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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And Finnegan’s Wake Goes On!

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If you happened to be at the corner of Oakland Park and Dixie Highway Tuesday evening, you might have noticed a large green crowd gathered around a hearse, and some very interestingly dressed characters. If you were smart enough to stop you would have witnessed the now world famous “Finnegan’s Wake” at Big Dog Station. This was the 17th year of the annual event at the Big Dog. A fun filled parody, parade and party to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.

Finnegan’s Wake at Big Dog Station

It started around 5 PM with live music, great food and every Irish drink available for a pre-show hour of fun filled gatherings. At 5:30 PM the parade cast was busy finishing the last touches of their costumes, while guests continued to arrive. The sun was shining and a beautiful breeze kept everyone comfortable. At 5:45 PM the bag pipes and drummer could be heard warming up just around the corner. 

At 6PM the live band stopped and everyone took to the street for the parade to begin. This years cast was led by Connie Davis – “The Queen of Everything”,  followed by a parody funeral march – including bagpipes, and drummer, a hearse, a widow and priest,

The Pope, some naughty nuns, an Irish princess, leprechauns,  The U.S. Marine Core League #1058/pallbearers, and mourners lined along the street in all shades of green. This year there was a new character added to the mix… Mrs. O’Leary and her cow that kicked over the lantern that started the famous Chicago fire. But she walked at the end so the cow wouldn’t cause any issues.  

Connie Davis: “The Queen of Everything”

Paying the Final Respects to Finnegan

They made their way down the street to arrive at Big Dog Station, where the casket was carefully walked on to the patio, as parade participants and mourners could pay their final respects to Finnegan.  When  they opened the casket a replica Leprechaun was found resting peacefully inside. The hilarity continued on as favorite Irish songs were played,  a few toasts were had and the party dispersed into the crowd.

There were plenty of festive Covid-19 – safe green masks, hats, outfits, and costumes on show, and it was a good showing of about 200 people throughout the night – between the parade, the street events and the bar itself.  Big Dog served corn beef and cabbage by the plate full. Tents and tables were set up outside for guests to sit and enjoy their meals, listen to the band and catch up with each other from a stressful year’s distance for most. 

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COVID-19 Safety Measures

In between the festivities I caught up with Deb Blakley and Connie Davis, the organizers of the event. Both elated to be able to put this on for the locals and all the people in the industry that look forward to it. “We’ve had calls from the NY to the UK to see if we were going to do it this year. One family even plans their trip around the event ever since they discovered it five years ago”, said Deb.   

Deb Blakely, owner of Big Dog Station, and Connie Davis have been doing this event for years.

When the initial planning began they were afraid they would have to cancel it for the first time in 17 years. “We have dealt with heat, rain and thunderstorms, but Covid-19, that’s another thing. So we had to plan things a little different”, said Connie. For example the parade was smaller this year, and they were distanced 20 feet apart or more in the line up, and the coffin was placed on a pool table outside, instead of the usual inside spot.   

Masks were mandatory for everyone inside and as much as possible outside. This was the last event they did in 2020, as all bars were closed on 3/17/2020 due to Covid-19. They were very happy this was their first event for 2021!


Fun and Hilarity in Difficult Times

When the parade arrived at Big Dog Station, the casket was placed on the patio as parade participants and mourners payed their respects to Finnegan. They opened the casket to find a leprechaun replica resting peacefully. The hilarity continued as Irish songs were played, the Pope blessed the casket, toasts were had and the party dispersed into the crowd. 

The party continued on with live music, food and connection. Although there was talk of Covid-19, there was also a lot of talk about coming together as a community and people helping one another. The live band could be heard from down the  street as people sang along, and innocent onlookers joined in on the celebrations.

“With everything that we all went through in the last year, it’s really nice to get outside, see friends and see the community together doing something fun. I hope next year its even bigger!”, said one long time attendee of the event. “It’s always good to see friends and make new ones here”.


If any of you would like to be involved in this event, sponsor a portion, or be part of the cast, please contact Connie Davis at 954-383-2285. We welcome all, and look forward to seeing you next year!

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Oakland Park Elks Lodge #2407 Gives Back to Veterans

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On Sunday February 28th the Oakland Park Elks Lodge #2407 had their first Focus Grant BBQ Dinner in honor of all Veterans. Thanks to all the volunteers and Elks, it went off without a hitch! While this was the first Focus Grant BBQ, it was one of the many events that the Elks puts on in order to give back to the community. 

In order to make the BBQ Dinner happen Doug Satran, ER (Lodge President) drafted a grant. The lodge was awarded the grant and with the monies received they were able to host the event.  All funding was provided entirely by the grant we received with the stipulation to spend it all on our Veterans. 

Veterans Get Some Extra Help

The total amount of the focus grant was $10,000.  $2000 worth of Publix food cards were purchased, $2500 was used to cater the event and $5500 was used for purchasing essential items. 

