Development of Bass Bros. Market site spurs fears of Sistrunk gentrification

A prominent corner of Sistrunk Boulevard where residents have shopped for groceries for 70 years is the latest to be slated for redevelopment, a move that raised concerns about access to fresh food — and gentrification of the historic black community.

Eyal Peretz, CEO of the Fuse Group, plans to replace Bass Bros. Market with a retail-office building and parking garage. The property, on the northwest corner of Northwest Ninth Avenue/Powerline and Sistrunk Boulevard, is like “Main Street and First,” his lawyer-lobbyist, Debbie Orshefsky, said.

Peretz’s proposal is the latest in a string of projects along the Sistrunk corridor, an east-west route that leads straight into downtown Fort Lauderdale and is the commercial spine of the black community.

At a neighborhood meeting the city’s planning and zoning board asked Peretz to host in November, residents listened quietly at first. But in the past few years, they’ve watched a transformation take root, and some are anxious about who it might help, and who it might hurt.

“The dream of the city is to change the tenor of the neighborhood, period. I don’t like the word gentrification, but basically, that’s what it is,” said Sydney London, who lives in the Durrs neighborhood off Sistrunk. “There are white folks that moved into the neighborhood, and we all know once that starts happening, you know what’s next.”

Reaction grew emotional. Bass Brothers — and previous incarnations of the market — is a Sistrunk Boulevard mainstay.

Some were concerned about losing it, and some saw greater threats.

Neighborhood leader Marie “Miss Peaches” Huntley said the Home Beautiful Park Civic Association doesn’t support it. In an email to elected officials and Peretz last fall, she said the idea of a new building sounds attractive, but no one knows what will be in it. And there’s more:

If Bass Bros. goes dark, he said, he’ll have to ride his bike farther east to another grocery store. But he shrugged it off, saying the street could use a face-lift. Sistrunk Boulevard was a thriving business corridor during segregated times, but now is dotted with vacant lots owned by the city’s CRA. A police substation, some local businesses, and signs of new development also mark the corridor.

“It’ll make a change in the community,” Rice, 49, said. “That’s all they need is a new look.”

Brittany Wallman can be reached at or 954-356-4541. Find her on Twitter @BrittanyWallman.