Old and New Mingle in Fort Lauderdale

These leaders have helped to shape Fort Lauderdale in the last two decades.
By: Ray Brasted and Susan Lazarus
Related To:

Fort Lauderdale is a young city in many ways and its future is still being shaped by the thousands of new residents who move here every year. Even as schools are built, classroom space is being added. High rises share neighborhoods with historic homes and long-time business owners welcome newcomers at chamber meetings.

Many individuals have helped shape Fort Lauderdale in the last 100 years, but it is in the past few decades that there has been a major leap forward. From the economy to tourism to downtown revitalization, these three individuals contributed greatly to the changing image and development of Fort Lauderdale:

H. Wayne Huizenga

Supporting the Local Economy

There is perhaps no other single individual who has shaped Fort Lauderdale as much as H. Wayne Huizenga, who built three Fortune 1000 companies and own three professional sports teams, all in South Florida. Today, you can find his name on parks and buildings, as well as the Huizenga School of Business on the campus of nearby Nova Southeastern University. 

As owner or part owner of the Florida Marlins baseball team, Miami Dolphins football team and the Florida Panthers hockey team, he brought new dollars and jobs to the region and stimulated the local economy.

His generosity and contributions to the community, as well as his and his wife's personal involvement of in local volunteer programs, have helped to shape Fort Lauderdale into the vibrant city it is today.

Nikki Grossman

Shedding the Spring Break Image

As chairman and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors' Bureau, Nikki Grossman has been a point person for the change of Fort Lauderdale's image from college spring break destination to an upscale community for visitors and residents. She never seems to tire of hammering home her belief that Fort Lauderdale is the best place in the world to live and to visit.

Grossman is a local resident who has stayed the course to change her community. Through strategic planning and continuous marketing programs, Grossman has stayed on task in making Fort Lauderdale a unique community and year-round destination.

Kitty Ryan

Breathing Life Back Into Downtown

Twenty-five years ago, Fort Lauderdale's downtown was similar to other downtown areas, as the development of suburban malls had drawn businesses and entertainment venues away from the urban areas. Las Olas Boulevard's boutique shops and trendy restaurants were often closed on weekends and in the off-season. Surrounding neighborhoods had fallen into disrepair.

Ryan had an idea to open a Jazz and Blues Club on Las Olas, but she had to convince the city to allow sidewalk tables. O'Hara's Jazz & Blues Cafe was opened in 1989 and until new development forced her to close its doors in 2008, locals and residents flocked to hear the hottest sounds in town.

The flood gates opened on Las Olas after her success, and the image of downtown Fort Lauderdale changed. Today, music from clubs and restaurants can be heard on the street, and diners sit at sidewalk tables day and night. As the surrounding neighborhoods made a comeback, Fort Lauderdale became the 24-hour, pedestrian community envisioned by local leaders.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Fort Lauderdale Essentials

This guide covers where locals shop, best sites to see, dining any time of day, entertainment to enjoy and more.

New York City: Like No Place Else

Discover NYC's unique attractions and find out why this city is like no place else.

Fort Lauderdale: Like No Place Else

Pristine beaches, shore diving, an international film festival and alligators are among the attractions that make this Florida city unique.

Local Life and Lore in Fort Lauderdale

These insider tips and lingo will help you fit in with the local crowd.

5 Great Neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale

Fort Launderdale's most desirable residential locations include Victoria Park, Colee Hammock and The Isles, whose waterfront properties are dotted with beautiful homes and yachts.

New York City Essentials

See the best New York has to offer, from world-class art to serene nature.

Profile: New York City, New York

Get a quick run-down of New York City with this profile.

Cultural Diversity in New York City

Its ethnic and cultural diversity and vibrant mix of world influences might be one reason why NYC attracts millions of visitors each year.

On TV

Top GAC Shows

Flea Market Flip

Consult Program Guide

Living Alaska

Tuesdays 9pm | 8c

Top 20 Countdown

Consult Program Guide

Flippin' RVs

Wednesdays 9|8c

Get Social With Us

Let's explore this country together.