Oakland Park Square Changes Amidst Public Opinion

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The City of Oakland Park held a virtual neighborhood participation meeting on Thursday, March 25th, at 6:30 pm via Zoom, regarding Oakland Park Square. The future mixed-use development will be located at the north and south lots located at 3701 and 3801 North Dixie Highway. The meeting consisted of a presentation by Daniel Suarez De Puga with NR Investments. The presentation showcased changes made by improving and expanding upon zoning after hearing residents’ concerns.

Oakland Park Square: What Has Changed?

Height Changes

Perhaps one of the most controversial aspects of this project was the building height. Initially set at 83 feet and 85 feet, the developers reduced the south building by 10 feet and the north building by 11 feet. The north building’s final height will be 72 feet high, and the south residential unit will be 75 feet tall.

Moving the Bridge

Initially positioned to be across the fifth floor, the pedestrian bridge will now connect the third floors, giving the bridge a less imposing presence. The pedestrian bridge is still intended for residential use and will have access control for residential access only.

Facade

The residential buildings will now also feature balconies facing Dixie Highway, which was not part of the initial design.

Sidewalks

The new plan also includes widening the sidewalk, specifically on the north building, to accommodate outdoor dining. The south building will also have outdoor dining, but not as many outdoor seats would be accommodated.

Terraces

The outside along NE 11th Avenue will incorporate outdoor terraces connected to the residential and live/work units. The concept for this design change is that the green space will soften the look for residents who view the building from their homes, and to provide more outdoor space for work/live units.

Overall, the retail spaces will consist of 16,000 square feet, and the hope is to bring in dining and cafes, creating foot traffic to revitalize the downtown area. New plans also call for shade trees into the overall outdoor landscaping instead of palm trees shown in the renderings, something the Oakland Park Beautification Advisory Board advocated. City Hall’s location has not changed and will remain on the top floor of the south building.

 

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Still Some Concerns

Some participants still had concerns about traffic and parking. The latest traffic report will be available on the City of Oakland Parks’ website under the planning and zoning section for public view. The latest plans can be viewed here: Oakland Park Square.

One resident voiced concern about overflow parking in the surrounding neighborhoods. NR Investments assured the resident that the parking garage has ample space for residents and visitors. To help with the possible overflow of parking, they also introduced 20-22 additional street-side parking spots along NE 11th Ave and NE 37th Ave.

Timeline

So when will Oakland Park residents see the groundbreaking on this new development? The Oakland Park Square project has submitted the development review application (DRC). The next step will be planning and zoning.

Finally, the project will be presented to the City Commission with the estimated groundbreaking scheduled for the 4th quarter of this year, possibly into early 2022.

 

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Jamie Katz, Pet Detective’s 4 Tips to Protect Your Furkids

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Each and every day in the Living In Oakland Park Facebook Group and other social media, someone posts about their missing pet. In our article about Jamie Katz, Pet Detective<, we detailed how South Floridians can contract Katz to help them find their fur babies. But if you don't want to make that call to Katz, then check out these four tried and true tips from Detective Katz herself about how you can keep your fur babies safe.

4 Tips to Keep Your Animals Safe

#1 – Do NOT Leave Your Pets Outside Unattended

We come home from work and the first thing we do is let our pups outside to go to the bathroom. We check messages, straighten up the house, and unwind from our day. In the meantime, Rex the dog, was outside for a half an hour and you figured because you had a fenced yard, everything was fine.

In so many circumstances, it is far from fine. Rex could get bored and he may find the one area of your fence, which may be compromised, to escape. By the time you realize he is gone, Rex may be well down the road, hurt, or picked up by someone. Detective Katz says that this is the number one reason for missing pets.

#2 – Have Your Pet Microchipped and Registered

This is the best solution for increasing your chances of having your pet returned back to you. Most Veterinarians and Rescues have a microchip reader. If your pet is found by a good samaritan and taken to Animal Control, a Veterinarian, or a Rescue, staff there will be able to check for a microchip.

This only works if it is registered. Most importantly, if you move or change your phone number, UPDATE the microchip. A microchip only works if the information is up to date.

Finally, use a microchip company that can be contacted 24/7. You want the finder of your pet to be able to call and locate you at any time, day or night.

