On Tuesday night, August 20, 2013, in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, the Fort Lauderdale City Commission voted 4-0 in favor of the Marina Lofts Project. This was preceded by a vote regarding the moving of the Rain Tree. Despite that it is protected by a 1987 Ordinance that was passed by a previous commission; Mayor Seiler, Vice Mayor Roberts and Commissioner DuBose voted in favor of its move with only Commissioner Trantalis voting in opposition; Commissions Rogers reclused himself citing conflict of interest.
While the applicant team was provided 45 minutes to present (again) regarding the Marina Lofts Project, they asked for and were granted an additional 25 minutes to present regarding the method of relocation for the designated Florida Champion, the Rain Tree. As the Marina Lofts Project was the last item on an already packed agenda, public comment didn't open until well into the night.
While the comments were biased in favor of the project, many good points that were raised that should have required further discussion disturbingly were not once the public comment period was closed. With an intense focus on parking, density and the completion of the Riverwalk; the Mayor and commissioners seemed focused on little else and ultimately demanded just as little from the developer.
With a reduction of units from a previous 998 to 960 to finally 856, this only partially addressed concerns, very valid concerns that should have triggered a thoughtful council's response to review the documents that were being provided to the Commission and hold off on a vote until the next scheduled meeting. This was not done. It became apparent that approval for the project would be railroaded through as they kept citing the late hour. Had they ever really intended to actually weigh the discussion of the pros and cons of the project, they would have either made it a special session or placed it earlier on the agenda so more could have commented. This was probably intentional.
Will this project get built? History shows that Asi Cymbal is more interested in moving property than developing property leaving the city open to some perhaps future ugly scenarios.
Consider: because the development now has entitlements to build a project that is contested to be in opposition to several master plans, the ULDR and the design intent for the New River (it was suppose to be perpendicular to the New River not parallel) along with environmental, climate change and social considerations along with the release of the protection of the Rain Tree; what would stop Asi from selling the property with these entitlements to another less "scrupulous" developer who does not hire a star architect and does not have a "crack team" to move the Rain Tree?
That the city commission allowed the phasing of the three parcels; the western lot first followed by the central lot within 18 months and then the eastern lot does not bode well. The buildings are designed to physically connect at the top of the "fissure" making a two phase construction schedule difficult if not almost impossible. Because there is a 30' not 60' gap between the buildings this would mean in essence that the residents who would be living in the western lot would be living in the middle of a construction zone.
Be careful what you wish for, sometimes you just might get it and may not be what you want.