Coming for Christmas

Where Las Olas Boulevard meets A1A in Fort Lauderdale, construction workers are smoothing sand, building benches, and planting.

Things are coming together at the new Las Olas Beach Park. The design process began more than five years ago, according to the Project's Manager at the City, Tom Green.

"Some thought went into spending a little more on the infrastructure to make it a little more sustainable, or longer-lasting," Green said. "We took sea-level rise into account."

Some of those resilience measures for the park include palm trees that have a system underneath the concrete to drain and capture more rainwater, called Silva Cells.

"It looks like a series of milk crates that you kind of stack together," Green said.

There's also a large, wavy sculpture built for shade. It catches some water runoff to use for flushing toilets in the park bathrooms.

"There's not a lot of straight edges in the parks," Green said. "A lot of just radiuses, shapes, flowing lines. Kind of mimicking the ocean, kind of giving it that organic feel."

Funding for this public space largely came from the Central Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, also called the Beach CRA. The project is also using some funds from park impact fees the city collects.

City Manager, Chris Lagerbloom, also visited the construction site this week to see how it's coming along. He said he thinks it's worth the city's investment.

"It's game-changing to take an area that is a barrier island - there's only so much land out here - and when you can take it from a surface parking lot and you can make it a park, that just doesn't happen," Lagerbloom said. "To reclaim green space in a tight community like this...it's one of those things you only do once in a lifetime."

The parking garage, with colorful LED lights that opened at the end of last year, was phase one of the bigger project. Opening soon is a street for festivals, a south park by the Intracoastal waterway — and a park that's across the street from the ocean.

"It's a coquina shell farm," Vincent Collins said. He is the senior project manager with the builder, Skanska.

Instead of all grass, part of the park incorporates shells and tall patches of seagrasses.

"Walking here, you'll get more of a sand-feel as it kind of feeds into the beach," Collins said.

The park should be mostly done in time for the annual Light Up The Beach ceremony on Nov. 26. Any final touches are expected in time for Christmas.