Special to South Florida Times
Northwest Fort Lauderdale is undergoing a long overdue revitalization.
A vacant lot on Northwest 12th Terrace is being transformed into a community garden. Vacant low-income housing along Northwest 13th Terrace will be replaced with townhomes. And plans for a new shopping plaza at the southeast corner of Sistrunk Boulevard and Northwest Seventh Avenue are beginning to take shape.
“It’s in pockets, but it’s happening,” said Bobby Dubose, Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner, District 3. “The area has been long neglected and we are moving aggressively.”
Volunteers from American Express, along with the Housing Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale, Step-Up Apprenticeship and the Urban League of Broward County’s YouthBuild Program, took part Oct. 23 in an initiative called “Partnering to Create an Edible Garden.”
The 6,000-square-foot garden is located on the 20,000-square-foot vacant lot at 771 NW 12th Ter., owned by the Housing Authority, according to Scott Strawbridge, its director of development and facilities.
Funding for the garden project was made possible by part of a $20,000 grant from American Express, according to Beverly Simmons of American Express corporate affairs communications department. Part of the grant money was used earlier this year to restore the home of 98-year-old Avis Shep McSmith, now a historical landmark, according to Teresa Patterson, the Urban League’s YouthBuild program manager.
Strawbridge said the garden will be “self-sustaining” and 25 percent of the vegetables grown will be donated to the Pantry of Broward Inc. Proceeds from the sale of 60 to 75 percent of the crops will go to covering the cost of constructing the building.
The Pantry provides food and support services to needy seniors and to grandparents raising grandchildren. The community will benefit from the garden, Strawbridge said. “Seniors will be paid to plant seedlings in egg cartons; residents can purchase fresh vegetables without traveling.”
Willa Goosby, 76, a lifelong Fort Lauderdale resident, said that she is “pleased to open my door and see and smell something beautiful.” People, she said, “forget we are here, because the area has changed so much – and not for the better. Maybe people will see this, be proud, and treat the area differently.”
The Urban League’s YouthBuild program provides young adults aged 18-24 opportunities to transform their lives and roles in society by building and rehabilitating affordable housing for low-income families.
The Step-Up Apprenticeship Initiative of the Housing Authority provides low-income public housing residents access to education, job skills and employment opportunities, while helping to renovate houses in their community.
The city-owned lot at the southeast corner of Northwest Seventh Avenue and Sistrunk Boulevard will house a shopping plaza that will include a Save-A-Lot store as its anchor, DuBose said. Plans for the plaza have been completed, he said, but the groundbreaking date has not been scheduled. “We still need to go through the city’s process for finalizing and building.”
Life-long Fort Lauderdale resident Florence Cohen also is happy with all of the attention the area is getting. “Improvement is always good and we can really use a large store like Save-A-Lot,” she said.
Local stores, she said, are “too expensive. A large chain would offer reasonable food prices and better choices.”
Cohen, who, at 74 still drives, is concerned about transportation. “It’s close to Sistrunk but, still, for many who can no longer drive and do not live close to the boulevard, better transportation within the neighborhood would help.”
The plaza, DuBose said, will create both temporary and permanent jobs. “Once people start to see things happen, they’ll catch on to the vision.” She said.
Demolition of the vacant low-income housing along Northwest 13th Terrace and its surrounding five-block area will begin within four weeks, Strawbridge said. New energy-efficient townhomes for low-income residents will replace the dilapidated houses.
Edie Newsome, 69, who has lived for about 19 years one block west of the homes scheduled for demolition, said that tearing them down was a good thing.
“I fear living near abandoned buildings,” she said. “We are constantly calling the police because people hang out and trouble starts. And then we [seniors] fear retaliation. Maybe now that will end.”
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net.
PHOTOS BY KHARY BRUYNING/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES
PROGRAM MANAGER: Teresa Patterson