Trashing the Beach

Plastic bags tangled in the mangroves in Dania Beach, FL. (Photo courtesy Catherine Uden)

Beach and ocean pollution is a major issue, with plastic bags and polystyrene cited as two of the biggest culprits. Now though, cities and residents are finding ways to fight back.

It was mid-March when Lisa Miceli and her husband walked onto the beach to take sunrise photos. As they strolled behind the Ocean Sky Resort on Fort Lauderdale Beach and set up the tripod, Miceli noticed a big pile.

“Look what the Spring Breakers did!” she cried, pointing at tarps, beer cans, food containers, broken glass and plastic bags.

The owner of dive gear line Stoked on Salt and founder of SOS Ocean Clean Up spent the next six hours with three volunteers and collected almost 900 pounds of trash.

“The debris on the beach, it’s a problem for tourists, residents, sea life and corals,” Miceli says. “Something needs to be changed.”

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A Long Walk

Fort Lauderdale continues to experience rapid, sustained population growth. The question isn’t whether the city will continue changing into a more urban, crowded place – it will. The question is what we do about it.

If you want to show a visitor where Las Olas Boulevard is, simply point to the construction crane.

From the glass windows on the 11th floor of the 101 Building in downtown, you can spin in a circle and count the cranes hovering over scaffolding. On Las Olas, neighboring the historic Stranahan House, the Icon building is shooting out of the ground with 272 units to be filled. Nearby, the soon-to-be-finished Las Olas Place will bring a dozen more businesses and the visitors that come with them. A short walk to the north, new apartments and condos continue to go up in Flagler Village. The city is booming, and with it comes more people and more cars.

Driving through Fort Lauderdale, likelihood is high that you’ll be stuck in traffic or circling through city blocks in search of a parking spot. However, there’s not much of a chance that you’ll find yourself stopping to allow pedestrians to cross the street. Sure, there’s a few lawyers clad in ties and suits running to the courthouse or perhaps coworkers picking up coffee during their lunch break, but Fort Lauderdale — or South Florida as a whole, for that matter — is not known for being a place that’s easily navigable on foot.

“Fort Lauderdale definitely has a walkable downtown, but what are you walking to? Where are you going? Right now, the environment is very one-dimensional,” says city councilor and vice-mayor Dean Trantalis. “The idea now is to fill in the blank spaces, fill it in with the needs, fulfilling the needs of the people who will live and work downtown.”

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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.

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Not Silent, Not Alone

Amy Daumit suffered in an abusive relationship for nearly 20 years. Today she works to help people find a different way.

The Forget Me Not flower is a small, unassuming blue bloom, named for the mission not to forget the suffering, the poor and the needy. This flower and its heavy meaning is embedded in a Fort Lauderdale woman’s mission to educate her community about domestic violence.

Amy Daumit, 40, works at Expresso Coffee. She’s in a happy relationship, has earned multiple degrees, and her laugh is infectious. You’d never know that eight years ago, she left an abusive relationship that lasted nearly 20 years. Because of her experience, she formed the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group for domestic violence prevention.

“Abuse still sadly hides in the shadow,” she says. “It’s easier to ignore the screaming going on next door than to intervene or help, because ‘It’s not my business.’ But people don’t realize it is your business.”

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Making a Scene

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Music on Main Street (Photo by Kelly Coulson)

“Hip” and “trendy” have never been words that dripped off the tongue when discussing Oakland Park. But a mixture of ambitious plans from city hall, comparatively low rents and a handful of pioneering businesses are changing the place’s look and feel.

In one of the hottest brewery taprooms in the area, the game is on the TV sets, bartenders pull from Buddha beer tap handles, friends challenge each other to rounds of cornhole in the game room, and a crash of giant Jenga pieces crumbles to the floor.

Next door, Alberte’s Restaurant serves up authentic Caribbean cuisine. Across the street, hipsters wait their turn to play the favorite video games from their childhoods at video game bar Tenth Level Tavern. A couple blocks down the road, a server presents a plate of fried chicken at Kelvin 3200.

After a week of work, this crowd has chosen to spend their night in Oakland Park. Not Himmarshee, not Las Olas, not Beach Place.

