Broward College downtown campus to become an office tower

Broward College is improving its downtown Fort Lauderdale campus by getting rid of its two decaying buildings.

And students will benefit the most, officials say.

Under an agreement announced Tuesday, a private developer later this year will lease and then raze the facilities at 225 E. Las Olas Blvd. In its place will be a 14-story office building that includes shops and restaurants on the ground floor and an outdoor covered courtyard space for students.

The 2,000 students taking classes on the campus will be moved to the building on Las Olas that the college shares with Florida Atlantic University. Officials say there is plenty of classroom space available and the move will mostly affect administrative employees. FAU vacated several floors of the building when it moved several programs to its Davie campus during a period of downsizing in 2012.

College officials say students will benefit from the new project through upgrades that include a pavilion for outdoor events and classes, and affordable restaurants and shops near campus.

College officials said the project incorporates many of the requests they've received from students downtown, including more food options, sheltered walkways and connections to public transportation. The planned Wave streetcars will have a stop at the site. The plans also include a new pedestrian bridge between the east and west portions of Las Olas Boulevard.

"Revitalizing our downtown campus will improve the academic experience while providing the college with an alternative revenue source that lessens its reliance on tuition and state funding," Broward College President David Armstrong said.

The college's Board of Trustees agreed Tuesday that Fort Lauderdale developer Stiles Corp would lease the two buildings, which are 37 years old and 63 years old. The deal calls for a 99-year lease, with Broward College receiving around $11.5 million over the next 10 years.
Stiles would redevelop the site. The company bought an old Bank of America building north of the site, which it plans to develop into a high-rise residential complex.

Stiles Chairman Terry Stiles said the project, slated to completed in 2021, will revitalize that portion of Las Olas "by bringing new and exciting entertainment and dining options to the ground level as well as open venues for gathering."

Broward College has been considering its options after a 2011 consultant report said one of its Las Olas buildings, constructed in the 1950s, should be demolished since it fails to meet building codes, Americans with Disability Act standards, and is not energy efficient.

In recent years, the college opened a new facility in Miramar through a partnership with the private sector and is considering similar options to revitalize its south campus in Pembroke Pines. The college is also hoping for more state funding. It's requesting $29 million from the state to upgrade two science buildings on its north campus.

By: Scott Travis, Reporter