12:02 PM EDT, March 18, 2011
Storms both economic and meteorological swept Fort Lauderdale and the rest of the region. Hurricane Wilma in 2005 was the worst storm to hit the city since the unnamed hurricane of 1926, peeling windows from downtown buildings and roofs from homes. While it didn't cause nearly the destruction the 1926 storm wrought on the smaller town, in dollar terms it was the most damaging hurricane ever to strike the more developed city.
Another tempest affected housing. A too-good-to-be-true market promised untold returns on investments — until it imploded, devastating homeowners and city officials, who faced a loss of tax revenue.
Fort Lauderdale retained its prime-mover status into the new century. But it was no longer Broward's sole center of attention. Up-and-coming suburban cities, following a separate growth curve, competed for their share of history. They constructed casinos, theaters and condos, and drew new businesses into their fold.
Fort Lauderdale's skyline changed dramatically, with highrise condos and office buildings drawing residents downtown, even on nights and weekends. On the beach, high-end hotels encouraging a tonier class of tourist replaced the mom-and-pop motels that had reigned for decades. Neighborhoods too changed, as traditional houses gave way to rows of townhomes and pastel-hued McMansions.
More development saw the completion in 2002 of the 17th Street Causeway bridge, officially named for E. Clay Shaw Jr., former mayor and congressman. The project took six years and cost $69 million. Across the water, Port Everglades unveiled the world's largest single cruise ship terminal, a 240,000-square-foot behemoth custom built for the world's largest ocean liner, Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas.
After the building wave crested, an anti-development backlash took root, resulting in the rejection of several major highrise projects, including one on the New River that would have towered over the venerable Stranahan House.
For the first time since '62, Fort Lauderdale was bereft of a spring baseball team. The Baltimore Orioles flew the coop, seeking a stadium fancier than the city's Lockhart venue.
But advances were made. The city that once banished blacks to the other side of the tracks now showcased the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center as a sign of revitalization on Sistrunk Boulevard. Opened in 2002, the center, one of only four black research libraries in the United States, houses more than 85,000 books, photos and documents, and attracts a million visitors a year.
Five years after the library opened, Fort Lauderdale's African-Americans achieved another milestone: the city's first black police chief, Frank Adderley, a 28-year police veteran who grew up in northwest Fort Lauderdale.
The decade came to a close with the 2009 departure of Jim Naugle, one of Fort Lauderdale's more colorful politicians. Mayor for 24 years over six terms, Naugle seldom failed to enrage some or delight others. In 2007, he remarked that he preferred the term "homosexuals" to "gays," because "most of them aren't gay, they're unhappy."
Gays found acceptance the same year Naugle departed when the Stonewall Library and Archives opened. The gay-oriented facility on city-county property next to Holiday Park contains about 20,000 books and 1,000 videos. "We are not going to discriminate," the city's new mayor, Jack Seiler, said at the library's dedication.
Over its 100 years of existence, Fort Lauderdale has made its share of mistakes and righted its share of wrongs. It has pursued policies both shameful and virtuous. Its people have acted deplorably and acted heroically. In other words, Fort Lauderdale has evolved like any other city, with a collection of citizens capable of the silly or the sublime. So, now, let's see what happens next …
Did you know?
One of the main routes to the beach was named after Fort Lauderdale's most prominent booster, Commodore A.H. Brook. The bridge, now officially the E. Clay Shaw Bridge, is widely known as the 17th Street Causeway.
On March 27, the City of Fort Lauderdale and the Sun Sentinel plan a celebration near their shared birthplace on the New River. For details, go to SunSentinel.com/centennial
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