New Fort Lauderdale food hall will float on Intracoastal Waterway

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Imagine an open-air entertainment village surrounded by passing yachts, where a handful of food and drink vendors mingle on the promenade along Fort Lauderdale’s waterfront.

Be honest: You’re picturing The Wharf Fort Lauderdale, right?

Think again: This is the under-construction project Marina Village at Bahia Mar, and if you ask developer James Tate, the differences could not be more profound.

For starters, instead of Wharf food trucks along the New River, Marina Village will boast a giant ferry on the Intracoastal, stocked with 10 food and drink kiosks. The ferry will be permanently moored against a new 35,000-square-foot promenade, where celebrity DJs will play under pavilions strung with market lights.

Expected to open in fall 2023, the nautically minded project at 801 Seabreeze Blvd. will be anchored on the southern tip of the sprawling Bahia Mar peninsula that includes a 1,200-space parking lot, the marina and the iconic resort, according to renderings. The $16 million project comes from Tate, the president of Tate Capital, and his partners, brother Kenny Tate and Sergio Rok, who have ambitious plans for the taxpayer-owned Bahia Mar property.

“There’s no competition in my mind,” James Tate says of the downtown Wharf. “We’re marina-based. We’re more part of the beach atmosphere, and we’re going to be open every day of the week.”

The food-hall ferry has already signed its first food tenant, he told the South Florida Sun Sentinel this week, though he declined to name the vendor. Tate said he prefers high-end hospitality groups over mom-and-pop restaurants, but won’t rule out the latter “if the financials work.”

The new Marina Village at Bahia Mar is projected to open by fall 2023, anchored by a large promenade where a permanently moored ferry will offer eight high-end food vendors and three upscale bars.

“Over 30 food and beverage [purveyors] already reached out, but we only have eight spaces, so we’ll cherry-pick the best of the best,” Tate says, adding that three of the 11 vendors will be bars operated by Marina Village. “We’re talking mainly established chefs here.”

The Marina Village is the first phase of a grander, $1 billion vision Tate has for the 39-acre Bahia Mar peninsula. Along with the village, he has plans to build four luxury condo towers as tall as 20 stories and a high-end, 256-room hotel to replace the aging Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach hotel.

The centerpiece of this part of the project is the ferry Tate bought earlier this year. The vessel, which once shuttled passengers between Fisher Island and Miami Beach, can carry 500 people and is adorned with nautical whites, blues and natural wood accents. Its lower deck measures 5,000 square feet, while its upper deck spans 3,000 feet. Eight permanent food kiosks and two custom bars are under construction on both levels, while a third mainland bar will rise on the promenade.

“We were originally going to moor a huge dockside barge for seating, but during COVID it was nearly impossible to find a barge anywhere,” Tate says. “When I learned about this old Fisher Island ferry, I was like, ‘Oh my god, we can make this into a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The idea is for Marina Village, designed by architect Kobi Karp, to be family-friendly by day, with dining-table QR codes that link to touchless menus so “families can visit the ferry then come sit and eat,” he said. Then by night, the village will flip into “a clubby place for adults,” where major DJ acts will spin as late as 2 a.m. on the weekends — though he stressed that it won’t be a nightclub.

“Our focus, our emphasis, will be to make every kiosk put out quality product every day,” Tate said. “Quality of food is what makes food halls successful. That and a great vibe, good energy and a cool atmosphere.”

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In April, Fort Lauderdale city commissioners voted 4-1 to turn control of the peninsula — a pricey chunk of waterfront land appraised at $256 million — over to Tate Capital under a new 100-year lease. The property has been owned by city taxpayers since the 1940s.

But the project has been mired in a long and winding controversy, generating fierce opposition from residents and community leaders. Critics had blasted the city for years for a deal handing public land to a private developer, and in particular balked at tall condos that blocked views of the ocean. The deal even caused a bitter spat between Tate Capital and the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which hosts its annual event on the land and said the redevelopment would steal away 26% of their space and about $2 million in revenue a year.

The choice to give the land to Tate Capital came down, in part, to money, Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Steve Glassman told the Sun Sentinel in a recent interview. (Glassman’s district includes Bahia Mar.) The old lease, set to run out in 2062, earned taxpayers $1.7 million per year over the past decade. The new lease will pump more than $2 billion into city coffers over the next century.

The ferry at Marina Village at Bahia Mar spans 5,000 feet on its lower deck and 3,000 square feet on its upper deck.

“We’re the landlords, and it’s a dramatic increase in revenue to the city,” Glassman said. “So yes, it was a great deal. It’s finally a win-win for us and the developer.”

Like Tate, Emi Guerra, the co-owner of The Wharf Fort Lauderdale, doesn’t see the new Marina Village as competition.

“What we do is different from what’s happening over there,” Guerra said. “It’s cool, there’s enough people to go around, and I wish them nothing but the best.”

Marina Village at Bahia Mar, at 801 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, is expected to debut in fall 2023. For more information, go to MarinaVillageFTL.com.



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