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Hard Times Delay, Alter Bella Vista Development in Lauderdale Lakes

June 19, 2008

By Juan Ortega, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Jun. 18–Lauderdale Lakes residents can expect to wait an extra five years to see the biggest part of their town center project completed.

Bella Vista — the city’s largest planned housing and commercial development — was scheduled for completion next year, but commissioners have endorsed pushing back the project’s completion date to 2014, among other changes.

They pledged support Tuesday night for changes proposed by United Homes Chairman Tony Mijares, saying they would prefer development rather than vacant lots at Bella Vista, on Oakland Park Boulevard just east of State Road 7. Commissioners will vote later on the changes.

Commissioners agreed a five-year extension is necessary amid a sluggish housing market, which has halted or canceled many South Florida projects.

It would give United Homes more time to sell townhouses and lure retailers.

“The worst thing, in my opinion, for the city of Lauderdale Lakes and Central Broward is to have desert, barren land sitting on Oakland Park Boulevard,” Commissioner John Billingsley said.

Tycie Causwell, Eastgate Homeowners Association’s former president who lives near Bella Vista, agreed with Billingsley. She said she dislikes seeing its vacant lots but is willing to wait longer for improvements.

“It doesn’t make sense to have a lot of houses and they’re empty,” Causwell said.

Commissioners said the city is banking on success of the project, which has been billed as the centerpiece of its rebirth.

The city initiated the idea for the project, and its Community Redevelopment Agency bought the Bella Vista land in 2002, later selling it to United Homes.

As originally planned, Bella Vista would have had 224 townhouses, and multistory buildings for 317 condominiums and 18,000 square feet of retail.

With the changes, one-story businesses and offices would replace multi-story buildings. The number of condos would drop to 72, more than doubling the room for retail. The number of townhouses would remain the same.

Having one-floor commercial buildings and parking in front of stores, however, conflicts with the city’s goal of creating a community of multistory buildings that blends condos with businesses.

Juan Ortega can be reached at jcortega@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4701.

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