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#3 – Pay Attention to Collars and Animal Tags 

All of my dogs currently have a collar with their name and my phone number on it. I really thought what I was doing was correct. Detective Katz explained, “Never put your pet’s name on a tag, you do not want anyone to emotionally bond with your pet”.

She recommends you buy a black collar with bright color embroidery saying two things: your phone number and the word REWARD. Nothing else. This way anyone that picks up your dog will see the word reward and call you right away. They won’t even think about keeping your pet.

#4 – Beware of scams

Sad but true this is something we have to worry about here in South Florida. Detective Katz explained a recent case where a pet owner paid a transportation company to transport her pet from Fort Lauderdale back to her main home in Oregon.

Unfortunately, the transportation company hires independent contractors to complete their transport jobs. In this particular case, the contractor picked up the dog from the owner, required the fee to be paid up front to him and then never delivered the dog to its destination. Thankfully the pet owner had taken a photo of the transporters license and with this information, Detective Katz was able to locate him and the dog in North Carolina, thousands of miles away from Oregon.

Thankfully this story had a happy ending, Detective Katz was able to convince the transporter to relinquish the dog to a local veterinarian and it was eventually reunited with its owner.

Furthermore, if your pet comes up missing and you receive a call from an individual claiming to have found your dog, require proof. Do not pay rewards until you have been provided proof that they have your pet and it is safe. 

Unfortunately, too often opportunists will con emotional pet owners into paying a reward when they never had the pet in the first place. 

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JSA Authentication Services: A Business Like No Other

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Abdul Kalam once said “Success is when your signature becomes an autograph”. At James Spence Authentication, in Fort Lauderdale, tucked in the warehouse area by Lowe’s Home Improvement off of Oakland Park Blvd and Powerline Road, autographs are the sole focus of this unique business.

Authenticating Over 4 Generations

For four generations, the Spence family has collected an impressive autograph library of famous sports legends, presidents, actors, musicians, and mob bosses in their 6,000 square foot facility. There are only 3 autograph authenticators worldwide, JSA and 2 others in the United States.  But Spence Authentication is the only authenticator that backs autographs by name.

James Dugan Spence Sr. (1908-1978) was the great grandfather of current owner James J. Spence III and the founding father of the autograph collecting family. Spence Sr. worked for Con Edison in Long Island, New York, and had a penchant for mailing letters/autograph requests to the likes of Lucille Ball and Walt Disney. At the time, autograph collecting was an exciting hobby, but not necessarily lucrative.

The Spences

We’ve provided a key to the 4 generations of Spence’s to help guide you through the evolution of this authentic business.

  1. James Dugan Spence Senior (1908 – 1978) – original founder
  2. James J. Spence Senior
  3. James J. Spence Junior, runs the business in Parsippany, NJ
  4. James J. Spence III, owner of the Fort Lauderdale location


An Expansive Autographs Library

James Dugan Spence Sr’s son, James J. Spence Sr., was a UPS employee and also an avid autograph collector. 

In 2005, Spence Sr’s son, James J Spence Jr., founded JSA Authentication Services in 2005 and truly catapulted the business by growing an ever expansive library of autographs. He is regarded as one of the top autograph dealers in the world. James J Spence Jr. runs JSA Authentication at the original location in Parsippany, NJ. Spence Jr’s son James J. Spence III opened the JSA FL location in Fort Lauderdale in 2012. 

How Authenticating Works

Spence III explains that the #1 authentication tool is the exemplar file. This file is a proprietary file in chronological order, of all autographs, and the autograph’s net worth. Additionally, loops, LED lighting, magnifiers used to determine ink age, and video spectral comparator (VSC), a tool that utilizes color and infrared imaging, magnification, coaxial lighting and side lighting to detect erasures and forgeries are used for authentication by JSA. 

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Forged or mass produced signatures can be distinguished from actual autographs by a sense of conviction in the signature, subtle nuances in the letter formation (cookie cutter or perfectly reproduced signatures are a red flag of forgery), and visual changes in penmanship that invariably happen with chronological age. Spence III references Muhammed Ali’s penmanship decline over the years due to his Parkinson’s Disease.

JSA employs over 60 people and authenticators throughout Florida, NJ, Arizona, Colorado, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Connecticut.

