A sleek new set of ultramodern twin condo towers will rise 300 feet above sea level, making them the tallest skyscrapers on Fort Lauderdale’s busiest slice of beach. And, oddly, it’s what neighbors prefer.
The towers, at 3000 Alhambra Street, will sit just south of the Casablanca Café, transforming an entire city block now being used as a metered parking lot.
The $100 million project calls for 215 luxury condos and 5,150 square feet of restaurant and retail space.
Projects built in the central beach zone have a height cap of 200 feet. If it’s a hotel, the height cap goes to 240 feet.
But this week, commissioners signed off on special zoning that allows KT Seabreeze Atlantic — an affiliate of Delray Beach-based developer Kolter Group — to build higher.
When it comes to oceanfront development, neighboring buildings usually gripe about new towers being too tall.
Not this time.
Nearby condos actually urged the developer to make the towers as tall as possible in order to preserve their ocean views.
An earlier design called for a shorter and blockier set of twin towers that would have stood 200 feet tall, with 310 condo units and three times the space for restaurants and shops.
The taller, the better is not a refrain usually heard when talking about new construction on Fort Lauderdale’s gridlocked beach. And yet one man told commissioners the new towers could be 600 feet tall and it wouldn’t matter.
That man, Jim Novick, lives at Alhambra Place on Birch Road, a 190-foot condo directly west of the proposed towers.
“If they build a big giant box in front of us, it’s the end of our universe,” said Novick, president his building’s condo association. “We were dead-set against it. We had one unit owner say, ‘We’ll never see the sun if they build this.’”
And so began work on a redesign that would allow for taller, skinnier buildings to preserve the views and create more space — 68 feet and 7 inches — between the two towers.
“Going up 300 feet added the open space and the light,” Novick said. “It improved the view corridors. You can see through the two buildings or around them.”
The old design was square and fat, said Stephanie Toothaker, attorney for the developer.
“We really rolled up our sleeves to figure out how we can make this a better project,” she told commissioners. This is a high high-end luxury product. We took out almost 100 units [to make it work]."
The builder is planning 497 parking spaces for unit owners, plus 120 spaces for the public.
The developer acquired an entire city block three years ago as part of a land swap with Fort Lauderdale. KT Seabreeze bought 2.2 acres from the city for $25 million in 2017, then bought out a small neighboring condo building for $2 million. The 2.6-acre parcel sits between Alhambra and Sebastian Streets, bordered by A1A on the east and North Birch Road on the west.
The Alhambra towers won’t be the only tall towers on the beach.
Most were built before the height cap was put into place: Jackson Tower is 290 feet; the BeachPlace Marriott stands 270 feet; the Ritz-Carlton is 245 feet; and The W is 235 feet.
The new twin towers will dwarf the five-story Wedgewood Court condo building that sits south of the site.
“We are within feet of the towers,” said condo association president Chad McCoury. “The west tower moved closer to us in the redesign. Some people really supported the redesign and some did not.”
McCoury says some residents still have concerns about construction and the accompanying noise, dust and vibration that come with it. But overall, they’re happy to see the property redeveloped.
“It’s going to be good for the neighborhood,” he said. “We’re excited.”
Vice Mayor Steve Glassman, whose district includes the beach, says the developer has done a good job working with the neighbors to come up with a better plan.
“A few years ago you would have had 100 speaking against twin 300-foot towers on the beach,” Glassman said. “It would have gone on for five hours. People showed they’d rather have tall and thin rather than short and fat. The tradeoff for taller and thinner towers is you don’t have a big block of mass sitting on a piece of land.”
Not everyone is happy, however.
James Cataldo lives at the nearby 11-story Versailles condo, just west of the site.
“The towers are 300 feet high,” he said. “They seem so out of place with the skyline. This building is astronomical. It’s taller than the Ritz and the W. The design is pretty. It’s just too tall.”
The Central Beach Alliance, a neighborhood group known for fighting big developments, voted against the project twice.
But Bill Brown, the group’s president, told commissioners he thinks the vote would change if taken now.
“There’s always going to be people who are totally against development,” he said. “They feel we’re already overdeveloped. They think we already have traffic issues and are worried about [pipes breaking]. However, this project is the lesser of the two evils, for the ones who don’t want to see development.”
It’s more common to hear an outcry from critics complaining that a proposed building is too high, said Jack McCabe, a real estate analyst in Deerfield Beach.
“It is unusual that they are going taller and narrower rather than lower and wider,” McCabe said. “What’s not unusual is for residents to complain, especially down near the beach when they spent a lot of money for the view.”
But in some cases, going higher and skinnier will save the view, said land use attorney Keith Poliakoff.
“Residents impacted by buildings along the beach, who live to the west, want to try to preserve their own view corridors,” said Poliakoff, who represented Alhamba Place in negotiations with the developer.
“Developers are getting very savvy in understanding it might be necessary to compromise and create a taller and narrower building to enable the ocean breeze and the light to penetrate through the lot,” Poliakoff said. “Now residents realize, once the building blocks their views, they’re blocked [forever].”
The Alhambra project will come back to the commission on Oct. 6 for a final vote.
Construction is expected to begin in late 2021 and take an estimated 18 months.
If all goes as planned, the project would be completed in spring 2023.
Susannah Bryan can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4554 or on Twitter @Susannah_Bryan
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