An explosion of shops and restaurants is turning Pompano Beach into possibly the top beachside destination between Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach.
Many businesses, attractions and other amenities have recently become available to the public — and much more is on the way. But the evolution also is posing challenges, such as a brand-new parking garage that is already packed full on the weekends. There’s also the hassle of driving around amid all the traffic and construction.
“The development is great. It’s going to help this area a lot more,” says Thomas Savino, of Margate, who has hit the beach in Pompano almost daily for nine years.
All the changes have wowed him: Where he once saw a sleepy community is now a sight for valet services, particularly on the weekends for a restaurant that opened last year.
“The only thing is — I’m scared. Where am I going to park my car with all these people coming?” asks Savino.
Here’s a look at all the changes afoot on this fast-growing stretch of beach.
The city has long planned to shape itself into a thriving destination. Already, there are new restaurants and stores, as well as hotel construction underway. The city’s pier, closed to the public since 2017, could be reopened by October, which could help generate even more traffic.
The city’s new popularity is obvious: The 625-space “Pier Garage” that opened in 2016 is often filled to capacity on weekends. Other signs that throngs of people are coming: The Beach House restaurant that opened last year has found much success, said developer Tim Hernandez, who is building a development referred to as the Pompano Beach Fishing Village.
“I feel like there’s a lot of activity in Pompano for good reason,” Hernandez said. “It’s coming up. It’s going to be a great place — a true destination.”
Among the projects that’ll be part of Pompano Beach’s Fishing Village, east of State Road A1A, between Northeast Second and Northeast Third Streets:
— A 150-room, dual-branded Hilton hotel, from Home2Suites and Tru. It’ll be the first to be built in a city-owned beachside redevelopment area in more than 50 years. Its groundbreaking took place this past Wednesday.
— Alvin’s Island, a beach-apparel shop that’s under construction. It’ll open later this year.
— The Oceanic at Pompano Beach, a restaurant with an ocean liner-inspired design. It’s two or three months from opening.
— Lucky Fish Beach Bar and Grill, which intends to replicate a Keys-style open-air tiki bar. It’s under construction and may open late this summer.
— A building that’ll have a BurgerFi, Kilwin’s and a Cannoli Kitchen. Construction is expected to begin in a month or two.
— A banquet space west of the Oceanic restaurant on Pompano Beach Boulevard.
“The objective is to create a space suitable for wedding receptions, charity events, corporate meetings and private parties,” according to city records.
There is no start date yet for construction.
“The facility will be two stories and offer 18,000 square feet, with a rooftop bar amid ocean views,” said Tom Prakas, the leasing agent for Pompano Beach Fishing Village. “We have so much going on here and this space is going to fill out in the next two years.”
To battle the traffic and parking crunch, the city is envisioning a beachside garage — in addition to one that already opened. The city says perhaps a hotel or grocery store would help pay for it. City officials said the proposed parking garage, offering 700 additional spots, would help draw even more visitors.
Requests for developers to make proposals for the 3-acre project — both for the new garage and accompanying projects — are due by May 31. The lot, at 109 N. Ocean Blvd., is west of State Road A1A, east of Riverside Drive and south of Northeast Second Avenue.
“We can’t ignore the issue — there’s building going on and there’s demand for parking,” said Assistant City Manager Suzette Sibble. “The city doesn’t want demand to outpace the supply. That won’t make anybody happy. We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve and be strategic. The parking garage — to be built on land that is now surface parking, north of The Plaza at Oceanside condos — could top five floors.”
It would either be self-parking or a hybrid of self-parking and an automatic car stacker, like an elevator for cars. Because it is estimated to be in the $17 million range, new development could offset the costs.
A beachside grocery store also would help replace the grocery store that was previously in the Oceanside Shopping Center, which was redeveloped into condos.
Currently, most beachside residents travel across a bridge to buy groceries from the Publix at 2511 E. Atlantic Blvd. But if a new supermarket were to open closer to the beach, it may help ease traffic across the Intracoastal Waterway bridge.
“We are very excited about it,” Sibble said. “It would be nice to get something the residents would be proud to look at, they don’t have to go across the bridge to Publix.” The possibilities are “like a Trader Joe’s type, an off-the-wall, grocery-type store — food, wine, cheese — a use for them to be proud of.”
Not all residents are pleased with an onslaught of construction near the water in what the city considers progress.
“I think they’re going nuts with this development phase,” said former Commissioner Kay McGinn. “They are running out of things to develop.”
But other locals are thrilled.
“This was a very quaint little city, and I think it will explode in the next few years,” said Patti Fanucci, who works at the Sandbar Snacks concession stand. “Pompano needed a face-lift. It’s making us more of a city.”
“Tourists are attracted because of the width of Pompano’s beach, but people can’t come to Pompano if they don’t have parking,” said Johnny Coppola, a Pompano Beach snowbird from Montreal. “More hotels, more condos, more retail means more money and money is good for everybody. It’s just as important as the blood in your body. Too much going out and not enough coming in, you die.”