Fort Lauderdale attorney Burnadette Norris-Weeks and Boca Raton businesswoman Kathy Eggleston have partnered to help revitalize a portion of the Sistrunk Boulevard area.
They have turned the site of the old Bud’s Shoe Shop into a new collection of office suites at Northwest Seventh Avenue/Avenue of the Arts and Fourth Street.
The Avenue of the Arts Executive Suites are in a newly renovated, 2,300-square-foot office building with eight rooms, four offices and Wi-Fi.
The building’s flexible conference room is AV (audio visual) ready with the ability to host boardroom meetings, seminars and after-hours events.
The building is scheduled to be fully operational on Sept. 1, according to Eggleston. Already, the office suites are home to the 100 Black Men of Greater Fort Lauderdale, the anchor tenant.
The dollar amount for the renovation project was not disclosed.
“We can help people who work in Palm Beach or Miami-Dade counties whose primary offices are there but service clients in Broward,” Eggleston said. “We can provide them, as well as home-based business owners, a physical presence and help them do business here.”
She continued: “We can accommodate daily, weekly, monthly and annual renters.”
Eggleston said she is not a developer, and had no interest in becoming one.
“But when I saw what Burnadette did with her property, I certainly had a deep interest in doing positive things here in the Fort Lauderdale community,” she said.
In 2004, Norris-Weeks purchased the property at 401 NW 7th Ave. that now houses the Law Offices of Burnadette Norris-Weeks. The offices opened in 2007.
Norris-Weeks handles the legal aspects of the business. She said she and her sister grew up “visiting Fort Lauderdale” every summer from their childhood home in central Florida.
“Among other relatives, we stayed with my great aunt, Idella Williams, whose home was taken by eminent domain for the development of the Regal Trace site. She lived a short distance from the Avenue Executive location,” Norris-Weeks said.
When Norris-Weeks made her first investment in the area, she said that people told her, “I was insane, and could locate my business anywhere.”
But the area is turning around, Norris-Weeks noted. Many of the district’s dilapidated buildings are being renovated or torn down.
“Professionals, like me, are moving into the area in hopes of making it a better place to live, work and play,” she said.
Throughout the 1940s and 50s, several black-owned businesses occupied the 401 building, Norris-Weeks said.
“There was once a sundry store, an all-women-owned barbershop and a daycare center, to name a few,” she said.
Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Bobby DuBose, whose District 3 includes the area, said the Executive Suites project is “great for the community’s development and its businesses.”
The area, he said, “has been long neglected. Anyone who comes in and embraces or takes part in its revitalization has my support.”
The buildings are in a CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) zone. The agency collects tax money for the revitalization of blighted areas.
“But this [Executive Suites] is not a CRA building, although we worked with them on this development project,” Eggleston said.
The exact location of the suites, itself, has a storied history.
In 1939, Matthew “Bud” Walters relocated to Fort Lauderdale after studying shoe repair at an Atlanta vocational school.
After honing his craft while working for a few local cobblers, Walters in 1955 opened Bud’s Community Shoe Shop at 301 NW 5th Ave., in what was then the heart of Fort Lauderdale’s black business district.
In the following years, segregation came to a close, and urban renewal swept through the bustling district, which ran from Northwest 2nd Street to Sistrunk Boulevard. Many of the establishments, including sandwich shops, a drugstore, the medical offices of James Sistrunk, the Windsor Club and the Victory Theater, were abandoned and demolished, or moved west.
In 1976, Walters relocated his shop to the site of what is now the Executive Suites, at 405 NW 7th Avenue.
“There were lots of shops in the district then, and Bud stayed in business the longest,” said James Bradley, a lifelong Fort Lauderdale resident.
The 80-year-old Old Dillard Museum historian described Bud’s as “the place where all the talk went on. It was the CNN and Channel 7 of black Fort Lauderdale.”
Walters retired in 1989, and sold the business to Ross Grooms and Thomas Phillips. It was then renamed P&G’s.
Grooms, now 78, said he moved out of the building in 2007, adding that he “still owns stands in Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood.”
Bradley said he visited Bud’s “every day back then. Shines or rag jobs were only 25 cents.”
Once honored as one of the first black cobblers in Broward County, Walters died in 1991 at age 73.
For more information about Avenue of the Arts Executive Suites, call 954-522-2290 or visit www.avenueexecutive.com.
Photo by Khary Bruyning. Kathy Eggleston