Acquisition of Memorabilia

JSA boasts an impressive database of nearly 700,000 files. JSA experts visit auction houses nationwide, attend trade shows/conventions/card shows/Comicon to name a few. Interested customers routinely mail JSA autographs on photographs, baseballs, sneakers, surfboards, snowboards, video game cartridges, Pennzoil oil cans (Arnold Palmer) for authentication requests.

Many customers cherish family heirloom autographs of famous people passed down from generations, only to find that actual authentication renders the autographs as not authentic. JSA gently and honestly educates customers of such disappointing news.

In today’s technological age, prospective clients websearch autograph authenticators, and JSA is a leading force. Moreover, if fan memorabilia aficionados want to sell their signed collectibles on Ebay or Amazon, quality authentication is a must.


The Levels of Authentication

Premium authentication consists 3 options:

  1. Letter of authenticity is the highest level of highest value of authentication.
  2. Basic certification is level of authentication graded less then letter of authenticity.
  3. Witness certification is a live, in person event where JSA would provide an actual authenticator onsite at a trade show/card show to authenticate the autograph real time.

COVID-19 Effects in the Business

Since the pandemic commenced one year ago, JSA has experienced explosive growth. Housebound/quarantined people finally open those dusty collectible boxes adorning shelves, and desire quotes on authenticity of signed photos and artifacts accrued over years. Pandemic and health worries naturally create fears over mortality, and signed items may provide financial security/ease of leaving one’s heirs something valuable.

Spence III seeks more employees due to the increased demand for authentication.

The Future of JSA Authentication Services

Currently, JSA is limited to solely autograph authentication.

The future may bring handbag authentication for Louis Vuitton and other designers replete with knockoff imposters.

JSA Authentication truly trailblazes in a field with few competitors and massive potential growth.

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The Hidden Benefit of Small Businesses Enforcing Mask Mandates

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Covid fatigue is becoming a thing where we are all simply tired of hearing, worrying, thinking and focusing on the virus that has challenged the world in a way it hasn’t been challenged in over a century. Recently, we passed the 1-year anniversary of the first government responses and shutdowns to combat the pandemic. Vaccine distribution is underway and ahead of schedule and spring breakers are heading to South Florida to take advantage of the warm weather and open bars.

Their arrival is a perfect reflection of the challenges the coronavirus has created throughout our society. People heading to South Florida by the thousands to enjoy our environment. They are not vaccinated, and many are not interested in wearing masks or practicing social distancing. Even locals are beginning to loosen their cautions on the virus as numbers have been going down on new cases and death rates. 

The Risk of Losing the Business

This has forced small businesses into a predicament as more and more customers come back after a year with shutdowns and precautions, many will not be interested in safety protocol because they are sick of Covid fatigue, or in complete denial still.

Either way, these small businesses will be faced with a difficult decision on how much they wish to enforce these mandates and precautions and run the risk of losing that business they’ve been struggling to get back for over a year. 

Covid Should Not Be Political

Before we begin, let’s state the fact: the coronavirus should never have become a political issue. Regardless of who you blame for it, the fact is that this is a global pandemic and we as a country were not going to be immune to it.

Political affiliation and beliefs should never interfere with the understanding and impact health issues can have on our people as a country. It’s unfortunate that some believe the information or treatment of the pandemic is politically driven and that has to stop if we wish to get back to a way of normal sooner rather than later. 

The Small Business Concern

We’ve all seen the videos online of a business asking a customer to wear a mask and the customer blowing up on everyone, getting into shouting matches, throwing things and so forth. These tantrums are an embarrassment to everyone and show just how aggressive and irrational people can be on this issue. The last thing a small business owner wants to have is someone acting like this when their store or restaurant is finally full of paying customers.

This creates an uncomfortable situation for your customers, employees and you’re probably never going to see the person who is shouting back to buy something from you in the future. So, should you enforce precautions on your customers aggressively? The answer is yes but not for the reasons you may think.

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The Effect of the Reviews

What do you usually check for when you research a brand online? You want to see reviews of previous customers to that establishment. You expect there to be a rating somewhere in the fours to ensure that this place provides quality service. However, you also want to see how many people have left reviews as there’s a big difference between 50 reviews and 500. This research will tell you whether or not you are willing to give the new brand a try but the irony is you also know that people are more likely to leave a negative review than a positive one so therefore, if the company has ratings in the fours, you know they are pretty solid.


