SFGN recently shared with readers the initial results of RMA Associates study, which has been referred to as WiltonNext.
In John McDonald’s article from April 15 (https://bit.ly/3uU7RF6), John points out that RMA has recommended Wilton Manors embrace Wellness as a brand identity and business focus along Andrews Avenue. I am glad to see that feedback from Hunter Stephens, President of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors, was included. Hunter states, “I am concerned that the very detailed work on market analysis hasn’t really been laid up against what residents want and need in terms of development in these commercial corridors.”
I believe RMA Associates did an excellent job of identifying the demographics of our city, existing business mix, comparable cities, and industry trends in general. They are not incorrect that Wellness is going to play an important part in our mixed-use and commercial real estate throughout the city in the future — just as well throughout Broward County and the State of Florida. Where I believe their recommendations have fallen short of meeting the need is in their desire to classify the Avenue (as we affectionately refer to Andrews Ave) as the ideal corridor for a new Wellness district.
The trend for Wellness related businesses — doctors, MedSpas, fitness studios, anything health-related — is a nationwide trend. It is not a need limited to a particular corridor in our city. I am strongly concerned about the idea that all these businesses might be focused in one neighborhood. As residents of Wilton Manors, all of us need Doctors, many of us use fitness studios, and I certainly enjoy visiting a med spa now and then!
More importantly, the residents on the west side have been very clear. They are not interested in economic development for economic development’s sake. This is their backyard. As someone who is as close of a walk to the Avenue as I am to the Drive, I couldn’t agree more. Don’t take my word for it but review the community feedback surveys residents submitted. I didn’t find one single west side resident expressing an interest in more medical buildings along the Avenue, but I did read a lot of requests for the kind of businesses that make neighborhoods more livable and improve quality of life.
Our city needs to focus on Community Development — not economic development — along the Avenue. There is certainly room for a yoga studio, a gym, and a chiropractor along the Avenue as part of a larger mix of businesses that residents can use. What we want as residents is also great restaurants, specialty, and upscale retail stores, and so forth.
At a future meeting, my fellow commissioners and I will discuss any desired modifications to the plan and our city’s implementation strategy. At that time, I will express my desire to avoid the Avenue becoming solely focused on “Wellness.” I ask residents to continue remaining involved and engaged in the process. Please share your feelings with my fellow commissioners who are interested in hearing from you.
- Chris Caputo, Wilton Manors City Commissioner