By Bobby R. Henry, Sr.
There is a lot of talk now concerning the YMCA and the Mizell Center Community Building located on the Sistrunk Corridor. The Mizell Center is located on the site of the old Provident Hospital that was once home of the only hospital in Broward County that would allow Black physicians to practice. Dr. Von D. Mizell was one of the founding physicians of Provident Hospital. This facility is one of very few buildings still left in our community that pays homage to our history. So why is the City of Fort Lauderdale Commission allowing the building to be torn down?
Residence are beginning to question the process, the people and the reasons behind it.
No one is opposed to redeveloping our community. After decades of neglect it is long overdue. However, redevelopment does not have to come at the expense of wiping out the footprint of our historic community nor should it be. Random demolition of historic buildings in our community should not be done without full acknowledgment, consideration, and consent of the residents and the businesses of the community who have endured the hardships after decades of planned and purposed negligence.
In contrast, its bordering neighbor, Flagler Village, the entire community was courted and beckoned for its concerns and property.
Developer BR ArchCo Flagler Village LLC has accumulated a block of properties to build an apartment complex in Flagler Village. Nearly 10 property owners got very healthy prices for their properties. Flagler Village developers paid a total of $23.2 million for all of the parcels in the block enclosed by North Andrews Avenue, Sistrunk Boulevard, Northeast First Avenue and Northeast Fifth Street.
Assessed at $423,000, Josef’s Clock and Watch Shop, just five to six blocks from the heart of historic Black Fort Lauderdale, received $3.85 million.
Robert Larsen got the mother load. A developer paid $5.25 million for Larsen’s home in downtown’s Flagler Village neighborhood — $5 million more than the appraised value of the property. In the same block, John Lacz got $2 million for a two-story office building assessed at $379,000, and businessman Antonio Curatolo received $1.6 million for an auto dealer property assessed at $502,000.
In contrast to the large investments made to aquire land east of the railroad tracks on Sistrunk, the Historic Sistrunk Community property owners have been offered pennies comparatively speaking for their property, and to sweeten the pot, a brand new social service entity, namely the LA Lee YMCA.
How is it that the business plan for the Sistrunk Corridor, which called for economic development and not for a additional social services, has suddenly changed to allow a social service organization to build on the corridor land, essentially destroying a Black landmark?
The Sistrunk corridor is in need of economic redevelopment. We need to preserve the historically Black businesses and organizations that have been on the corridor as well as create opportunities for new business that will help economic revitalization.
The Mizell center is one of only a few buildings left in our community that represents our history in this city. It was and should remain the structural focal point of our community – a place where area organizations can meet and discuss issues that affect our community.
We have had many community meetings going back over 25 years concerning the redevelopment of our community. This community, time and time again, has said what they want the redevelopment to look like. Most recently was the Urban Land Institute Study which included two days of meetings with a large group of the community members in December of 2014, held ironically at the Mizell Center. Once again the community expressed what they wanted the redevelopment to look like:
- We want to preserve our culture and rich history.
- We want to repurpose as many buildings as possible on the corridor and not just bulldoze down our historic buildings
- We want to bring more businesses on the corridor
- We want the area to be a cultural destination area for tourists to visit –with various entertainment and restaurant venues
- We want to limit new non-profits from coming to the corridor as they do not generate any tax revenue
Was anybody listening? Does anybody care? Here we are again where it seems as if other people know what’s best for them by using us.