by Arianne Glassman

In late October 2019, the City of Fort Lauderdale, and Central Beach CRA saw their five-year investment into planning and design come to life. For those of us of a certain age, watching the transformation to the area where Las Olas Boulevard meets the beach had us humming Joni Mitchell’s famed folk song Paved Paradise, but in reverse. Trees would not go in a “tree museum” but instead would flank four acres of green space where both the Oceanside and Southside parking lots once sat. A new state of the art, LEED Certified Parking Garage would grow to the sky from the blacktop. Its future-forward design boldly welcomed those traveling over the Las Olas Bridge by day, and its wraparound programmable lighting became a nightly entertainment spectacle. Sitting high atop the new Garage’s 5th level amenity deck, one could enjoy a staggering 270• view of downtown and Intracoastal waterway views.

Remarkably, within only sixteen months, and with thanks to the tireless efforts of the CRA’s senior project manager, Thomas Green, and construction contractors, Skanska, the first three phases of the $78,000,000 public improvement investment in the Central Beach Area opened to the public.

Three weeks later, the City’s annual Light Up the Beach event acted as the official unveiling of Las Olas Oceanside Park. A month and a half following, Oceanside Park became home to the annual Friday Night Sound Waves concert series and new weekly Friday Night and Saturday Afternoon Farmers, Antiques & Artisan Market. In its short span of existence, this new jewel on the beach also caught local headlines and national attention as the host location to the Super Bowl LIV sanctioned weekend celebration, Raised in the 954.

The project’s final phase is to finish the build-out on the complete redesign of DC Alexander Park. The small plot of open space situated off 5th Avenue South and A1A, estimated to be completed in late winter 2021/22, will feature a multi-level signature play area surrounded by a 25-foot sweeping observation deck with a 42-foot-tall shade canopy and restroom facility. The timing coincides with the eagerly-awaited completion of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and Aquatic Complex enhancements, set to open in two phases between summer 2021 and early 2022.

When you add the $70 million Las Olas Marina complex, a public/private partnership between the City and marina operator Suntex, the combined projects will, in essence, create a whole new neighborhood, and with it, infinite new experiences for residents and visitors alike.

I nicknamed Las Olas Oceanside Park, The LOOP, upon moving Friday Night Sound Waves to it from the area known as The HUB just across the street. In addition to being a catchy hashtag, it also made this new immense space feel less intimidating and warmer. Interestingly, what I soon came to realize was the acronym was really a foreshadowing. On a map, when you connect the path of these four new greenspaces, an infinity sign appeared connecting each of the four parks within this new park system: a walkable, bikeable, drivable loop.

The LOOP, now encompassing an area much larger than just the one park at the corner of Las Olas and A1A, was a cornerstone to a whole area with a story to tell and had a new-found purpose in which those who visited would find a welcoming sense of place.

Andy Royston was brought into the team to tie this vision together visually. Although it had been nearly 20 years since he and I worked together, I followed his work creating the brand identity for Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, and his Instagram feed, @FtLauderdaleSun religiously. A few conversations and days later, a simple infinity shaped logo developed, and a new identity for The LOOP had begun.

In the months that followed, countless others were called upon to contribute to shaping this new landmark location. Their experience, voice, vision and leadership would provide the groundwork for an annual activation plan with a goal of making The LOOP a place for people of all walks of life to enjoy.

If you have come this far, what does this all mean to you, the reader? In two short weeks after this publication hits mailboxes, there will be infinite experiences for everyone under the sun to share together at The LOOP. Most importantly, considering the challenging time we are still in, there will be a steady roll out of open-air, socially distanced happenings and events that locals can enjoy, and which will add new flavor to our Las Olas experience.

Continuing their weekly Saturday display of more than 30 vendors, offering an eclectic mix of organic and homemade food goods to apothecary and clothing, the Las Olas Oceanside Park Farmers Market will add several new experiences supported by the Beach BID. Saturday afternoon cooking demonstrations hosted by local wellness non-profit, FLIPANY and Chef-led market tours in partnership with Greater Fort Lauderdale Food and Wine will take place the 2nd and 4th Saturday, starting February 27. The weekly morning yoga class with Lisa Pumper will continue, as well. Starting February 3rd, a series of free and low-cost, open to the public fitness programs will commence. Classes led by some of South Florida’s top local fitness professionals, will range from a 12-week walking club to cardio dance, animal flow, H.I.T.T. workouts and more.

In mid-February, the LOOP Garage’s 5th floor terrace will take center stage, hosting a bookend of events over the Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day weekend.

On Thursday, February 11, Sunset Salutations, the monthly New Moon Yoga and Live Music experience. This all-levels yoga flow on the rooftop of the Las Olas Beach Garage invites guests to restore and renew their body, mind and spirit as the sun sets over the city skyline. The evening promises a star-filled night of selfcare & love, set to a melodic fusion of blues, jazz and soul seasoned with Afro-Cuban & Caribbean rhythms, performed by composer / arranger / guitarist, Eddy Balzola.

The weekend winds down Sunday, February 14 with a day-long celebration of love organized in partnership with Keith Willard Events, the National Association of Catering Professionals (NACE) and GFL Food and Wine and Brews at the Beach producers, 66 Productions. Aptly named, Love is in the Air, as much due to the location as the day itself, a three-part experience will welcome gal-pals to sip and shop, engaged couples to host their own micro-wedding, and give lifetime lovers an opportunity renew their vows while enjoying spirited sips, savory bites, live music, and rooftop vibes at Fort Lauderdale’s newest waterfront venue.

The following week, month’s events close at the two-acre Las Olas Promenade Park. The expansive lawn with winding walkways found along the bank of the Intracoastal, will host Fur the Love Pet Fest, on Sunday, February 21. Coinciding with National Love Your Pet Day, FTL Pet Fest is a celebration of Fort Lauderdale’s love for their furry companions and a day of four-legged fun. Hosted by year old Instagram influencer, Teddy of @southflorida_teddybear fame and his mom, Ana Elvir, with proceeds benefiting the all-volunteer animal advocates group, Good Karma Pet Rescue.

As for what will take place beyond February, and over the course of the coming year, we plan to resume our free Friday Night Sound Waves concerts in March and so much more.

To #stayintheloop and to keep abreast of all the coming events and happenings we invite you to visit join our email list and follow us on Facebook and Instagram