Fort Lauderdale is a bustling port city, a popular vacation spot, a thriving financial center, a relaxed place to live but with lots of urban attractions. And something else: a forward-looking community whose citizens demonstrate an optimistic spirit and a willingness to work together to make their city special.
An example: When Mayor Jack Seiler launched his year-long Volunteer Challenge to celebrate the city’s 2011 centennial, he hoped to tally 100,000 hours of volunteer service across the city. The actual total? More than 200,000 volunteer hours.
“Despite political differences and diversity, people here pull together as a community when things need to get done,” Seiler says.
That optimism is well placed. The city has rebounded from the global recession. Unemployment is well below the state and national average at 6.1 percent, new construction is booming and $6.5 billion in private-public funds is targeted for infrastructure projects.
Not surprisingly, the city has adopted “Sunny” as the theme of its marketing efforts. Fort Lauderdale’s weather, which includes 3,000 sunny hours a year, is a major amenity for residents and visitors. World-class beaches and aquatic activities such as fishing, boating and diving bring in millions of tourists each year, and are at the heart of Fort Lauderdale’s casual, water-oriented lifestyle. Cultural life is rich with art, music, museums and popular entertainment well represented, and the city has become known as a mecca for foodies.
The award-winning Parks and Recreation Department operates nearly 90 facilities, from public beaches to dog parks to athletic fields, and dozens of public golf courses are playable all year long. In nearby Miami, fans can attend NFL football and NHL hockey games.
A plan to increase walkability, a 41 percent growth in recycling tonnage (and a program that recycles seaweed collected from the beaches into garden mulch), and an initiative that resulted in a 7 percent reduction in greenhouse gasses are just a few examples of Fort Lauderdale’s commitment to sustainability. Couple that with the city’s convenience – all major areas of town, from port to airport, are within minutes of each other – and access to interstate roadways, and you come up with a city that earned a place in Livability’s Top 100.