The waterfront marina development names The Sails will be a prominent structure on the Fort Lauderdale skyline
A scaled-back 8.5-acre marina, hotel, retail and office complex called The Sails has been given the nod to replace Fort Lauderdale’s landmark “Pink Palace” and Best Western Hotel Marina Inn.
The city commission approved the $220 million project for the south end location at the 17th Street Causeway bridge. The decision averted a showdown in court.
Staff and neighbors say the project was too big and “incompatible” with the old, well-manicured residential neighborhood to the south. The developers, attorney Ron Mostriana and Shadow Marine CEO Tom Gonzales, trimmed the project 29 percent — paring mainly retail shops and offices to cut estimated traffic from 10,385 vehicles a day to 6,651. That’s about the same volume as if the existing facilities were brought back to top condition, says Bill Cole, who lives in the nearby Harbor Inlet subdivision and who had concerns about the original plan.
“[To say we are] satisfied might be a stretch,” Cole says. “But I think it was a giant step in the right direction. It still is kind of a massive structure.”
Gonzales says they are grateful to have the approval and are now moving forward with the project.
The dilapidated “Pink Palace,” a three-story, bright-pink building that housed a hodgepodge of offices and shops, and the Marina Inn hotel have been razed, and a $4 million project to replace wet slips and the seawall is complete.
The Sails plan, as now envisioned, calls for a 150-boat drystack, 400 feet of facing dock for megayachts on the Intracoastal Waterway and an adjacent canal, and a 350-room hotel with parking, offices, retail shops, meeting rooms, spa, three restaurants and two bars on the uplands, according to www.thesails.com. The hotel tower will rise 120 feet, but the drystack and two-thirds of the hotel-office-retail building will be 60 feet high to leave a visual corridor so motorists can still see the ocean from the top of the bridge — a feature neighbors wanted to keep.
Gonzales and Mostriana presented their plan as a dramatic upgrade of a once-vibrant property that had gone downhill under the shadow of the city’s new “signature” ICW bridge — one with a 55-foot clearance and 70-foot height — that was the city’s biggest construction site from 1997 through 2002.
With 30 feet of depth along the dock, the marina will offer some of the deepest-draft dockage on the East Coast — a big draw for megayachts. The developers propose 45 percent more landscaping than required by the city, and architectural styling that will create a “landmark gateway entrance” to the city by way of the water.
Priscilla Smith, who owns a home nearby, says she and many of her neighbors were pleased to see a marina go onto the site because the area needs more boat slips, and marinas don’t generate much traffic. They just weren’t wild about the upland development and the traffic it could generate at an intersection that already is notable for its congestion and traffic snarls, says Smith, whose father was a naval architect and whose brother sailed around the world on a 30-foot sailboat.
“I wouldn’t have minded more boat slips,” she says. “If fact, I would have liked it if the whole thing was a marina.”
This site is one of the city’s most desirable locations for developing, so that was never very likely. But the developers say The Sails will remain a haven for all kinds of boats with slips for sizes 30 feet to 400 feet.
This brings to resolution a dispute that began in June 2007 when commissioners rejected The Sails, 4-1, with only Mayor James Naugle voting for it. In February 2008 the developers sued the city for $59 million in Broward County Circuit Court. They filed under the Bert J. Harris Private Property Rights Act, which enables owners to seek compensation in court when a government decision permanently deprives them of a reasonable return on a property investment.
This story originally appeared in the February 2009 issue.