After 8 years of upgrades, Pompano’s beach seeing ‘a lot of life coming back’Saturday, June 16th, 2018
Pompano Beach has built it — and now the people are coming.
For the first time since Hurricane Wilma roared through in 2005, there is an oceanside restaurant that opened to packed crowds. Another one, specializing in seafood, is on the way.
A 150-room, Hilton-branded hotel is moving ahead — the first to be built on the city-owned beachside redevelopment area in 52 years at what is now a parking lot.
This week, the city opened its first visitor center on the beach, staffed seven days a week. Next up are two beachside buildings that will include restaurants and the first retail outlets in decades, said Tim Hernandez, who is developing 6 acres next to the pier now under construction.
“We want to appeal to everybody, whether they want to spend $10 to $15 a person or $40 to $50 a person when they come to Pompano Beach,” Hernandez said.
The city has been on an eight-year, $50 million odyssey to improve its beachside. The big pieces of its beachside mosaic are falling into place — destination dining, new amenities and the city’s iconic parking garage festooned with sails that opened in June 2016.
The new amenities added in the last 24 months include an artificial reef made to look like an aquatic-themed gambling venue and a water taxi that runs from Fort Lauderdale to Lighthouse Point. It connects with another taxi service that goes to Margaritaville in Hollywood.
Still to come: the city’s pier is being completely replaced by one with its eastern-most point shaped like a fish— a project expected to be finished by early next year.
Residents and newcomers like what they see.
“It’s really beautiful — Pompano is really doing it right,” said Alan Friedland, who has lived on the beachside for eight years. “I see a lot of life coming back into the neighborhood.”
Michele Hale of Trump International Realty, who has been selling in the area for 15 years, said the area really started to take off when work began on the new public projects, particularly the pier replacement.
“Pompano used to be the ugly stepchild to Lighthouse Point and Fort Lauderdale,” she said. “Now that they’ve increased the beauty of the city, it’s becoming just as nice. So people are getting in now before the prices start going crazy.”
Visitors are starting to notice as well.
The bed tax, known as the “tourist tax,” shows that in some months of 2017, Pompano brought in revenues 22 percent higher than the same months the year before.
Once the Beach House Pompano restaurant opened, city parking revenues in March and April rose about 50 percent over the previous year’s take to nearly $500,000. However, stormy skies made May a washout.
Jeff Torode, who owns both South Florida Diving Headquarters and the new water taxi service, said his boats have been packed with divers wanting to explore the new reefs.
“Everyone wants to dive the new wrecks,” he said.
Pompano Beach Water Taxi, he said, is holding its own, with an average of 50 to 100 riders a day.
Just south of the city-owned parcels, an upscale center on the southeastern corner of the Atlantic Boulevard bridge, is under construction. One phase will be a dining destination called Harbor NYC at 101 S. Riverside Drive, with 150 indoor seats and 350 outdoor seats. A retail center and another restaurant, this one specializing in seafood, is also planned.
“It’s the domino effect,” said city spokeswoman Sandra King. “If you invest in your Community Redevelopment Agency to make everything look good, private industry starts coming in.”
Pompano’s King noted that the city has already attracted the notice of websites such as Expedia and TripAdvisor. Money magazine last month put it at No. 1 among “Best U.S. Beach Vacations” ahead of Asbury Park, N.J., Sag Harbor, N.Y. and Long Beach, Calif.
“This is the place to go, relax and have that beautiful beach vacation,” she said.
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