The Little Lodge That Could

So, early in 2020 the Elks began planning efforts to host a “giving back” dinner. The idea was to have a free dinner with all drinks included.   They had raised $23,500.00for charities through grants. Their efforts were unparalleled by any other lodge in their district.  This feat lead them to dub themselves  “The Little Lodge that Could”. Lodge member Michelle Renee, shares ” We are humbly proud of what we have done in such a short amount of time to put ourselves on the map“. 

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Free Dinner for the Community

While the focus of their efforts were the veterans, all were welcome to the Elks free dinner. The catering for the BBQ  was provided by Hunny’z Kitchen, LLC . Chef Anthony was the BBQ extraordinaire. His  wife and CEO, Dawn, kept everything organized and food flowing! 

Three Boy Scouts from CP Pack 179 were on site to help pick up with cleanup efforts. According to Renee “They were awesome and the Veterans loved seeing them in their uniforms and took pictures with them and Thank you to their Mom’s for sharing them with us for the day. We also thank Hunny’z Kitchen, LLC for all their help in making our BBQ for Veterans a huge success”.


More Good Times and Charity to Come at The Elks Lodge

The Elks are looking forward to more events this coming year. So stay tuned for information about their An Annual Luau in June and possible Chili Cook Off for Children’s Therapy Services in September. Next month, on April 9th, they will host a Pan Asian Night.  Oakland Park Mayor, Jane Bolin, will be there and will be serving up Korean BBQ and Elk’s Esquire Arnicua Cuarenta will be making Lumpia! So stop the Lodge, you never know the fun that awaits you at the Little Lodge That Could and Did! 

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Nolan: A Smile to Remember

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Almost 6 years ago, a very special little boy named Nolan was born. As any happy family would do, Nolan’s family welcomed him with open arms. His parents were proud of a vibrant, happy little boy. His grandmother, Kristin, couldn’t be more proud as well.

Nolan was growing from an infant and toddler to a happy little boy with much promise in life. He was loved by the people who knew him, a typical happy little boy who loved Superheroes, PJ Masks, Sonic the Hedgehog, Paw Patrol, and Pokemon. Nolan infected everyone he met with happiness and smiles. Those who knew this young man, saw just what a special little boy he was.

Grandma says, “From the second he woke up in the morning, to the time he went to bed at night, he was on the go. Constantly moving. And he loved to dance!”. For those who knew him, Nolan could be found dancing away at the music fests held in Oakland Park. 

His favorite color was red. Grandma Kristin recalls, “I remember how he loved red. Everything had to be red”. Nolan was a very loved little boy. His best friend was his uncle Austin who he shares a middle name with.

Tragedy Strikes

It is without exaggeration that on the fateful day of this past February 13th, this family’s life as they knew it, was literally pulled from under them. Nolan and his father were involved in a tragic car accident that cost Nolan his life. His beautiful soul was taken far too prematurely from this world. And with all the fears and unknowns in a pandemic life, losing this beautiful child in such a tragic accident, was not among those fears.

His father, also in the crash, is still in recovery. Due to the severity of his injuries, he has only recently come back home and is resting and beginning his own journey back to health.

Nolan also leaves behind a little sister, Viviann. She is a 2-and-a-half-year-old toddler, who as far as family can tell, is blissfully unaware of what happened to her older brother. Thankfully, she was not involved in the accident. Nolan loved his little sister with all his heart. Grandma recalls, “One of his favorite things to say to his little sister was ‘I love you to pieces’, and we always told him ‘I love you a dozen a lot!’.

Remembering Nolan

Nolan was born on April 28, 2015 in our very own Oakland Park. He attended Oakland Park Elementary in a face-to-face setting. He is best remembered for his infectious laughter and selflessness. Nolan loved to dance and his innocence was pure and evident.

Nolan’s mom, Brittney, recalls how Nolan was attending school online. When face-to-face school was an opportunity of choice, they jumped at the chance to send Nolan back to school. She says, “He was thriving being back in class. He was so smart and was learning how to read. Since he was a toddler, he already knew his letters and sounds”. She also tells of how his teacher said Nolan would say good morning to the whole class and made sure to say hello to each individual person in the mornings.

He was fearless. He lived life to the fullest every single day. Nolan was kind, protective, and laughed at everything. He was also a very comforting little boy. His mom says, “This is how people need to live life. Live like Nolan did. Wake up with a smile because you’re never guaranteed another second in life.”

If you have children, no matter what, hug them, love them, and if they do something wrong, move on from that and love your children.

Brittney and Kristin (Nolan’s mom and grandma)

Community Help

Nolan’s family started a Go Fund me campaign to help with these unexpected and unfortunate expenses. Nolan’s dad has a long road to recovery, but the family will need help covering costs as they move forward. Mom and Grandma have not yet returned to work, but look forward to trying to very soon. They both work in jobs that require their full attention. The wound is still fresh, and they try to move forward a little each day.

