A Sense of (Las Olas) Place

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A new building next to the Riverside Hotel promises to fulfill a need while fitting in with the city’s shopping and dining main drag.

Just east of Las Olas Boulevard’s historic Riverside Hotel, a soon-to-come, mixed-use building is the first commercial construction project on the boulevard in more than 20 years.

The first shovel went into the ground in June 2016 at what once was a quiet, empty green space between Maus & Hoffman and Gran Forno. The anticipated completion date is the fall of this year.

The building, dubbed Las Olas Place, will boast 31,500 square feet of retail and office space — the brains behind the project are tight-lipped about the exact businesses that will be moving in. A two-story building, Las Olas Place’s most exciting feature may be a 13,000-square-foot rooftop event area that can fit more than 500 people. For those planning events in Fort Lauderdale and wanting a venue outside the normal hotel ballroom, finding a space that will fit just 200 is a challenge.

“I had an opportunity to go up and it’s a really interesting view from the third floor, so it got a little more exciting to me to actually go up and stand out,” says Vann Padgett, the vice president and director of real estate for the Las Olas Company.

“You’re able to see the activity on the boulevard, you can see the New River and the boats — it’s just a whole different perspective from what we’ve come to know.”

Comras Company, which has worked in Lincoln Road, Collins Avenue, Coconut Grove and other trendy strips, came onboard in December to take over bringing in tenants to the building. After researching the demographics, property value, the incoming condos and lifestyle of the area, CEO Michael Comras believes that a “dynamic mix” of boutiques, fitness studios, lifestyle shops, and other contemporary businesses would be well suited for Las Olas Place. Up to a dozen businesses would be able to fit in the space. With so much to offer already, the project would “take what’s amazing about Las Olas and make it even more amazing,” he says. “Las Olas could be very much like a Coconut Grove.”

Prior to the groundbreaking last summer, the future home of Las Olas Place was an approximately two-acre lawn that had become home to two lovable elephant sculptures and relaxation space — a sort of green oasis in the city. When the announcement came that a building was going up, there “may have been some skepticism by the neighborhood,” Padgett says.

However, she believes the public will be happy with the end results.

“Everything that we’re doing is really geared toward improving the experience of Las Olas and we just feel like we’re only going to make it better,” Padgett says. “We’re excited and eager to get it open.”

Currently, much of Las Olas Boulevard consists one-story facades. With the introduction of the new building, the Las Olas Company was careful to make all involved understand that it couldn’t be “just a big mass sitting on the corner.”

In charge of construction is Fort Lauderdale’s Marker Construction, whose resume includes the new-and-improved Broward Humane Society, the waterfront restaurant Boatyard and swanky Las Olas restaurant Wild Sea.

“What we can look forward to is filling in a major void that’s been on Las Olas for some time,” says Grey Marker, owner of Marker Construction. More high-end businesses will be moving in, and the rooftop event space is “very needed.”

“The project is a part of a whole transformation process” on the strip with more projects to come, he says.

In charge of design was Fort Lauderdale-based Architectural Alliance, headed by husband-and-wife architecture team Pete and Maria Ebersole. The firm has also designed the Royal Palms and North Beach Hotels, jewelry store Alex & Ani, Quarterdeck in Dania Beach, car dealerships across the state and more.

“He has been so meticulous with making this an asset to the boulevard as opposed to just another building going up,” Padgett says of Pete Ebersole.

When taking on Las Olas Place, Ebersole studied Las Olas to find the perfect look for the building that would make it stand out on its own merits but not overshadow the great shops, restaurants and galleries that already call the street home.

“Our design philosophy has always been to blend into the urban pattern when designing within a well-established streetscape,” he says. “Accomplishing this required, in our opinion, a building that had the feel it had always belonged as part of the streetscape.” Ebersole created a design that evoked the contemporary Mediterranean feel that is woven into the boulevard with “timeless continuity.”

“A lot of attention has gone into making it warm and friendly to the rest of the boulevard,” Padgett says. “It’s going to become a hub of activity.”

Originally published in Fort Lauderdale magazine.

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