“Ghost town,” “almost deserted” and “scary and depressing in the evening” are just a few ways recent visitors have described Fort Lauderdale’s Riverfront. A once bustling area of downtown with packed bars, restaurants and shops, the old hot spot has devolved into little more than a movie theater and a couple of dining options.
The economy played a big part in Riverfront’s downfall. Tourism dollars and local patronage weren’t coming in like they used to. Real estate experts agreed that the space would be best served as a mix of residences, offices, a hotel and retail. A 2007 plan to make it just that fell through when the residential market went bust. It turned out to be a sour deal for taxpayers too, as the city of Fort Lauderdale and the Broward County School Board lost about $3 million in deals leading up to Riverfront’s development in 1998. It was eventually purchased at public auction by one of its lenders who saw no competing bids.