Showdown at City Hall Tonight on Rain Tree and Marina Lofts Development

Categories: WTFlorida

Marina Lofts 3.jpg
Tonight, people who both support and oppose the Marina Lofts development proposed for near downtown Fort Lauderdale will meet for what promises to be a heated showdown in front of the Planning and Zoning Board. The board will make a recommendation to the City Commission, which will ultimately vote on whether to allow the project. Today's hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m. at Fort Lauderdale City Hall. Commenters will get three minutes to speak.

The project is big (two 36-story towers and one 25-story building with about 1,000 units), and its design is downright radical for Fort Lauderdale. The vision of hotshot Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, it has jagged walls, appearing as though the building has been ripped in half. Its developers proudly describe it as "a cross between a Rubik's Cube and Lego creation." The idea was to create a "cave" that would invite people to walk through the middle and come to the river, where one day, if you believe the developers, there could be farmers' markets, entertainment, and a pedestrian bridge across the water to Riverwalk.

Developer Asi Cymbal says Marina Lofts would finally bring something cool to downtown, inject life into a sleepy area, and make use of the underutilized waterfront on the New River. "Too many people in Fort Lauderdale who love this city end up leaving because they can't find affordable housing options that are luxurious and cool in downtown," he has said. "Imagine hopping on the Water Taxi to jump to Las Olas for work or shopping, catching a show at the Broward Center, and then going home."

But the project has garnered a lot of opposition, partly because of its size, partly because demand is debatable (Fort Lauderdale already has plenty of other mixed-use projects with empty ground-floor retail), and largely because, to build it as currently planned, Cymbal intends to move a majestic, nearly 100-year-old rain tree that was somewhat protected years ago by a city resolution that declared commissioners must consider the tree in any proposed development.

We've told you about the folks who oppose the development -- like Chris Brennan, the Water Taxi employee who was fired after making a YouTube video in defense of the tree, and dozens of people who showed up at a parade last month. Activist Cal Deal has been railing against the project on his blog. He fears that the development would plunge the neighborhood into shadows and that traffic from so many new tenants would adversely impact the area. He also questions the integrity of Cybmal, who on a "portfolio" page of his website takes credit for New York projects he worked on under his former employer, Shaya Boymelgreen (who disappeared after facing multiple lawsuits for shoddy construction), and also takes credit for projects that were designed but never built. Some fear that Cymbal could get all of the permitting, then sell the project to someone who would not deliver the promised affordable rents or other amenities.

Cymbal did not respond to a call asking to address Deal's concerns, but last week, he released the above bit of counter propaganda, in which he is interviewed with softball questions by one of the lawyers he's retained. He promises that apartments will rent for $1,100 and that for $2,000 or less, residents can have an apartment and keep a boat onsite. Cymbal has offered to hire some of the world's foremost tree experts to move the rain tree to a new park he'll establish and put up a $1 million bond in case it dies. The Sun Sentinel on Sunday ran an editorial in favor of the project, written by Dan Lindblade, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce.

(In an email, Deal responded, "If the Sun-Sentinel was a decent, responsible local paper, they would have had a balanced presentation. Instead they let the C of C Cheerleader parrot the developer's arguments" and chided Lindblade, who "seems unable to wrap his head around the idea that we enjoy something green that does not go into a wallet.")

For more information from the developer, see For more renderings of the project, see here.

The hearing should be one of the most exciting times at City Hall since people sent former Mayor Jim Naugle all that toilet paper.

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Like THIS - would you get a Tattoo from someone who never did one before? On your forehead? Would you hire a plumber - that never fixed a toilet?


Yeah, its long - there a lot of problems!


