Huizenga Park gets $15 million in upgrades. Plus a new two-story dining room.

Fort Lauderdale — Huizenga Park has no fenced dog park, trendy two-story restaurant or public bathrooms.

This is about to change.

Lines line up for 2-acre riverfront park in downtown Fort Lauderdale $15 million makeover And plans for a new restaurant that will be owned and operated by the same people who own Rusty Pelican in Miami.

The park, which often hosts festivals and concerts, will be transformed into an open-air public living room with a dozen outdoor spaces where you can grab a cup of coffee, chat with friends or play with your dog.

“This park isn’t just for a few — it’s for everyone,” said local developer Steve Hudson, the park’s owner and past chair of the Downtown Development Authority. “This park serves our 25,000 downtown residents now and the five million visitors we receive each year.”

The redesigned park, at Las Olas and Andrews Boulevards along the New River, could open in 2024. The entire park will be closed while crews work on the redesign, Hudson said. Work is expected to begin this summer.

An rendering of the proposed $15 million renovation that will transform Huizenga Park in downtown Fort Lauderdale into an iconic gathering place. The redesign called for a two-story restaurant with an outdoor terrace, public bathrooms that do not exist now, a dog run, grass-covered knoll landscaping, and a new plaza and river viewing deck.

specialty restaurant company, Owner of the Rusty PelicanThe restaurant will be built on the land at the southeast corner of the park, where the amphitheater is now located.

Fort Lauderdale taxpayers will help pay for the park’s redesign, taking on a $5 million debt that will be repaid over seven years.

The deal, which was approved by the Fort Lauderdale board Tuesday night, was not without controversy.

Critics make it clear they don’t like potentially noisy Restaurant with roof terrace keep them up at night.

Ron Castille, a retired federal judge who lives in a nearby apartment, complained noise at night He and his neighbors have endured.

“I’m not sure we need another restaurant in Fort Lauderdale,” he said. “I live in Las Olas Grand. We get noise and all that from YOLO and Salt7. I don’t want to see Fort Lauderdale look like Miami.”

However, not everyone is against the arrival of new restaurants.

Nearby resident Michelle D’avolio praised the plan.

“The current park continues to deteriorate and is very poorly maintained,” she told commissioners. “When they have events there, it’s really loud. When they leave, there’s rubbish, grease and food everywhere. A small well-run restaurant would be a welcome change.”

DDA officials are committed to ensuring that restaurants maintain low noise levels. “If they don’t lower the volume, they could lose their lease,” DDA board member Charlie Rudd told commissioners Tuesday night ahead of a committee vote.

DDA will cover one-third of the $15 million renovation cost. Private donors will pay another third, and the state will contribute nearly $1 million.

Fort Lauderdale also agreed to pay DDA $100,000 annually to subsidize park maintenance. The maintenance fee will replace the $100,000 annual park rent the city currently pays to DDA.

People walk near Huizenga Park in Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 19, 2022. The park will soon undergo a $15 million redesign, as well as a new two-story restaurant built by the same group that owns Rusty Pelican on Key Biscayne.

Not a single cent of Fort Lauderdale tax dollars will go toward building this privately run restaurant. The DDA will lease the land to the restaurants, and if the board winds down in 2030, the city will become the landlord within seven years.

The 20-year lease — with two five-year extension options — will help fund improvements to the park and cover ongoing operations and maintenance costs.

Neighbor Denise Pont also spoke in support of the project.

“We moved here a year ago with the understanding that the park was going to be landscaped,” she said. “Now, looking at my backyard, it’s not pretty at all. What’s happening in that park is something no one wants to happen in their own backyard. I can’t even sit on a bench because there are homeless people now Pee there.”

Some see the park revamp as a sign that downtown Fort Lauderdale will lose one 50-story tower.

DDA Chair Jenni Morejon told commissioners that current zoning allows for towers 500 feet tall or higher in the park.

But the DDA has agreed to a deed limit to keep the land a park in perpetuity.

That’s good news for Brian Donaldson, chair of the city’s budget advisory committee.

“This is going to be a park for generations, and this growing urban area desperately needs it,” he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel after the vote. “With this agreement, residents will have permanent access to the park. There will no longer be a possibility of a high-rise building there.”

Contact Susannah Bryan sbryan@sunsentinel.com or on Twitter @Susannah_Bryan