Fort Lauderdale's Identity Crisis

Fort Lauderdale has long been the neglected middle child of Florida's east coast. The unfortunate geography of being sandwiched between the blue bloods of Palm Beach and cosmopolitan Miami, made the city an overlooked and under-invested destination. The winds of change - specifically the real estate boom of the last decade - brought an influx of investment to the area which has slowly given Fort Lauderdale an identity of its own. Understanding what that identity is, however, is a totally different story.

Rolls Royce. Laundromat. Neiman Marcus. Pawn shop.

The scenery along Sunrise Boulevard leading to Fort Lauderdale Beach is slightly...schizophrenic.  Two people riding in the same car might have very different first impressions of the city, depending on which side of the street they're looking. On the left are places like Hot Dog Heaven, Mo Money Pawn, and Laundromax, while just across the street is the Bentley dealership, boutique furniture stores, and even Louis Vuitton. The contrast is puzzling, but becomes even more evident along the beach. 
W Fort Lauderdale Beach
The swanky new W Fort Lauderdale

During the 2000s, the real estate boom arrived in a big way to Fort Lauderdale's stretch of A1A (Beachfront Avenue!). Names like Ritz Carlton and W built gleaming towers by the sea, seeking to establish a foothold in what was sure to be the "new" South Beach. Unfortunately, boom turned to bust before the renaissance of Atlantic Avenue was fully complete.
Fort Lauderdale Beach
The Hilton...Next door to the Tropical Cay Motel

What the real estate bust left behind is a bewildering mix of old versus new. Posh, four diamond resorts like the Atlantic and B Ocean are found on the same block as run down "Old Florida" beach motels and dilapidated t-shirt shops. To put it another way, if Daytona and South Beach were to get together and have a kid, chances are it would resemble this portion of Florida's coastline.
Fort Lauderdale Beach
Surrounded by two four diamond hotels...

Recently, there have been signs that the transformation of Fort Lauderdale might be ready to begin once more. Many experts believe that the South Florida real estate market has reached its bottom, and developers are swooping in to take advantage of the opportunity. For example, an abandoned Howard Johnson hotel on the beach has been slated as the site of a new 18-story condo highrise. While it is impossible to know what this could mean for the city's bewildering coastline, it's fair to say that the fewer abandoned Howard Johnson's there are, the better.
Fort Lauderdale Beach
Perhaps it's time for the Sea Club to sell out...

The on-again/off-again renewal of Fort Lauderdale has brought about a city which seems to have an identity crisis. Look a little closer, however, and it's clear they are moving in the right direction...forward. The city has shed much of its "Fort Liquordale" past, and stepped out from the shadows of Palm Beach and Miami to compete on Florida's crowded tourism stage. Like a teenager attempting to find their identity, Fort Lauderdale has experienced its fair share growing pains, but one thing is certain... This kid has a bright future ahead.

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