It was all planned out by the early '50s, how this city built on drained freshwater swamp and farmland would retain its “rural” nature as it slowly grew. It was supposed to feel like a small town instead of the overgrown suburbia much of it has become.
Plantation Florida Demographics
One hundred thousand people live in Plantation, and tens of thousands more commute to work there. In just nine square miles of Plantation – from University Drive west to Hiatus Road and from Interstate 595 north to Sunrise Boulevard - lies well over six million square feet of office and retail space.
The nine-square-mile area is called “Jacaranda,” and it used to be called Gulfstream after the Gulfstream Land and Development Corporation, which bought it. It’s also called urban sprawl, which wasn’t what Plantation had envisioned itself to be. Or at least not that kind of urban sprawl, the overcrowded, cookie-cutter style.
While Plantation - with its close proximity to Fort Lauderdale - could never indeed be a small town, it was supposed to be like one, even as it served mainly as a bedroom community for people who worked in Fort Lauderdale.
In the late '40s, a millionaire scion of a St. Louis shoe empire, Frederick C. Peters, decided to build homes on the 10,000 acres of ranch and swampland. The overweight, deeply religious, world-traveling Peters chose to create a rural alternative to Dade County suburbia. His original ambition was to introduce a farming cooperative where the residents would grow their own vegetables to sell at a community-owned produce market.
Peters advertised his communal development with fliers proclaiming in boldface type, “A Full Acre With Every Home.” The fliers explained: “The spacious lots ensure the homeowner against crowding by neighbors. Careful building and zoning regulations are provided in this modern planned community.”
Peters’ plan had become more realistic. Rather than building a farming cooperative, Peters and his architect, Russell Thorne Pancoast, the grandson of Miami Beach pioneer (and Collins Avenue namesake) John S. Collins, decided to build an “anti-development.”
On August 1, 1954, the Miami Herald publicly unveiled the new city plan in a Sunday spread. A banner headline called Plantation “The City of the Future” and another headline declaring, “Ultra-Modern Master Plan Brings Rural Life to Town.”
Pancoast planned to build a town center with a shopping and business area. Near the town center would be apartment buildings and other forms of high-density housing, with population density decreasing as it radiated outward from the center.
Neighborhoods of single-family houses were to follow a square pattern to make getting around the city uncomplicated. In his book The Story of Frederick Peters, August Burghard wrote that the city also had an “anti-look-alike” ordinance to prevent the uninspiring “development look” that was taking over South Florida.
“Uncrowded growth was the city’s formula,” Burghard wrote.
In addition to a bustling town center, Pancoast’s diagram for the city included sections for commercial and industrial land use on parts of Sunrise Boulevard, along State Road 7, and in a few other pockets, which would provide the city a tax base and provide for the needs of the residents. Huge regional shopping developments were antithetical to the plan.
“We have what we think will be the finest city in the United States, one offering rural living within one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country,” Ellsworth Gage, the first mayor of Plantation, said in the Herald article, adding that Plantation would “set a pattern all over the country.”
Fred T. Peters, one of the founder’s three sons Fred T. Peters, became the city’s first fire chief. Veltri became a friend of the Peters family when he joined the volunteer fire department in 1956. Four years later, Veltri, who was still working at the savings and loan, became fire chief.
Then, in the early ‘60s, senior Peters fell ill. So that his family wouldn’t be burdened with planning the city’s future, they decided to sell the undeveloped 5400 acres of land west of the University. Peters had intended that it would become a part of the city. Early attempts to sell the land, according to the late Pancoast in Burghard’s book, were fraught with the conflict between Peters’ vision and the new buyers’ plans. Contract negotiations collapsed as developers refused to follow Peters’ plan.
Peters died in 1964, and then the family finally sold the land, at roughly $3000 an acre, to Gulfstream, a consortium of big-money investors led by Henry Epstein, a real estate mogul from Philadelphia famous for buying entire towns, and Edgar Bronfman, Sr., the billionaire president of Seagram’s.
In 1969, while Gulfstream was busy planning the new future of Plantation, Veltri ran for office and won a seat on the council. By 1973 Gulfstream had acquired all the remaining acres of the Peters family’s holdings. And the company had big dreams all its own.
Tucked away in a file at the state’s South Florida Regional Planning Office is Gulfstream’s 1973 application to build on its new, raw land. And Gulfstream made it perfectly clear to the state that it wanted nothing to do with the rural hopes of Plantation’s founders – the corporation estimated that $3 billion would be pumped into the area by the mid-'90s, and 54,000 housing units for 132,000 people would be built. Only a quarter of those units would be single-family houses, the rest a conglomeration of low-rise, mid-rise, and high-rise apartments, townhouses, and finally, condominiums, which were all the rage at the time.