“A couple of years ago, I was getting a lot of phone calls from different people who wanted to do stories, whether it be print or otherwise,” says Kathleen Margoles, Oakland Park’s community and economic development director. “I remember this one guy said to me, ‘When I was a kid, my dad used to take me out there on the weekends to buy hardware and parts in the warehouse in Oakland Park, and now I go and drink beer in one of the coolest places.’ To me, that really exemplified the change and it has been fast.”

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Cool in the Heat

Think we can’t do cooler-months fashions in South Florida? Think again. We went to some of Fort Lauderdale’s most fashionable shops for tips and trends – and found northern style with Florida flair.

As the summer drips away into the fall, stylists, boutiques, and fashion houses are swapping out light, playful fabrics for layers, darker hues and warm knits.

Not in South Florida — right? A place where people can enjoy a day at the beach into the new year and locals celebrate a dip into the low 80s, the region seems to be in a perpetual summer, save for the three days a year a “cold front” comes through. A place where we have to settle for flipping through magazine and Instagram posts of clothes and accessories that just won’t work.

Not so fast, local fashion experts say.

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The College Cash Conundrum

In May and June, thousands of students walked across stages all over the state, clothed in caps with dangling tassels, robes and the pride of accomplishment. After years of study, these college students were handed a piece of paper telling the world they had a degree – and for nearly half of them, debt. While 51 percent of Florida’s students graduate debt free, the others are handed a diploma at their commencement ceremony and, on average, a bill for $11,500, according to the Florida State Board of Governors.

For years, parents have sat around kitchen tables calculating how much of their paychecks needs to go into a savings account for their children to go to college. Luckily, they’re already in good hands by being in Florida.

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The Wasted Sunshine State

Florida gets lots of sunshine – it says so right there on our license plates. So when it comes to utilizing solar power, how come we’re getting beat by the likes of Massachusetts and New Jersey?

Solar Source - Orange County Convention Center - Orlando, FL 1 MW - worker installing

Photo courtesy of the Solar Energy Industries Association

Florida’s famous sunshine isn’t just a boon for tourists, but also for the energy sector. With so much sun beaming down, the solar industry has been keeping a close eye on Florida. In recent years though, industry experts haven’t always been impressed by what they’ve seen. When it comes to solar power, the Sunshine State lags behind other, cloudier places. Florida isn’t even ranked in the top 10 solar states, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a national solar trade association.

The association, made up of more than 800 companies across the country from manufacturers to solar power sales, believes it is because of state policy.

“Certainly Florida has a great solar resource and it probably should be doing better in terms of solar installations,” says Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs at SEIA. “One of the things that’s become clear over the past several years is the pace of solar installations depends heavily on the policies of the state.”

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Finding El Dorado

eldorado cars

Historically famous for its precious gems, Bogotá is now gaining a deserved reputation as a hip art-and-culture capital.

With its looping streets, brick buildings covered in graffiti and brazen drivers weaving through traffic that never seems to die down, it’s easy to describe the city of Bogotá, Colombia. “Bogotá is a beautiful mess,” says Camilo Fidel López, a Bogotáno and founder of Vertigo Graffiti. No tunnel or wall is safe from taggers, who leave everything from quick splats of paint to elaborate, large masterpieces. Anywhere else it might be a nuisance, a sign of a city falling to its knees, but not in this mountain city of nearly seven million. Local law on the subject is as gray as the skies in Bogotá, but the takeaway is that graffiti is not illegal.

In fact, the urban streetscapes couldn’t be more fitting for a city whose origins are shrouded in adornment and legend. The first inhabitants of Bogotá were the Muisca people, who traditionally would cover themselves in gold, emeralds and other precious gems and take a raft to the center of Lake Guatavita, leaving the treasure at the bottom of the lake to pay homage to the gods.

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The Sublime Passion of Duende

Courtesy of Broward County

Courtesy of Broward County

Broward’s yearlong 100th anniversary celebration ends with Duende, a three-day celebration organizers hope will become an annual party.

Last June, it had been over a month of brainstorming for the creative minds behind Broward’s 100’s culminating event, more than a month of wracking their brains to come up with a name for the finale that would close out Broward County’s yearlong 100th anniversary celebration. The five artists chosen by the county had met outside of county meetings, by the riverfront, restaurants on Las Olas, and at bars to get the juice flowing.

But nothing seemed to have “it.”

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