Few people walk down Sistrunk Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, and cars simply drive through the nearly deserted corridor.
Among old warehouses, an “unsafe building” sign marks a foreclosed plumbing store between a church and a convenience store.
But that abandoned building will soon become a living lab. Florida Atlantic University and Fort Lauderdale are partnering to create a studio for urban agriculture, structural investigations and art installations.
“We see this partnership as being a way to get a legitimate brand name on the corridor in addition to the existing businesses here,” says Al Battle, economic and reinvestment community director in Fort Lauderdale.
FAU assistant professor Keith Van de Riet is one of the main organizers for the project. He says the city faces water shortages, saltwater intrusion and biodiversity issues that can be fixed if the community comes together.
“Our students will go there and continually develop prototypes and installations,” says Van de Riet. “We are going to be working with the city and having their code officials come to the site and use it as a training ground for new technologies.”
FAU estimates the renovation to cost around $60,000.
The city has recently presented the project to the commission, and the building will be tested for asbestos and other toxic materials.
Van de Riet says they want to make sure the property is safe for students and hopefully they can move in next year.
Battle says the city has invested a lot of money to make the boulevard more business friendly and attractive. The urban studio is one of those investments.
Casey Myers, whose father is the pastor at a church next to the abandoned plumbing store, says Sistrunk needs economic movement.
“The location is a great location,” says Myers. “But with pumping more businesses and getting more active, it would do better.”
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