In 2022 there are 34,532 homes (apartments, condos) in Plantation
The plan caused some uproar at the time, as it called for 10.2 housing units per acre - more than twice that allowed by the Broward County Area Planning Board. County officials warned that such a massive development would set dangerous precedents for the entire undeveloped region. The ability of roads, namely University Drive, to handle such development was highly questionable.
But no dire prediction was heard from Plantation city officials, including Veltri, who says he was an early believer in Gulfstream. City leaders had several reasons to join the company. The most pressing of which was that the area- though part of Pancoast’s master plan- hadn’t officially been annexed yet.
There was a possibility that it could be taken by the City of Sunrise, remain unincorporated, or be incorporated into the city itself. Veltri and other Plantation officials were also enamored with the tax base the growth would bring to the town.
Veltri made his run for mayor in 1974, and that was the only year he ever took monetary campaign contributions. Even then, he says, he accepted less than $100, which is undoubtedly one of the more remarkable aspects of Veltri’s great political career. But the two contributors who did manage to give to him were heavyweights: the Peters family and Gulfstream.
“Fred [T.] Peters called me and gave me his checkbook and said, ‘Write the check,’” Veltri says, adding that he accepted only $25. “Then Gulfstream took me to lunch and wrote me a check for the maximum at the time [$1000], and I kept $50 of it and sent the rest back.”
The game of give-and-take between Veltri and developers had begun.
When his stovetop burst into flames some 20 years ago, Mayor Veltri grabbed a pan of boiling olive oil that spilled out and scalded his hand raw. The “spaghetti night” - which Veltri called those evenings when he had his closest friends over and cooked for them - had gone terribly awry.
Minter, who maintained a good reputation through his decades of working with Gulfstream, was one of Veltri’s Gulfstream friends. Another was Emerson Allsworth, one of Broward County’s most distinguished felons, a former lobbyist for the Gulfstream company, and the current representative of several developments in the Gulfstream area and the rest of Plantation.
Allsworth, a former state representative, is the go-to guy for business owners in Plantation who need changes in zoning or city codes in order to operate in the city. Allsworth, who worked closely with Veltri’s administration, routinely convinces council members – almost all of whom are recipients of Allsworth’s campaign contributions – to make the changes. For instance, in Veltri’s last city council meeting, Allsworth and his law partner William Laystrom lobbied the council to have the rules changed to allow a school in a strip mall and three fast-food restaurants on Broward Boulevard.
That relationship, Veltri says, wasn’t affected by Allsworth’s federal conviction on charges of laundering millions in drug money in 1992 or an earlier indictment, later dropped, for his alleged role in an extortion scheme involving former Sunrise Mayor John Lomelo – who was convicted – and a nursing home company Allsworth was representing. Allsworth now says his past legal problems are “ancient history.”
Veltri says he felt sorry for Allsworth, who lives only a few blocks from him, during the indictments and the conviction. The two men continued to have lunch together, and Veltri kept alive a spirit of cooperation between Allsworth and the city. “Emerson is a good development guy, and he’s good at working both sides and cleaning up glitches,” Veltri says. “I’d hire him in a minute if I needed him.”
Veltri did hire another former Gulfstream official, Arnold Ramos, as an engineering consultant for Plantation. Since the early ‘80s, Veltri had also appointed Ramos to various city boards, and the powerful engineer is currently chairman of Plantation’s planning board. Ramos’ company, Keith and Schnars, is the city’s paid traffic consultant and, on occasion, its general engineering consultant. Neither Veltri nor Ramos says he sees any conflict in Ramos’ approving plans as a city official. His company may later be paid to work with him as an engineer.
Ramos, like Allsworth, has been in trouble in the past, too – he was indicted while serving as Plantation’s planning chairman for allegedly bribing the mayor of Sarasota to support his engineering projects.
His career began in the Florida Department of Transportation and then led to Gulfstream. He remained five years before starting his own engineering company (which also contracted with Gulfstream developers). The new company, Mid South Engineering, was twice implicated in the scandal, once for overbilling the state on road projects, which led to a felony conviction for one of its vice presidents. Later for payments, the company made to the Sarasota mayor, Ronald Norman. Norman was convicted of accepting bribes. The indictment against Ramos was dropped after the state failed to tie him directly to the payments. Ramos steadfastly proclaimed his innocence and, at the time, said the payments were consultant fees.
According to published reports, Ramos’ role in Plantation was also investigated in 1985 after he was accused of accepting $9500 from a developer in exchange for changing Plantation parking laws under his purview as the planning board chairman that would allow the client to build a shopping center. Such dubious dual capacities have marked Ramos’ participation in the city for years, like his role in erasing a square mile of lakes and canals Gulfstream promised to include in the development.
