Will FLIBS leave Ft Lauderdale?

The future of the Ft Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) could be a big question mark following the decision by a group of developers to drop plans to develop the Bahia Mar complex. Tate Capital CEO James Tate said in a public letter that his company is pulling out because parties involved have “lost track of the vision” of the redevelopment plan. The parties involved refers to Show Management, which manages FLIBS, and MIASF, which owns the show.

The initial plans, proposed in July 2015 and announced with great fanfare at the last FLIBS, called for two 39-storey condo towers, a parking garage with 2,194 spaces, public promenade, upgraded marina, new hotel, waterfront park, and permanent event space for the boat show on the city-owned property. City officials had insisted on a 30-year lease for the boat show to keep it anchored in Ft Lauderdale. FLIBS has an economic impact of US$500m, according to Show Management.

The redevelopment plans fell apart, according to Tate, when his company began to negotiate with MIASF and Show Management. “At the end of the day, you can’t develop something where you’re going to lose money,” Tate told the South Florida Business Journal.

Tate wrote that “the proposed lease terms and conditions being demanded by Show Management and the Marine Industry Association of South Florida are not even close to being fair and equitable.”

The massive redevelopment project had already attracted local critics who forced changes in the original plans. The condo towers were lowered from 39 to 29 storeys and more open spaces were added to the master plan. The protests against the complexes have continued, however.

Where this leaves the boat show is unclear. Tate’s group holds a 46-year lease on the city-owned property. The boat show’s lease extends through 2020.

Phil Purcell, MIASF executive director, and Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, president of Show Management, issued a joint statement Monday thanking the city for its “commitment to assuring” the show will remain in the city. “Our objective is, and always has been, to produce an outstanding annual boat show that is a great asset to South Florida,” the statement said. The statement did not state whether it would remain in Ft Lauderdale.

“As much as we wanted to try to help the boat show folks … when you start to add everything up, the economics were no longer viable,” Tate said in the letter. “We tried to make it better for the entire community.”

Show Management and MIASF did not respond to a request for clarification by press time.


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