Off limits: Fort Lauderdale library plaza sealed off from public

Broward’s Main Library plaza in downtown Fort Lauderdale has been off limits to the public since December, when the county succeeded in disbanding the homeless encampment that had become a tent city there.

Now, construction fencing surrounds the plaza, even though there’s been no construction activity.

What’s going on?

Plenty of repairs and renovations are planned for the 35-year-old library and plaza. The county has budgeted $5.9 million so far for the work, including exterior improvements and a new design for the flow of the library indoors to outdoors. Some of the work is still in the idea stage.

Didn’t the county already repair the library?

It took nine years to complete repairs and renovations following Hurricane Wilma in 2005, inconveniencing library patrons until the work was finished in 2014.

During the work, one of the construction companies went out of business, adding to delays. Workers installed hurricane-resistant windows and energy-efficient lighting, put down new carpeting and replaced wall and ceiling tiles and the library’s escalator. Library attendance, which had plummeted from 546,000 in 2008 to 291,000 in 2014, rebounded to 434,383 in 2018.

How long will the new work take?

Expect to see the construction fencing for at least the next three years, based on current projections. There could be delays, and some of the renovations haven’t been determined yet. A master plan for the overall site, including the adjacent city-owned Stranahan Park, probably won’t be completed until the end of the year.

The county is working with the city and private property owners surrounding the plaza to “develop a vision for this very prominent site” on the east side of Andrews Avenue between Broward Boulevard and Southeast Second Street, County Architect Ariadna Musarra said.

Does the new work have anything to do with homeless people being removed from the site?

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