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.”

Continue reading

For Ben Brafman, Becoming A Leader In Mental Health And Addiction Meant Overcoming His Own Obstacles

It was supposed to be a normal day for one of Ben Brafman’s clients. But a simple trip to a meeting ended with the client in jail. The client, who was battling a mental illness, began acting out, which prompted a bystander to call the police. Brafman assured the officers that he just needed a few minutes to calm his client down and they would be on their way.

“They ended up arresting him for being loud and boisterous,” Brafman remembers. “As soon as they tried to handcuff him, he got aggressive, agitated.”

Brafman, 47, founder and CEO of Guardian Behavioral Health Foundation, says this incident and others aren’t uncommon in the arena of mental illness and addiction.

“We have a tendency to minimize things in society and not really put a lot of stock in it. We’re asking for trouble,” the Parkland resident says. “We need to crack some stereotypes and stigmas.”

Continue reading

Making a Scene

moms-for-oakland-park-live

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.”

Continue reading

A Celebration on the Coast

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Back in April, Jack and I got engaged and it’s been a whirlwind ever since.

To celebrate, Tatiana Lora of the Ritz Carlton kindly invited Jack and I to dine at the Fort Lauderdale hotel’s new restaurant, Burlock Coast. Open since November, I met her for breakfast there once and was eager to see how their dinner menu fared.

Walking in, the restaurant is nautical themed without the obvious anchors and netting. Instead, the bar stools are woven with dark wood, light orbs hang overhead, and the carpet pattern is reminiscent of ocean waves. The staff is dressed neatly in chambray.

Jack and I opted to dine al fresco, as the restaurant is directly across the street from Fort Lauderdale Beach and we could watch the sun set and the tide come in. The night started out with great news — since it was Tuesday, happy hour prices were in effect from 6 to 10 p.m.! As someone with a later work shift, this was welcome news.

Starting with a dish of fried oysters, Chef Gavin Pera prepared a barrage of menu tastings. He has a flair for presentation, pairing many dishes with sauces packaged in squeeze tubes. Next came greens with candied kumquat, tuna tartar, black grouper, steak, and pasta.

Finally, for dessert we were treated to a sampling of three desserts — including my favorite key lime pie — with “congratulations” written in chocolate.

Whether you’re local or making a trip into Broward County, I highly recommend stopping by Burlock Coast. Not only do they have an impressive line up  at the bar, but the restaurant also features a marketplace of rums and high-end cooking ingredients. Also, the makes an effort to purchase its food from local farms and fisheries, so not only are you shopping local, but freshness is guaranteed.

Burlock Coast Seafare & Spirits, Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale Beach, One N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale, 954-302-6460

How Fort Lauderdale’s New Mockingbird Trail Came To Be

Rebecca Bradley, co-founder of landscape architect firm Cadence, helped implement Fort Lauderdale’s newest nature path, The Mockingbird Trail.

MockingbirdTrailMapThe flamingo may be more iconic, but it’s the mockingbird that’s Florida’s state bird.

The discreetly colored creature blends in with its surroundings, namely, the urban sprawl.

It’s the idea that nature can still thrive within the concrete jungle that inspired Rebecca Bradley and a group of residents to create Fort Lauderdale’s Mockingbird Trail—a two-mile loop that wanders through FAT Village, follows the railroad, passes Peter Feldman Park and meanders past Top Hat Deli.

Continue reading

Have You Been to the Art Walk?

IMG_6204

Eric Barton, the founder of Cocktails for Humanity, making me a mean drink

If you haven’t, you’ll get your chance this weekend.

Fort Lauderdale’s FAT Village, the burgeoning artist neighborhood, hosts its monthly art walk the last Saturday of every month. Here, the block is filled with food trucks, artists, musicians, and craftsmen. Since its inception just a few years ago, it has put the village on the South Florida map and rivaled older community art walks.

Continue reading

The Rockin’ Coast

Packed tightly in the club, worshippers to the rock gods anxiously await the melodies they know by heart: The deep drone of the bass, screeching riffs emanating from electric guitar, the pounding on the snare drum, and, finally, the singer screaming the first notes into the microphone. It’s not a scene from New York, Los Angeles or Austin, but rather a nightly tribute to music in sunny South Florida. Most visitors to the region are drawn to the sandy beaches and slathering of sun block, but anyone who knows anything can feel the rumbling of rock ‘n’ roll.