|Posted by Anne Siren on February 1, 2013 at 1:35 PM|
Pompano Beach – Rosaly Di Maria Olortegui grew up here and she’s seen the beach area at Atlantic Boulevard and Pompano Beach Boulevard go from great to bad to great again.
Tourists, beach residents, business owners and visitors from other Broward cities say the Community Redevelopment Agency [CRA] has made dramatic improvements to the formerly poorly lit and run-down area.
Di Maria Olortegui, daughter of Frank Di Maria, owner of Frank’s Ristorante & Pizza, in business at the beach since 1974, said the improvements have made the area safer and more attractive for families and pedestrians. “Unfortunately, we did lose [the beach area] but it’s coming back. Before it was all dark and gloomy. Now, it’s well-lit and people have a reason to come back here. This is reminding me of how it used to be,” she said.
Gone are the old and narrow gray sidewalks, the worn-out beige beach walls, overgrown bushes and thin palm trees scattered about. Now, after nearly $10 million [$7 million from the CRA and $3 million from the city] in improvements, the area is landscaped with neatly arranged vegetation and thick palm trees, blue handrails and benches and new lighting. A new concession stand/visitors kiosk, transformed from an old storage shed, and freshly painted and renovated bathrooms dot the landscape.
The CRA is in negotiations now with three companies, on behalf of the city, to run the concession stand and will present its recommendation to commissioners in a couple weeks. Horatio Danovich, CRA engineer, said the recommendation could be ready by the Feb. 12 commission meeting but would most likely be presented at the Feb. 26 meeting.
The CRA also added new parking meters and trash receptacles, installed a brand new plaza at the end of Atlantic Boulevard that includes a water fountain and 5,400 sq. ft. of artificial grass. New, wider sidewalks can be found along Pompano Beach Boulevard from Atlantic Boulevard to Northeast 5 Street and adjacent to the businesses between Pompano Beach Boulevard and A1A – with owners using the sidewalks next to them for customer seating and dining. A new $500,000 temporary paved parking lot provides 128 spaces, including nine for motorcycles.
The city has a five-year lease on the lot with the option to renew in two-year intervals for an additional four years. If the parking lot is ever removed as part of the hotel project developers say they want to build, the city will be reimbursed $80,000 per every month still left on the initial lease.
Di Maria Olortegui said it’s hard to know if business has increased because of the improvements but three other businesses – Briny Irish Pub, Razzleberry’s ice cream shop and Miami Blues gift shop – say they have definitely seen more customers.
Danovich said re-energizing the area for pedestrians and merchants was the goal of the project. “The reality is that area has been pretty dormant and was in dire need of a huge facelift,” he said.
“It’s amazing what a coat of paint will do. It’s never looked this nice,” said Julie Orr, owner of Razzleberry’s. Orr grew up in Pompano and opened her business near the beach nine years ago. “This should have been done 12 years ago. It’s never looked this nice.”
Orr is amazed by the frequency of foreign languages being spoken by tourists – mainly from France, Germany and Canada – and hopes more of them buy condos and become more than just snow birds.
After choosing Pompano as her escape route out of a harsh Quebec winter,
Claudette Mcarthur found perhaps her favorite particular spot in Pompano – under the shade of the palm trees in the plaza. “I love it. It’s a nice place. I can’t go [out] much in the sun, so I’m here relaxing.”
And along with more tourists grabbing some shade, sun or a cone of their favorite ice cream flavor, Orr says she’s seeing more people from the nearby condos come into her store.
Christine Nawar, resident at Sea Monarch condominium, said she’s never seen the area so busy, “especially in January.” Nawar said it has become “a lot more sociable” and she hopes more shopping can be added. “[I’d like to see] a high class outdoor mall.”
Mickey Heby, owner of Miami Blues, which opened at the beach in 1991, said he and his customers are very happy with the improvements. Now, he hopes some kind of attraction, perhaps a carousel, can be built and give people more reasons to visit the area.