POMPANO BEACH — The Pompano Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) will host a ceremony Thursday, Feb. 28, to mark the start of work on upgrading the city’s Historic Ali Building, 353 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., and construction of additional facilities.
The original building, which is 2,125 square feet will be renovated during the project expected to be completed by early 2014, along with construction of a new 4,200-square-foot commercial building, new bathrooms, an entertainment stage, a loading dock and storage area, and a 3,500-square-foot courtyard, according to CRA engineer Horacio Danovich.
Including new parking in the rear, the complete construction project will take up some 50,000 square feet, Danovich said.
A new museum and art gallery on the site will be managed in partnership with Ashanti Cultural Arts in Fort Lauderdale, Shanna Benson, the CRA’s marketing manager, said.
The CRA is working with the Rock Road Restoration Historical Group in its efforts to “restore Pompano and maintain its cultural history,” Benson said.
The initial project budget is $1.25 million and the money is being provided by the CRA, Danovich said, adding that there are no grants or private funding.
The CRA has awarded the design contract to Keith & Associates of Miami and DK Architects of Pompano Beach, Danovich said. A decision on a contractor has not yet been made.
The Ali Building has been abandoned for a number of years, according to Carlton Moore, a CRA consultant. Many buildings in the area have been demolished but the Ali Building “has become symbolic of the area’s history,” he said.
Many community groups in the past wanted the building renovated, Moore said, but the funds were not available. “With the support of the Pompano Beach (City)Commission, we are moving forward,” he said.
Built in 1933 by Florence and Frank Ali, the iconic building stands as a rare example of the early 20th century vernacular architecture prominent in the once thriving commercial district along the boulevard that is also known as Hammondville Road. At that time, black residents could not attend the white-owned establishments in downtown Pompano located a few blocks east and across the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.
But the project to renovate the building has its critics who say that the CRA is not addressing the real concerns of residents.
Carmen Jones, a member of Concerned Citizens of Pompano Beach, said that her group is pushing for the area’s redevelopment.
“We are not bashing the work (to be) done on the Ali Building. We simply want comprehensive development that brings jobs,” she said.
Informed residents in Pompano Beach “cannot praise this Band-Aid effort just because it’s election year,” Jones said.
Pompano Beach City Commissioner Woodrow “Woody” Poitier denied that the project is about an upcoming election.
“We were mandated by the Northwest Advisory Board to save the building and have done an excellent job in planning. We are doing the right things to make it work,” he said.
Poitier also said that local subcontractors will be used for the construction so “members of the community can benefit.”
“I think people are nervous,” Poitier said, “but they have nothing to worry about.”
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net.