Photo:Yaari has been assembling property around his seven restaurants.
Southeast Florida Roundup
Evolving: Fort Lauderdale's beach strip is remade again
Some 30 years ago, investor, restaurateur and bar owner A.J. Yaari bought into Fort Lauderdale beach. He’s seen the long-running evolution of the beach from host of drunken spring break revelry to home of a W and a Ritz-Carlton.
“Ten years ago, they said Fort Lauderdale is the future,” Yaari says. “Now I can say, especially after the activity in the last few months, I can say the future is here, and we’re ready to go.”
At A1A and Las Olas, contractor Skanska started work this summer on a 670-space parking deck, part of a project to replace an oceanfront parking lot with a park, build an Intracoastal promenade and make the area friendlier to bicyclists and pedestrians. Investor Thor Equities is renovating The Gallery at Beach Place into a lifestyle center.
Farther north, developer Par Sanda has invested more than $100 million in buying and renovating more than 40 buildings to create a beach village. Farther south, Orlando’s Tavistock spent $165 million to buy the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 hotel and marina and plans a renovation, while Miami developer Jimmy Tate wants to upgrade the Bahia Mar.
Yaari himself has his seven eateries and has been assembling land. He recently sold a block south of Las Olas to a New York developer who plans a 213-room hotel.
His biggest bet, though, has been assembling 4.5 acres at Las Olas and A1A where he envisions a fivetower, 1.5-million-sq.-ft. development. “It’s not going to happen the day after tomorrow. It’s going to be carefully planned and carefully created, and we can try to satisfy everybody,” Yaari says. “I want to create something that will not be a concrete canyon. It’s going to be the future of Fort Lauderdale. I want to create a legacy.”