The simple fact remains, we are dealing with a City that had 36 protected Trees, now has 12 and will have 11 if this goes forward . THAT has to STOP.  An almost 100 year old Tropical Ornamental Tree is NOT going to withstand a cutting back of 57% of itself, and a transplant away from the river, by an Expert (Paid for by the Developer) who has NEVER moved this type of tree. This expert, Bob Brennan IS THE ONLY EXPERT TO SAY IT WILL SURVIVE. THIS RETAINED EXPERT, i.e. PAID FOR.   The project itself the Design of the building SO unfitting to the area - our beautiful jewel the New River and the Historical District and in the historical NEIGHBORHOOD it is in! Unconscionable to even envision. It makes me ill. This IS the WRONG building, in the WRONG Place, of the WRONG SIZE - MASSIVE - HUGE - in the wrong neighborhood for it.  ONE ROAD in and ONE OUT, nowhere to turn around.  NOW RIGHT NOW the garbage Trucks that pick-up in that area have to BACK DOWN the entire road to get out. They cannot go through, and they cannot turn around. Let's send some heavy building equipment down there! SEMI Trucks!  No Visitor Parking, the addition of a SIX STORY PARKING GARAGE in a Neighborhood. And it still does not have enough parking spaces to accommodate prospective tenants, visitors, employees and shoppers to the required by the City retail space - retail space we need not even discuss - just go to ANY place on the River and have a look at the Retail spaces! They are all about the same - EMPTY unfinished for rent store fronts. Then there is this issues of  this: The Developer has NEVER BUILT A SINGLE BUILDING. The buildings on his website DO NOT EXIST, they are artist renderings. The Developer misrepresents at EVERY opportunity. A Shadow Study leaving out the most pertinent time frames - Whoops! In actuality putting the WHOLE northern side of River Walk  (place of Sunday Jazz Brunches, Esplanade Park and more) in COMPLETE Dark CHILLY SHADOW - ALL WINTER LONG during daylight! Ah Yes a tourists delight - shivering in the shade of a place that sunlight will no longer EVER reach. This helps our City's economy?  No its not what they Canadians, Germans, and visitors of all those colder climes come here for!.  And of course in that sun lacking darkness what does grow there will surely die - the beautiful lushness of the Broward Center for Performing Arts - the trees at Esplanade Park! The landscaping on the River Walk.  No SUNLIGHT no life.

So we have the misrepresentation of the developer as to his website and non-existent buildings, a false shadow study, the size of the actual project keeps changing, the height, the size of the units, the number of units, he has 384 or so efficiency units - last check - out of 998 units. The deadline to submit his final plans has come and gone - no final plans and no answers to some very big problems and Planning and Zoning says yes?  What the hell?

We have 384 or so square foot efficiencies at $1100 a month - touted as affordable living for COLLEGE STUDENTS and "young professionals." WHAT? Oh - but you can park your boat there for no extra charge! Yes, all these prospective young college students and professionals with their non-existent disposable income and their boats- they are the key to changing our City's whole economy?!  $1100 a month for a large closet? Note: the plans show no closets in these efficiencies! This is not affordable living - and no room for a roommate to split the rent that is for sure! Then he pitches this out of town to the well heeled (see articles on my page and the rain tree page advertising rentals in beautiful Fort Lauderdale's historic district near culture and blah blah blah thank you paid for PR article) that is directed toward the "well heeled" that will of course be living in close proximity to the college students (that ones that can afford $1100 a month?). These well heeled and these college students living side by side in harmony..... stumbling home drunk and boisterious together perhaps from a 4 a.m. night on Himmarshee??

Then the amount they would really cut the tree, first report a very small amount, plan presented to the Planning & Zoning Commission in actuality 57% more than originally stated! A Devastating amount.  Even the  tree's actual SIZE, report by Developer Asi Cymbal's experts has the tree measured smaller than it is! Anything to sell this monstrosity.

John Pearson
John Pearson

Besides it being ugly, who wants to live next to a railroad track?


So its a given - he cannot be trusted! He has NOT built anything - He does NOT CARE about the buildings effect on the River, the River Front, the ecology of the lot, the Rain Tree, the neighborhood and its existing residents, our City. And his press releases scream "I'll Admit It, I Am a Tree Hugger!"  Yeah - hugged it goodbye maybe! And then there is the 4 inch sewer pipes very old and never updated on that side of the River. Yes, they probably do need replacing but they will tear up this WHOLE entire neighborhood from top to bottom!  (Top - to move the Tree to the "Park" the barge they would put the tree on is not going to go gracefully down the tiny streets! There are other 100 year old giant trees all through the neighborhood and a massive amount of power lines leading to the 300,000 volt transmission poles on the lot (will get to that later) to bottom, sewage! And the larger/main problem is with respect to the sewage let's say he (hahaha laughable) but of the sake of presenting this in actuality - lets say Cymbal actually rents these all out! lol - our SEWAGE PLANT cannot handle any more than it has!  Riverwalk already smells like a Fully Broken Toilet on any given summer night in downtown - and they wonder why THAT didn't make it.  Living on top of a sticking toilet hole not appealing? Sewage plant just can't handle what it has! I need to find you the article about our City leaders tour of our sewage plant! But for now sticking to the subject - let's just overtax that plant some more and back up ALL of 2nd street, Himmarshee Village with the raw stuff - one more time! And wonder why no one is out about and dining - depends on which way the wind blows...    

