With the recent cold front, you might not have noticed Wilton Manors is once again hot.
I must admit, like many Wilton Manors residents, I’ve looked with a mix of admiration and jealousy at all the progress being made in our sister city of Oakland Park.
Oakland Park’s elected officials and city staff, with help of their CRA and the private sector, have changed both the face and the future of Oakland Park in recent years. Every time I learned of another Wilton Manors resident deciding to relocate to Oakland Park, I felt equal parts sadness and understanding regarding their decision. I love Oakland Park, and I’m happy for its success, while also disappointed at the apathy and stagnation we’ve experienced here in Wilton Manors.
It is with great confidence that I can say, once again, Wilton Manors’ future is bright. Let me share with you a few examples that might have gone unnoticed:
- The city has finally hired an Economic Development Manager. Kimberley Allonce comes with tremendously relevant experience and education. Kim’s role will involve promoting the city as an attractive place for businesses to relocate, collaborating with city departments to streamline the development process, encouraging mixed-used redevelopment of our commercial corridors, and improving the quality of life for our residents.
- The city has demonstrated a willingness to be flexible and take a common-sense approach to issues facing our business community. With the safety of our residents during the COVID-19 pandemic remaining a top priority, the city worked together with business owners to provide temporary solutions for outdoor dining along Wilton Drive. While these are temporary at the moment — and made possible thanks to FDOT taking a supportive stance and local executive orders — more permanent solutions are in the pipeline. I have asked city staff to put forth recommendations on ways we can continue to allow outdoor dining after the expiration of the temporary executive orders. We expect to discuss their ideas during an upcoming commission meeting.
- Quality of life issues remain at the forefront of our city staff and residents. In our last commission meeting, the city clearly articulated its plan for addressing infrastructure and flooding concerns, demonstrating the level of oversight and long-term planning we would expect from a top-tier city of our size. During that same meeting, efforts of our engaged community were highlighted including the late Mayor Justin Flippen’s student art contest and the unveiling of new public art along Wilton Drive.
- Critical updates to our development comprehensive plan, land use and zoning are in progress and well-supported. Our Planning & Zoning Board, which is composed of residents of Wilton Manors, unanimously supported an increase of our residential density to 100 units per acre along our Transit-Oriented Corridors (TOCs) and in our Wilton Drive Arts & Entertainment District. In a 3-to-2 vote, Michael Bracchi, Paul Rolli and I voted in favor of 100 units per acre. It is important to note that the proposed 100 units per acre will undergo a second reading and could potentially be reduced. Thankfully, over 25 members of our community submitted public comments supporting the new residential density (in the TOCs and A&E district) and less than a handful argued against the proposal.
I am optimistic about the future of our city. Our public sector, private sector and residents can and should continue to work together to solidify our shared vision for Wilton Manors’ future. Together, we can ensure a prosperous community filled with happy, proud residents and business owners. This future, however, is contingent on residents continuing to get involved and be advocates for the change we want to see in our community. Thank you for being a part of the change you want to see in our city.
Chris Caputo is a city commissioner in Wilton Manors and chief strategist at Development Partners, a tech startup. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce. Chris was awarded Best LGBT Activist in SFGN's 2020 Best Of Survey and is a past recipient of Our Fund's Next Generation Philanthropist award.