What does that have to do with the coronavirus pandemic? Think about the virus topic literally as those reviews. The people who don’t care about it are more likely to be outspoken. They truly are outnumbered 10 to 1 by people who do respect this virus and want to be safe. Some of those 10 are outspoken and tell those anti-maskers they are wrong. However, the majority of those 10 are just quiet and want to avoid causing an issue.
So, while you may not want someone to make a scene or leave a bad review because you enforced safety protocol, it’s actually going to make ten times more customers comfortable. Do you think one of these people who reads a negative review about your company throwing someone out because they wouldn’t wear a mask is going to avoid your business? No, in fact it will encourage them to choose you over your competitors because you are taking this seriously.

The Silent Majority

People who order online from Walmart or Target usually do so not because they don’t want to go to those stores in person, but because they do not want to deal with standing in line, being around people, were not happy with something that occurred in your store or perhaps just feel that it’s easier to make the purchase online.

These people are not going to write negative reviews or complain about your services by yelling to other customers. They are the silent majority who will simply keep their mouths quiet and take the path of least resistance. These are the customers you really need to worry about because they will not tell you they are unhappy, they simply will just not come back.


Protecting these people and showing them that your business is taking safety measures for and by everyone, including employees, seriously will build trust in your brand and get you more business in the near future. Stand your ground on protecting yourself, your employees and your customers and follow these precautions. It offers more benefits to your business than just health ones.

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Gianni’s: Great Italian Food for Italian Food Lovers

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Growing up in an Italian household, Sunday night pasta was a must-have in our home. With a father that was a culinary expert and worked in Italian kitchens since he was a teenager, I can say I grew up as a connoisseur of Italian foods.

I’m from Northern NJ and I dare say that this metro area is the hub for the best Italian food. Of course, there are plenty of other cuisines that this metropolis offers, but my niche was and is Italian food. Perhaps it may be more accurate to don the name of Italian-American since any true respected Italian will tell you that the food in Italy is much different than what we find here in the States.


Does Good Italian Food Exist in South Florida?

That being said, ever since moving to South Florida (many moons ago) and living in Oakland Park over the last ten years, I’ve had my share of dining at Italian restaurants. Most recently I’ve surrounded myself in forums where food is the topic.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the group Eating in South Florida? Well, this group, among others, has yielded me with a plethora of options in this realm. All the recommendations have been great! One place that kept popping up was Gianni’s Ristorante in Pompano Beach. Since Pompano Beach is a short drive from our neighborhood in Oakland Park. I decided to give it a go when I was craving some traditional Sunday night pasta.


The Ambiance

I wasn’t sure what to expect, was this a casual spot? Or more like a fine-dining spot? As we approached the restaurant we pulled into their self-park parking lot and observed the outdoor dining area. We entered through the host stand and requested to sit outside since it had an interesting vibe to it. 

The host greeted us at the door and was super friendly. We told them it was our first time dining here and they welcomed us and told us we would love the food. The restaurant has been family-owned and operating in Pompano Beach since 1989. We were told that they’re known for their homemade and authentic Italian food. 

The Food

We ordered calamari to start and chicken marsala as the main course. The main course came with a house salad and garlic rolls. First off, let me say that everything tasted extremely fresh! The salad had a unique house-made dressing that I wound up loving! It was a vinaigrette form and although it had a slightly sharp taste it paired nicely with the crisp fresh greens of the salad. 



The portions are also quite large! This is rarely given since the pandemic I found that many restaurants cut back on their portion sizes, but that was not the case here. We wound up having to wrap up most of our food, which was just fine since we got to enjoy it again the next day. 

Overall Experience

I would recommend this place as a nice date night or even a girl’s night out. They had a decent wine list and the ambiance of the restaurant with its smooth music set the tone for a pleasant dining experience. If you’re in the Pompano area, you should check out Gianni’s. I know I can’t wait to return to try more of their menu items!

The restaurant is located at 1601 East Atlantic Blvd in Pompano Beach, FL. To make reservations you can call the restaurant directly at 954-942-1733. 

Gianni’s Ristorante: 1601 East Atlantic Blvd in Pompano Beach, FL.

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