A development sign is posted in the parking lot of the northeast corner of Atlantic Blvd. and A1A in Pompano Beach. After spending $50 million on a new, revitalized beach area, a new pier and an artificial reef, Mayor Lamar Fisher said attracting a beach side hotel is the city's top development priority for the next 24 months. It looks like things might start happening. After lying dormant for a decade, a proposed project with 303 hotel rooms, plus a residential condo tower has applied to have its development order re-approved. 12/21/16. Staff Photographer Jim Rassol. (Jim Rassol / Sun Sentinel)
It has a jazzy new beachfront, with a fancy parking garage, winding footpaths and an undersea reef that looks like a casino.
Now the city wants a payoff: a new hotel in the beach redevelopment area — the first one in decades.
"We're making great strides," said Mayor Lamar Fisher. "As far as development, tourist hotels are at the top of our priority list."
The need for tourist development is reflected in Broward County's so-called bed tax figures, which show Pompano collected less than Plantation and Deerfield Beach in the last fiscal year.
Kim Briesemeister, one of the leaders of the firm overseeing Pompano's $40 million beachside redevelopment, predicts the city will land at least one new hotel in the next year.
"All of the foundation has been laid to attract good, quality development," she said. "Now you are going to start to see buildings."
Pompano Beach has re-done its ocean side roads, put its utility wires underground, added an ocean side walkway and a striking beach side garage. With the groundwork laid, city officials are predicting 2017 will mean the beach side redevelopment area's first hotel in decades.
The beach is a far cry from where it was six years ago, before the redevelopment began.
"I'm sorry to say it looked like London after World War II – boarded-up buildings, homeless, prostitution, drugs," said former commissioner Barry Dockswell. "The city had to lead the way – and there's so much more to come."
Already, a 22-story proposed tower with hotel rooms and condominiums is back on the table after languishing as an approved but unbuilt development for more than a decade. The developer in August submitted plans to slightly reconfigure its units.
While there is no set construction timeline, Briesemeister said any movement means progress.
"Developers don't like to sit on properties," she said. "The developer's motivation is not to hold on to it, but get it developed or sold."
Briesemeister said two operators are in talks about a potential hotel site on the southwest side of the lot next to the new beach side garage.
Owners of the Sands Harbor Resort & Marina, built in 1965 at 125 N. Riverside Drive, have also been talking to the redevelopment agency about building something new at the site on the east side of the Intra coastal, according to Briesemeister and Mayor Fisher.
Just to the north, Deerfield has seen new hotels spring up along its waterfront. Two years ago, the Royal Blues Hotel opened a 12-unit boutique hotel on the city's barrier island. Another 34-unit hotel is expected to open there next year. And on the western side of the Intracoastal, a hotel next to the Cove Shopping Center is moving forward, according to city spokeswoman Rebecca Medina Stewart.
Deerfield's development followed a similar pattern of public investment in the waterfront that included renovations to the Deerfield's pier, new street scaping and landscaping next to the beach.
Pompano is planning a complete replacement for its pier, which has been partially blocked off since superstorm Sandy roared through the area in 2010.
Dawn Marie Richards, who has lived on the city's beach side for five years, said going out at night used to be unthinkable.
"It was scary," she said. "But now it's so much better. We walk to dinner all the time."
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