The long-awaited transformation of the city's central beach area could start the day after next year's Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show ends.
The first project in November 2016 would likely be construction of a four-story parking garage along the Intracoastal Waterway on the north side of the Las Olas Boulevard bridge, which will then provide parking while other projects are underway.
Those projects include an oceanfront park with water features and an Intracoastal Waterway promenade.
Representatives of the EDSA design firm putting the plans together still have a way to go to bring costs in line with the budget. The working budget for the projects is $42.8 million, while current cost estimates are at about $56 million, Jeff Suiter of EDSA told commissioners on Monday.
However, Suiter said the gap should disappear as the designs get more refined. Suiter said Pompano Beach's beachfront, which the company also designed, faced a similar budget issue at the same point in the design process.
"They got everything they wanted in Pompano Beach and it came in on budget," Suiter said. "We feel pretty confident we're going to hit the targeted number."
The design work also includes several open park areas and sidewalk and street improvements along portions of Las Olas Boulevard and State Road A1A. All the projects could take two to three years to complete once started. They would be paid for through tax dollars coming into the city's redevelopment agency and a parking garage bond.
"I'm much more excited and enthusiastic about this plan," Mayor Jack Seiler said, now that he is seeing "the whole concept, the whole flow."
The city's oceanfront parking lot will be turned into a park, with an open grass area that can host special events, two water features including a youth play area, a sandy palm area that would provide a respite from the heat, and a portico that will include a police substation and restrooms.
The portico will also be where visitors can drop off families and beach equipment before heading back to park in the garage. Officials also expect to have a tram providing transportation service between the garage and the portico.
Commissioner Dean Trantalis said the changes will have the effect of expanding the beach.
"I like the idea of transforming the parking lot into an activity area," Trantalis said. "We are creating more and more green space here."
The parking garage will have a green top deck that can be used for special events and will include space on the ground level for Las Olas Marina facilities. It will be wrapped with greenery and a wave-like facade.
The plans include wider sidewalk, bike lanes and street improvements along Las Olas Boulevard and the adjacent stretches of State Road A1A. There is also a large park area on the south side of the Las Olas bridge, the Intracoastal promenade extends underneath the bridge, and there will be another open space area next to the marina.
The plans are separate from the city's proposed renovation of the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Center, which has a price tag of $35.8 million. City officials are reviewing the latest designs for the swim center submitted by Recreational Design & Construction and expect to make presentations to the commission later this year.
The city is also seeking proposals for expanding the Las Olas Marina. A park area planned just north of the Las Olas Boulevard parking garage could be converted and used for a marina expansion depending on the proposals the city receives.