Lauderdale Lakes: A Story of Economic Revival

As part of our efforts to promote professional development among city leaders, each week we’ll be featuring a new video focused on cities, community issues or local government. In this week’s edition, Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, Acting City Manager Danny Holmes shares big ideas about how economic development in his rapidly growing city can be replicated by other small cities. Have a similar big idea to share? We are currently accepting speaker submissions for the 2016 Big Ideas for Small Cities event to be held at the City Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, November 16-19, 2016.

Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, Acting City Manager Danny Holmes talks about some of the steps that the city of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, took in the late 1980s and early 1990s to revive the city during a time of economic decline.

What goals were the initiatives designed to address?
Even before the Great Recession, this community was experiencing a weakening economy due to a loss of middle income residents and the departure of major national retail shopping stores. Toward the goal of establishing a process and a set of tools to lead a redevelopment effort, a Community Redevelopment Agency was created in 1999.

What steps were taken as part of the program?
The first step for the Redevelopment Agency was to define and study the area targeted for investment and improvement. The charge included an inventory of vacant land, evaluation of road traffic flows and bottlenecks, and a review of the general characteristics of existing and proposed development in terms of its aesthetics and its commercial viability. The agency had the power to acquire land, execute contracts, and borrow money.

Fundamentally any revitalization needed to be a community process; one with buy-in from residents. In order to achieve a set of concrete goals and policies, a vigorous community engagement process was undertaken. Using community charrettes and other techniques, residents helped to envision what they wanted their city to look like over the long-term.

What was achieved?
As part of a community master plan (adopted in 2003), city leaders and residents focused on vital outcomes. These outcomes included improved walkability and pedestrian safety, more dedicated park and open space, affordable housing, targeting priority development areas, allowing mixed-use development along certain roadways, making better use of the waterfront, and building both a new town center and a new library.

Implementation of the master plan required development of a comprehensive plan and amendments to existing land use and zoning codes. A commercial façade renovation grant program was launched to assist existing businesses upgrade to the new plans. Also, citizens approved a $15 million bond for public improvements within the plan area.

To date, the CRA plan has brought new life to the heart of the city and precipitated numerous building renovations and infill development throughout the district. Streetscape improvements at city gateways along State Road 7 have been completed, maintaining the road width, incorporating signature bus shelters and landscaping. New roads have been constructed and others linked, increasing connectivity throughout the CRA. Traffic calming features have been introduced in strategic locations. All of these efforts have resulted in revived investment, a return of national retailers, newly revitalized commercial activity and greater pedestrian activity overall.

Presented at the NLC Congress of Cities 2015
Danny Holmes, Acting City Manager
Lauderdale Lakes, Florida
danh@lauderdalelakes.org

NLC Contact
Brooks Rainwater
Director, City Solutions and Applied Research
brooks@nlc.org

Paul Konz headshotAbout the Author: Paul Konz is the Senior Editor at the National League of Cities.