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Dining and imbibing will get a boost in Plantation starting next year.
Rising from what used to be Fashion Mall, Plantation Walk — a shopping/restaurant/entertainment/residential/hotel center — has signed leases with four eateries.
Much of the construction is done on the project that sit on University Drive near Broward Boulevard, but the first restaurant won’t open until January. That would be Tacocraft Taqueria & Tequila Bar, which brings the owner back to his old stomping grounds.
“I grew up close to the area so there is history for me,” says Marc Falsetto, the CEO and founder of Handcrafted Hospitality, which owns Tacocraft. “And when I, along with my partners Anthony Bruno, Pat Marzano, Dan Marino and Paul Castronovo, caught wind of the reconstruction of the space, we had to jump on the opportunity to bring our concept to the city and fill the void and demand for exciting, approachable dining destinations.”
Tacocraft will take a 4,000-square-foot space, making it the largest installment of the four locations in the boutique chain (Fort Lauderdale, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, South Miami). It will also be the first to have both indoor and outdoor bars, as well as two patios.
Next up will likely be Carrot Express and then Chill-N Nitrogen Ice Cream followed by Ford’s Garage, according to Encore Capital Management, the developer of Plantation Walk.
“Right now we’re also looking at a Japanese sushi restaurant,” says Bobby Albino, director of leasing for Encore. “Carrot Express we expect to open late first quarter of 2022. It’s out of Dade, a healthy bowl concept, a healthy juice concept. Chill-N Ice Cream will open the same time period as Carrot Express. They have these creamy unbelievable frozen desserts.”
Albino says Ford’s Garage is a restaurant concept already in a few of Encore’s properties, including Promenade at Sunset Walk in Kissimmee. The only other South Florida location is in Wellington, but the Tampa-based company says they have plans for seven new restaurants throughout, but the Tampa-based company says they have plans for seven new restaurants throughout Broward, Palm Beach Miami-Dade and Martin counties.
The chain’s theme is Ford Motor Company. “Their menu has craft burgers and maybe 100 beers,” he adds. “It’s a good family experience. They see a Model T Ford when they walk in. It’s almost like a Hard Rock; You come out with a T-shirt or a hat with the Ford insignia.”
They are also in talks with Rock & Brews, the restaurant brand from Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of KISS fame. The American comfort food chain is also known for staging live entertainment.
When Plantation Walk is done, the $350 million development will have 700 rental apartments, 160,000 square feet of office space and 130,000 square feet of retail and restaurants in what Encore calls a “live-work-play” concept.
Aetna insurance company was the first tenant, moving from Sunrise to Plantation in 2018. The Sheraton Suites Fort Lauderdale Plantation and a parking garage are still there from the Fashion Mall days, but both received major renovations. The UFC FIT Plantation fitness and training gym is also open. Others coming onboard include Naples Soap Company, NOW Massage and Ideal Dental.
Fashion Mall’s grand opening was in 1988 with no less than Vanna White making an appearance. But things started going downhill in the ‘90s. In 2003 Lord & Taylor threw in the towel and when Macy’s sustained major damage from Hurricane Wilma in 2005, the writing was on the wall. The mall closed in 2007 and was demolished in 2017.
“From the 1960s until around five years ago malls in the country grew quite a bit,” recalls Art Falcone, co-founder and chief investment officer of Encore Capital Management. “There were approximately 14,000 malls in the U.S. [Now] there are about 7,500, the number cut in half due to the internet. Big box stores, department stores, brick and mortar stores have a harder time competing with the overhead and everything else they have to have to get product out of the door.”
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He also adds that younger generations prefer the business model Encore (with projects from Florida to California) and other developers have seen picking up dramatically over the last five years.
“They work and play in the same area. Millennials and younger generations are generally more focused on gathering people and retail/restaurant density…with…complement living. So we have apartments and we also put food, hospitality hotels in the same area. There’s more traffic. Today people want to get out of their cars.”
Tacocraft’s Falsetto adds, “The Plantation Walk development presented an amazing opportunity to continue the expansion of Tacocraft in west Broward. Our brand really appeals to working professionals, families and millennials, many of which who work or live around Plantation Walk, so there is synergy with the restaurant and the energetic demographic in the area. Tacocraft will be a game-changing addition and we can’t wait to open our doors.”
Falcone also says that a big part of Plantation Walk’s success will be the entertainment plaza, a green space at the foot of the residential property where farmer’s markets and food trucks could also have pop-ups.
“We’re going to keep this thing going and flowing — art shows, car shows,. If it’s a hallmark event, we own it: Christmas tree lighting, Hanukah displays. This is the thing that is going to draw the people.”
The 27-acre development has 200,000 square feet of retail space, luxury rental homes and office space.