The Fort Lauderdale Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is pleased to announce the City of Fort Lauderdale’s commitment of $5 million to reimagining Huizenga Park through a unanimous vote by the City Commission. These funds from the City of Fort Lauderdale, in addition to $950,000 recently committed by the State of Florida, will contribute towards the $15 million transformation of more than three acres of DDA and City-owned property into Downtown Fort Lauderdale’s signature gathering space.
“Our partnership with the City of Fort Lauderdale demonstrates our joint belief that well-designed, highly activated parks are essential infrastructure in our growing downtown,” said Jenni Morejon, President and CEO of the Fort Lauderdale DDA. “This is an exciting time for Downtown Fort Lauderdale as the city seizes meaningful opportunities to enhance our public realm. We’re proud to be working alongside our long-standing partners at the City of Fort Lauderdale to reimagine Huizenga Park and are thankful to the Mayor and City Commissioners for their strong support of this project.”
“For decades, Huizenga Park has been a special gathering place for our community. The investment being made by the City and DDA will greatly enhance a signature park at the heart of our downtown. Huizenga Park will become even more of a jewel along the New River, representing the dynamic destination that Downtown Fort Lauderdale has become,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis.
The DDA studied world-class parks in cities across the United States to inform the design vision for the new Huizenga Park. Nationally renowned design firm Perkins&Will spearheaded the park’s redesign. It introduced a dynamic mix of uses to transform Huizenga Park into a highly active community gathering space for everyone, day and night, all year. The mix of uses available at the reimagined Huizenga Park is based on successful models adopted in downtowns across the country, most notably New York City’s Bryant Park, one of the most successful urban park transformations in the world.
The new design will revitalize the park by introducing a series of outdoor rooms that will set Huizenga Park apart from traditional parks, offering leisure, dining, physical activity, events, and meet-ups. The park design also includes an updated Spirit of Fort Lauderdale Fountain, an enhanced section of the Riverwalk, a lush shade canopy and civic lawn, a dog run, and a restaurant along the water. The DDA is currently negotiating with Specialty Restaurants Corporation to fund, build and operate the waterfront restaurant and will announce additional details soon. The restaurant lease revenue helps fund a portion of park construction costs and will ultimately help fund the high level of operations and maintenance needed for a best-in-class urban park.
Huizenga Park, located at 32 East Las Olas Boulevard, is a highly visible public space with direct access to the Riverwalk and the New River. The park is essential to the fabric of downtown due to its central location on Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale’s main business, retail, and dining hub that sees about 5 million visits per year. With over 40 new residential developments planned in the urban core, the reimagined Huizenga Park is an essential public space supporting Downtown Fort Lauderdale’s growth. Today, more than 5,000 residential units are located within a ten-minute walk of the park, and approximately 8 million square feet of office space is nearby. Combined with its proximity to Fort Lauderdale’s major cultural and educational institutions, Huizenga Park serves as the heart of Downtown Fort Lauderdale.
“The City of Fort Lauderdale is committed to working directly with the DDA to move this project forward, and City staff have been collaborating on the Huizenga Park project from the beginning. Projects like Huizenga Park, which foster community, are key assets for the City of Fort Lauderdale neighbors and visitors,” said Greg Chavarria, Fort Lauderdale City Manager. “We look forward to collaborating further with the DDA to make the reimagined Huizenga Park a reality, as we improve our public spaces.”
Plans to create four new or improved downtown parks are underway thanks to the investment of at least $100 million made by the City of Fort Lauderdale and community partners. “The reimagined Huizenga Park combined with the new Tunnel Top Park, the City-approved ArtsPark in Flagler Village, and the revitalized War Memorial Auditorium and new ice rinks by the Florida Panthers in Holiday Park will create an impressive network of downtown public spaces,” said City Commissioner Steve Glassman. “Great cities have many highly activated parks for everyone to enjoy, and I’m thrilled the City of Fort Lauderdale is partnering with the DDA to transform Huizenga Park into a signature downtown park.”
The DDA Board of Directors has committed to preserving the reimagined Huizenga Park, a site owned by the agency since the late 1970s, as a world-class public space in perpetuity. “The City’s $5 million investment into Huizenga Park is a win for Fort Lauderdale taxpayers,” said City Commissioner John Herbst. ” I’m thankful for the DDA’s leadership in ensuring that places like Huizenga Park forever remain open and accessible to the public.”
“Spaces that can be enjoyed by everyone are key to growing the spirit of community. The reimagined Huizenga Park will breathe renewed life into the center of the city, enhancing health and wellness opportunities and supporting our unique environment”, added City Commissioner Pamela Beasley-Pittman.
The DDA Board of Directors has guided the vision for the Reimagined Huizenga Park from the beginning, ensuring that Huizenga Park is exquisitely designed and operated at the highest level. “Huizenga Park will set a new standard for urban parks in Fort Lauderdale. I look forward to seeing the space evolve from the days of big festivals to a park for the future that long-time residents and those new to Fort Lauderdale can experience and enjoy on a daily basis,” said DDA Board Chair Alan Hooper.
Built by the DDA more than 25 years ago and originally named DDA Park, the landmark space was renamed in 2003 to honor H. Wayne Huizenga’s impact on Downtown Fort Lauderdale. Notably, the reimagining of Huizenga Park will connect a new generation to the legacy of the Huizenga Family. It will commence as the park celebrates its 20th anniversary under its current name. Steve Hudson, the nephew of Huizenga, serves as Chairman of the Huizenga Park Foundation. The nonprofit Foundation was recently formed to advance and support the reimagining of Huizenga Park and strives to raise $5 million toward park construction. Following the park’s completion, the Foundation will operate, maintain, and program Huizenga Park to ensure it is managed as a world-class destination. “My uncle believed in bold, game-changing projects to move our community forward. It’s up to the next generation of community leaders to take on that mantle. I believe our community will rally around the Huizenga Park Foundation’s mission to continue my uncle’s legacy and honor the Huizenga name for decades to come,” explained Hudson.
Contributions by the DDA, the City of Fort Lauderdale, the State of Florida, and private donations collected by the Huizenga Park Foundation will fully fund the construction project. Construction of Huizenga Park is projected to break ground in 2023 and reach completion in 2024.