissioners gave initial approval to design plans that include a new five-star Waldorf-Astoria, a renovated Bahia Mar hotel, a waterfront park and a permanent home for the annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The developers still must negotiate details of a long-term lease for the prime city-owned property, the Sun-Sentinel newspaper reported.

The decision came even though commissioners at the same time placed a temporary ban on the use of controversial land-use regulations at the heart of the Bahia Mar project.

A little more than an acre of property along the Intracoastal Waterway would be set aside for a park. It would be bordered by a 20-foot-wide promenade. In addition, the Bahia Mar developers would pay for a beach community center, a police command center, a trolley stop and the boat show improvements.

After the rezoning is completed, the next hurdle for the project is the lease.

The developers have wanted a 100-year lease, but the city charter says that the Bahia Mar cannot be leased for more than 50 years without competitive bids. To get around the restriction, lawyers for the city and the developers plan to draw up a 50-year lease that would be followed by a second 50-year lease, according to the report.

They also will have to negotiate a deal with the boat show — an important consideration for city leaders.

The boat show has been held at the Bahia Mar since 1976, and it pumps more than $500 million a year into the local economy.

The developers want to finalize the lease and boat show deal by late summer and want to start construction within two years and finish the work by 2016.

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