In late October 2019, the City of Fort Lauderdale, and Central Beach CRA saw their five-year investment into planning and design come to life. For those of us of a certain age, watching the transformation to the area where Las Olas Boulevard meets the beach had us humming Joni Mitchell's famed folk song Paved Paradise, but in reverse. Trees would not go in a "tree museum" but instead would flank four acres of green space where both the Oceanside and Southside parking lots once sat.
A new state of the art, LEED Certified Parking Garage would grow to the sky from the blacktop. Its future-forward design boldly welcomed those traveling over the Las Olas Bridge by day, and its wraparound programmable lighting an entertainment spectacle by night. Sitting high atop the new Garage's 5th level amenity deck, one could enjoy a staggering 270• view of downtown and Intracoastal waterway views.
Remarkably, within only sixteen months, and with thanks to the tireless efforts of the CRA's senior project manager, Thomas Green, and construction contractors, Skanska, the first three phases of the $78,000,000 public improvement investment in the Central Beach Area opened to the public.
Three weeks later, the City's annual Light Up the Beach event acted as the official unveiling of Las Olas Oceanside Park. A month and a half following, Oceanside Park became home to the annual Friday Night Sound Waves concert series and new weekly Friday Night and Saturday Afternoon Farmers, Antiques & Artisan Market. In its short span of existence, this new jewel on the beach also caught local headlines and national attention as the host location to the Super Bowl LIV sanctioned weekend celebration, Raised in the 954.
The project's final phase is to finish the build-out on the complete redesign of DC Alexander Park. The small plot of open space situated off 5th Avenue South and A1A, estimated to be completed in late winter 2021/22, will feature a multi-level signature play area surrounded by a 25-foot sweeping observation deck with a 42-foot-tall shade canopy and restroom facility. The timing coincides with the eagerly-awaited completion of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and Aquatic Complex enhancements, set to open in two phases between summer 2021 and early 2022.
When you add the $70 million Las Olas Marina complex, a public/private partnership between the City and marina operator Suntex, the combined projects will, in essence, create a whole new neighborhood, and with it, infinite new experiences for residents and visitors alike.
This past June, 2020, the City of Fort Lauderdale Parks & Recreation appointed Arianne Glassman to oversee programming and marketing of the four green spaces as their contracted Fort Lauderdale Beach Open Spaces Coordinator starting February 1, 2021.
In hindsight, her work began having originally nicknamed Las Olas Oceanside Park, The LOOP, upon moving Friday Night Sound Waves to it from the area known as The HUB just across the street. "It became a catchy hashtag," Glassman stated, " and made this new immense space feel a little smaller and less intimidating."
What she soon came to realize however was the acronym was really a foreshadowing. On a map, when you connect the path of these four new greenspaces, an infinity sign appeared connecting each of the four parks within this new park system: a walkable, bike able, drivable loop.
The LOOP, now encompassing an area much larger than just the one park at the corner of Las Olas and A1A, was a cornerstone to a whole area with a story to tell and had a new-found purpose in which those who visited would find a welcoming sense of place.
February kicks off an annual plan to bring infinite experiences for everyone under the sun. Most importantly, considering the challenging time we are still in, there will be a steady roll out of open-air, socially distanced happenings and events that locals can enjoy, and which will add new flavor to the City's barrier island.
Continuing their weekly Saturday display of more than 30 vendors, offering an eclectic mix of organic and homemade food goods to apothecary and clothing, the Las Olas Oceanside Park Farmers Market will add several new experiences supported by the Beach BID. Saturday afternoon cooking demonstrations hosted by local wellness non-profit, FLIPANY and Chef-led market tours in partnership with Greater Fort Lauderdale Food and Wine will take place the 2nd and 4th Saturday, starting February 27. The weekly morning yoga class with Lisa Pumper will continue, as well.
Starting February 3rd, a series of free and low-cost, open to the public fitness programs will commence as part of the LO/OP FIT program. Classes led by some of South Florida’s top local fitness professionals, will range from a 12-week walking club to cardio dance, animal flow, H.I.T.T. workouts and more.
In mid-February, the LOOP Garage’s 5th floor terrace will take center stage, hosting four events over the Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day weekend.
Thursday, February 11 will introduce the first in the new monthly series, Sunset Salutations. The all levels yoga class set to live acoustic music will commence as the sun sets over the city skyline and ushers in the new moon and wind down with a New Moon meditation and manifesting followed by a sip social to connect.
Friday, February 12 will feature an intimate sunset picnic to benefit the Children’s Diagnostic and Treatment Center, followed on Saturday, February 13 with the debut of the new Fort Lauderdale Concours. This world-class, groundbreaking classic car show/cultural event celebrates the automobile and its convergence with art, music, fashion, and pop culture.
The weekend winds down Sunday, February 14 with a day-long celebration of love organized in partnership with Keith Willard Events and GFL Food and Wine and Brews at the Beach producers, 66 Productions. Aptly named, Love is in the Air, as much due to the location as the the day itself, a three-part experience will welcome gal-pals to sip and shop, engaged couples to host their own micro-wedding, and give lifetime lovers an opportunity renew their vows while enjoying live music, and rooftop vibes at Fort Lauderdale’s newest waterfront venue.
The month’s events close at the two-acre Las Olas Promenade Park. The expansive lawn with winding walkways found along the bank of the Intracoastal, will host Fur the Love Pet Fest, on Sunday, February 21. Coinciding with National Love Your Pet Day, FTL Pet Fest is a celebration of Fort Lauderdale’s love for their furry companions and a day of four-legged fun. Hosted by year old Instagram influencer, Teddy of @southflorida_teddybear fame and his mom, Ana Elvir, with proceeds benefiting the all-volunteer animal advocates group, Good Karma Pet Rescue.
As for what will take place beyond February, and over the course of the coming year, there are plans to resume the free Friday Night Sound Waves concerts in March along with other community based activities and new annual inaugural events. To learn more, #stayintheloop and contribute your feedback on the coming events and happenings, we invite you to visit our website at www.TheLoopFLB.com.