So why then, why all this misrepresentation, put out to the masses - the well thought out and PAID for articles by the developers hired professional PR Company?  Well to sell of course. To sell it all. Its all about making a ton of money - of course, and maybe some campaign contributions, and the City's "Master Plan".  Yes, that is what the actually call it. But then I digress again! So hard not to so many issues involved - bought for a third of its value in a foreclosure sale, why not over load the space with as many units as he can get away with? RENTAL units - the more the merrier - so he can rape, pillage, that property and make his millions, place a bond on the trees value, that bond returned to him in a year while the tree that is almost 100 years old takes 5 years or so to wither and die a slow horrible death away from its HOME on the river (and at such a loss the Rain Tree is a NATIONAL Treasure) and he walks away free and clean bond back in his pocket, Tree Hugger that he is. 

Why then would the City even consider this TOO LARGE, unattractive (to put it lightly) to MOST who see the the artist rendering you have here - (Most people do not like this design for the River Front AT ALL - see my Petition to Save the Rain Tree and see Save the Rain Tree Group and Say No to Marina Lofts (two different Group pages in Social Media) - see my page!  They consensus seems to be the building design is UGLY!  And unfitting! Why then?  So the City's River Walk on the South side of the New River gets completed?-Okay we all want that.  So the density gets Chris Wren his Wave system, so our Mayor can move North? So much entangled in this. Simple solutions you know. We do need jobs here and we do need progress to the greener people moving Wave System, we do need a bump in the economy.

But there is a better way - why would my City put al its eggs in this very broken basket? There is a better way - Downsize, do not allow 998 units on less than 3 to 4 acres, minus the river walk space minus the  area that is actually water that you just can't count as space- but the developer does - minus the parking area, the existing Marinas and the Rain Tree land, minus the land actually given up to River Walk area. 998 units on what is left.  IF after all the facts are in and added up and you have no answers to these great big problems and WE DON'T -  COMMON SENSE TELLS YOU ITS JUST TOO BIG.

HEY CITY, CITY COMMISSIONER, MR. MAYOR - You can do it you have the Power and if you have to do it - and won't make the lot a park which it SHOULD BE - THEN  You NEED TO DOWNSIZE THIS PROJECT! (I am yelling). When will - what does it take for Common Sense kick-on here??  If you Have to have this project have it in keeping with the existing structures, make it Reasonable! If we have to have this really unattractive, Sun Reflecting GLARING WHITE HOT SUN REFLECTING UGLY LEGO LAND Design then make it SMALLER.  Leave the Rain Tree the simple one half acre it needs, decrease the parking needs (Oh Yeah, Mr. Developer asked the City for 37% less parking than what the city requires on top of it everything else!).  Decrease the Retail Space Requirements. Then once you have done that -  THEN MAYBE, THEN MAYBE WE CAN TALK ABOUT THE 300,000 VOLT FPL TRANSMISSION LINES THAT RUN RIGHT THROUGH THE PROPERTY THAT MR. CYMBAL WOULD MOVE TO WITHIN 25 FEET OF WHERE PEOPLE CURRENTLY LIVE, CANNOT MOVE TO THE RAIL ROAD TRACKS CAUSE THE FEC SAID NO, AND HAS SUBMITTED A PLAN, AT DEADLINE, WITH NO KNOWN PLACE/PLAN FOR WHERE  THESE 300,000 VOLTAGE TRANSMISSION POLES AND LINES ARE GOING, THEN MAYBE THEN WE CAN TALK ABOUT THAT.

In the meantime, I will keep writing the Mayor and the City Commission and will continue posting and reposting the Save the Rain Tree Petition and continue spreading the word about the Truth of this whole project and Mr. Cymbal and his mispresentations and MAYBE SOME WILL LISTEN BEFORE ITS TOO LATE> Sign the Petition, Stop Marina Lofts, Save the Rain Tree.

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