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Icon Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale's Tallest Building, Opens After Two Decades Of Delays

After two decades of lawsuits and a housing bust and boom, Icon Las Olas, a 45-story, 272-unit tower from Related Group, finally opened in September.

Icon Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale's Tallest Building, Opens After Two Decades Of Delays
Icon Las Olas, a multifamily rental from Related, is Fort Lauderdale's tallest building.

Already the building is 60% rented, according to the developer, and it hosted a grand opening last week. 

"Our partner bought the property in 1998," Related Group Vice President Patrick Campbell said. "We became involved in 2000."

He has been working on the project for about 10 years.

Icon Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale's Tallest Building, Opens After Two Decades Of Delays
Icon Las Olas offres views of the New River and Atlantic Ocean

The site, at 500 Las Olas Blvd., was once owned by Frank Stranahan, an early settler, and is adjacent to the historic Stranahan House. For many years, the property was the site of Hyde Park Market, a grocery store.

In 1998, it sold to developers for $2.5M. Following a public vote, the city tried to take it back for a park, first offering $19.6M and then claiming eminent domain. Those efforts were unsuccessful.

The city then approved Icon Las Olas in 2005, but Related shelved it when the market crashed. Some supporters of the Stranahan House then fought it in court, trying to get the parcel designated as historic, and arguing that approvals had been made in secret without public input. Developers also sued some critics for defamation after being called greedy. Finally, construction began in 2015.

Icon Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale's Tallest Building, Opens After Two Decades Of Delays
Icon Las Olas has a welcoming, contemporary lobby.

Still, Campbell believes the modern construction of the Icon, and its high-end amenities, will interest residents. Though the project had been conceived as condos, Campbell said Related opened an information center last year and surveyed the market, then decided to build rental apartments. Related CEO Jorge Perez, one of the country's most prolific condo developers, has said the units could at some point be converted to for-sale units. 

Icon Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale's Tallest Building, Opens After Two Decades Of Delays
Units in Icon Las Olas boast floor-to-ceiling windows

 "It cost us a fortune not to have built it before the housing downturn," Campbell said. "Returns are significantly less."

There is now more competition, as other developers have begun a slew of residential projects in Fort Lauderdale, making the market very hot. 

"The ironic part is, the Las Olas Grand and the River House would have been built after us," Campbell said.

Icon Las Olas is Fort Lauderdale's tallest structure for now; a new tower by Kolter Group rises at 100 Las Olas Blvd. It is under construction.

Icon Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale's Tallest Building, Opens After Two Decades Of Delays
Modern kitchens and skyline views are a feature in Icon Las Olas.

Today, the one-, two-and three-bedroom apartments, from 960 to 2K SF, rent for $2K to $8K per month. The building includes valet parking, an on-site concierge, a spacious lobby with contemporary art, a rooftop pool, a sky terrace, a fitness center with a Pilates and spinning studio and a wine tasting salon.

Next year, a second location of trendy modern Japanese restaurant ETARU (from Rainer Becker, co-founder and creator of Zuma restaurants worldwide) will open in the building.

Icon Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale's Tallest Building, Opens After Two Decades Of Delays
Icon las Olas is so tall that from the rooftop, residents can look down on the once-dominant Bank of America building.

Campbell said tenants fall into three categories: locals who want to upgrade, young professionals embracing the live-work-play ethos (like employees of Magic Leap, a Plantation-based tech company valued at $6B) and empty nesters giving up homes in the suburbs.

"This was the best property in all of downtown," Campbell said. "It's the only property that stretched from Las Olas Boulevard to the river."