The family thanks the community and those who have already helped. But if you can, please donate something towards their Go Fund me campaign. In the future, they hope to organize an event to honor and remember Nolan.

Let’s all come together and help this family heal. We hope to see this family heal and thrive with Viviann. And hopefully, she will know who her big brother was and how loved he was by all those who knew him. She will, for certain, see the love and kindness out poured to her family by strangers. Please help Nolan’s “larger than life” legacy live on.


Click here to donate to the family’s Go Fund me campaign,

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projectRock: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

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“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, sang Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell in their famous 1967 song. projectROCK, the spectacular indoor rock climbing facility in Oakland Park challenges this famous song’s sentiments. Each and every day at projectRock climbers, both young and old, seasoned and amateur challenge themselves to climb their highest mountain. 

Bringing the Mountains to Oakland Parkers

“Instead of going to the mountains, let’s bring the mountains to us” is the motto. In reality, climbers can safely confront their fears here! projectROCK, the spacious 12, 000 square foot indoor climbing facility in the Oakland Park Festival Center, offers walls as high as 40-60 feet, 18,000 square feet of actual climbing terrain, authentic picnic tables and mulch, 80 climbing lanes and approximately 1,800 sq feet of bouldering terrain. Floors are composed of specialized, soft, forgiving, playground grade rubber that provides access to climbers of all abilities.

Owner Marc Landau opened the facility in December 2017 after a rock climbing trip to South Dakota launched his passion for the sport. Landau was an avid and competitive racquetball player until a knee injury sidelined his game. After the South Dakota trip, he realized that flat land Florida sorely lacked tall rock climbing walls.

Landau decided to spearhead a “rock realistic” concept in a professional gym atmosphere, with 20% of the walls that are shot concrete to provide the look and feel of actually climbing outdoors. The walls are textured, and colored to emulate landmark climbing destinations around the Americas, including Red Rock in Nevada, Devils Tower in Wyoming, and Joshua Tree and Yosemite National Park in California.

After a trip to South Dakota, Marc Landau had the idea to bring the mountains to Oakland Park.

No Age Limit for Rock Climbing

projectROCK is hardly a child drop off/jungle gym. Rock climbing here is recommended starting at age 6-no age limit! As Landau states, “We’ve had climbers in their 70’s and 80’s climbing here, handicapped/wheelchair assisted individuals (quadriplegics and paraplegics), blind/sensory challenged individuals and limb different climbers. Really anyone can participate in rock climbing”.

The facility is equipped with specialized equipment and rubber flooring that is wheelchair accessible and allows climbers of all abilities to enjoy the experience of climbing.

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Bouldering

The facility offers bouldering, which is essentially rock climbing with no rope or harness attached to the climber (this is a bit riskier). Boulder walls are graded with different levels of difficulty to allow anyone from the newest the most seasoned climber to climb and bouldering doesn’t require formal training to perform. 

Top Rope and Lead Climbing

Top rope and lead climbing involves climbing with a partner, belayer (someone who manages the rope for the climber). Top rope and lead climbing routes are graded 5,(easiest)-5.14 (most challenging). No formal training is required for these climbing types, but you either have to climb with a partner or reserve time to climb with one of the guides at the facility.

Celebrate Good Times at projectRock

PRC does offer birthday parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, team building/leadership activities, corporate events and even tv commercials have been filmed there (Adidas). Really, if you have any occasion, they can probably help accommodate you.

COVID-19 Safety Measures

Masks are required while in projectROCK AND while climbing the walls at all times. Floor guides monitor the facility to ensure that the mask rule is enforced. Temperatures are taken and hand sanitizing is required upon entry and projectROCK’s 236 climber capacity has currently been reduced to 90 climbers.

In addition, every other rock climbing lane is closed to ensure social distancing. Hand sanitizing between rock climbing is recommended and sanitizing stations are located throughout the facility.

projectROCK Marketing Strategy

projectROCK relies on social media, mostly Instagram and Facebook for marketing as well as word of mouth. Landau also opens his facility to various charitable causes such as Lighthouse of Broward, a school for the visually impaired, as well as different sports organizations and scout troops for team building events.

The interior feels like an actual campground with picnic tables on a rubberized mulch. The rest rooms are photowrapped with actual wilderness/woods images and the toilet even perches in front of a tree (this simulates where one actually urinates in the woods!)

What the Future Holds for projectROCK

Landau will open a 2nd location in Easley South Carolina in late 2021—early 2022. He is currently remodeling the Oakland Park location, revamping his party barn to a training room and his log cabin room to a party/office/employee break room.

For now, the authentic mountain climbing feel that projectROCK evokes transcends the climber to the mountains of Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, South Dakota and California right in the heart of flat South Florida.

projectROCK truly is an awe inspiring, authentic rock climbing experience reminiscent of the mountainous areas of the United States. Daily, climbers of all ages come to the facility and prove to themselves that there ain’t no mountain high enough they can’t climb it! 

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