Pompano Beach giving major perks to open three new restaurants
Pompano Beach is on a mission. It is giving away hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to lure restaurateurs to popular Atlantic Boulevard, hoping to turn long-vacant, city-managed properties into dining destinations.
The larger goal: City officials want to evolve Pompano Beach from a sleepy bedroom community into a touristy mecca, said Community Redevelopment Agency Director Nguyen Tran.
“Pompano has been losing out on great restaurants for years because there isn’t anything here, and it’s our time now,” Tran said. “Pompano is like what Delray Beach was 30 years ago. What really drives people to an area is the food and entertainment.”
The first restaurant to arrive will be South PMP Bar and Kitchen, a Southern comfort food spot expected to open by year’s end inside Pompano’s Old Town district. The area is a hive of storefronts with many vacancies off North Dixie Highway now, but South PMP owner Mike Linder said the CRA sweetened the deal with grants.
“The grants were a huge factor in making this deal make sense,” said Linder, who has poured $2 million into the buildout of South PMP but stands to gain $300,000 in reimbursements once the restaurant opens. “If it was between here and some other place with foot traffic, I would have gone somewhere with foot traffic, but the incentives were great.”
Linder is no stranger to planting eateries in well-hidden locations. The sea-centric YOT Bar & Kitchen is tucked inside a marina behind Fort Lauderdale’s River Oaks neighborhood, while his Jet Runway Café is perched on the edge of a tarmac at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
For South PMP, he’ll have a 3,700-square-foot space to seat 80 inside and 150 outside and serve a fusion of what he calls “approachable” seafood (crab-crusted snapper), New Orleans fare (muffaletta sandwiches) and Southern fixings (fried chicken and biscuits).
Next up, the city’s CRA has been seeking bids for operators to transform two properties: the 1926 McNab House and a former Old Town laundromat, the Wash House.
Tran said there are ambitious plans for the McNab House to become a restaurant and tea house with a botanical garden. McNab’s makeover would include electrical upgrades, new air-conditioning and sprinkler systems, an indoor restaurant-bar dining room and courtyard patio seating.
Among the promised perks for this project: At least $170,000 in grant reimbursements and cheaper rent to operate the McNab House at 2250 E. Atlantic Blvd., an early 20th-century pioneer home that the CRA moved in March 2020 — all 452 tons of it — from its original location to McNab Park, six blocks east, to stop a developer from bulldozing it.
Renderings created by architecture firm Bermello Ajamil & Partners show the house’s garage functioning as a tea house-slash-coffee bar, while an annex building is being built to serve as the kitchen. A recently finished basement could function as a wine cellar, Tran added.
Behind the house, McNab Park would be transformed into a lush, 3-acre botanical garden with a glass-enclosed pavilion to host weddings and private events (with catering from McNab’s kitchen). A manmade lake and children’s playground complete the proposed project.
But that’s all a rough blueprint, and design plans could evolve depending on the restaurateur. A future operator might decide to helm the McNab House but not the botanical gardens, for example, Tran said.
“What actually goes in there, and who runs what, has to be worked out in the negotiating process,” said Tran, adding that the McNab House’s redesign drew inspiration from Sundy House in Delray Beach. “A botanical garden is perfect because it’s going to attract lots of tourists. All McNab Park has now is shuffleboard courts that barely get used, and the park has really suffered from vagrancy and homelessness.”
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Because the CRA owns the McNab House, the agency can set cheaper tenant rents compared with landlords of commercial storefronts next door. The CRA won’t start charging rent until the operator is ready to open the restaurant, not when they sign their lease, Tran said.
Another CRA-owned building, the 6,000-square-foot Wash House in Old Town at 11 NE First St., has been re-envisioned as a restaurant and rooftop bar. That bid is bundled with even more incentives. They include: $170,000 in grants for facade and interior upgrades, along with another $700,000 in construction grants and other expenses, such as training staff and installing roll-up doors, said Kimberly Vazquez, a CRA project manager.
To make it look more attractive, the CRA spent the past year chipping away peeling stucco and repainting the Wash House. A new operator would be on the hook for reinforcing the roof to handle future bar seating, she said.
“We cleared it out and gutted it to attract restaurateurs to this location,” Vazquez said. “But the grants won’t come without developers investing lots of dollars into this project first.”
Beyond old homes and vacant storefronts, the CRA has been busy beautifying the stretch of Atlantic Boulevard between North Dixie Highway and the beach, all to drive more foot traffic to the drag. In 2021, the CRA spent $2 million to upgrade Harbor Village Plaza — site of soon-to-open food hall The Bite Eatery — with fresh coats of paint and tree-lined streetscaping.
There also has been a recent explosion of upscale homes and shops. Solemar, one of several new luxury condo high-rises near Atlantic, sold all 105 of its units ahead of its debut in the second quarter of 2023 on North Ocean Boulevard, up the street from Oceanic, Beach House Pompano and Lucky Fish — all beachfront restaurants that opened after the CRA added fresh landscaping and a parking garage. And in April, the city threw a grand opening for its COVID-delayed Fisher Family Pier, after spending $12.5 million on renovations.
Both the McNab House and Wash House are projected to reopen in 2023 once the city selects winning bids.