In the application, Gulfstream promised that 24 percent of the entire land area would serve as a water-retention area - which is needed to protect against floods and avoid water runoff from its shopping centers into neighboring areas. By 1983 it was clear that such a percentage wasn’t being met, so Gulfstream officials - saying they never really planned to put that much water in their development in the first place - tried to amend the development order to require only 13 percent water, which comes out to a square mile less than initially promised. To do so, they needed the city’s approval.
At that time, Ramos had already left Gulfstream as Veltri’s appointee was serving as chairman of the city planning board. Ramos was also on the board of the state-run Old Plantation Water Control District, creating an intriguing situation: The water district’s job was to recommend Gulfstream’s proposed water reduction to the city planning board, which would then steer the city’s decision.
But at the same time Veltri helped control the population, Gulfstream - which planned the area and sold chunks of it to other developers - was allowed to replace some planned residential areas with more commercial centers, giving them the ability to build more retail and office space where the housing units would have gone.
Since 1970 one development after another has popped up – massive apartment complexes, retirement communities, corporate headquarters of various kinds, office parks, strip malls, condos, and neighborhoods of single-family homes. Each residential neighborhood has its own look, which is duplicated within itself over and over again (sometimes with slight variations), one stucco house after another, unit by unit, far from the “anti-look-alike” effect desired by the founders.
While the face of Plantation changed, so did the Gulfstream corporation. After Epstein died in 1980, Bronfman became its chairman. In 1985 the company was sold to Denver real estate broker Ken Good, who was a business partner of Neil Bush, a son of the President and the brother of Florida’s current governor. Good, who made Neil Bush a director in Gulfstream, financed the company on a mountain of debt that collapsed under him. At the same time, he and Bush were implicated in a $1 billion conflict of interest in the nation’s savings and loan scandal. What is left of the Gulfstream company is now in the hands of Hogan-Gulfstream.
The question is which city Veltri had in mind - the one Plantation was supposed to be, or the one Gulfstream was determined to make it? Veltri might be able to make a stronger argument that he fought for the city’s dreams if he’d tried to protect Plantation Acres, another area that was plundered by significant development. He didn’t.
Plantation Acres, a four-square-mile tract of land west of Gulfstream bordering Flamingo Road, is a microcosm of the first dream. It stood at the turn of this decade with acre estates and plenty of horses like a monument to the city’s first hopes.
Veltri and city officials knew it was unique, this rural outpost, so it was protected forever from big development companies like Gulfstream. The city made it a Special Public Interest District to “protect the amenities of broad open spaces, natural landscape and rural characteristics of the Acres, the only city district in which the predevelopment environment of the land can be discerned and appreciated,” according to the city codes.
In addition to that law, the main commercial area for the residents was given special zoning status to make sure larger stores didn’t move in and clutter the region. The area – on Sunrise Boulevard just west of Flamingo - was given a status of B-2L, which was designed, according to city documents, to protect " the integrity of the surrounding neighborhoods and the lifestyle of the area… and provide for the concentration of commercial establishments to meet the convenience needs of nearby residential areas."
But that seems to have been forgotten by Veltri and the city. During the last five years, the area has been invaded by substantial retail developments, and Veltri allowed that to happen.
For buyers of computer equipment, Plantation Acres is now the place to go; within a few square miles, the neighborhood has a Best Buy, a Gateway computer center, a CompUSA, and a Circuit City, all geared to service residents, not of Plantation Acres, but of all Broward County. It’s also the apparent religious capital of the county with eight churches, bringing with them traffic and plenty of parking lot pavement placed in the heart of the rural neighborhoods.
Parente brings up just one of the simple - and indeed profound - impacts of huge developments besieging a wannabe rural community. The neighborhood is also contending with noise and a lot of traffic, which makes it impossible for the equestrian residents to ride their horses on many of the roads (an amenity the city also promised to protect).
In addition to the computer stores, there is a massive Pep Boys automotive store, a regional Michael’s store, a giant Petsmart, and a Party Supermarket in the particular zoning district. All bring in traffic from around the county; none of them is the least bit “rural” in nature. All were fought against by the Plantation Acres Land and Homeowners Association, even as Allsworth - who represented the business interests of many of the stores - got the city council and Veltri to go along with their construction. “We tried as hard as we could to keep them out, but the city just kept letting them in,” says Nick Perris, vice president of the homeowners association.
When Veltri speaks as if the area were never given special protection, statements like that infuriate some Plantation Acres residents. Veltri seems genuine not to know that his own ordinances state flat out that the Acres should have been protected from significant regional developments.
With these problems, Plantation is hardly the model of growth it was meant to be. As development begins to cover western Palm Beach County - an area that Gulfstream said 26 years ago would “inevitably” become connected to the urban grid rooted in Miami - some there are hoping the same mistakes won’t be repeated. If there must be growth, they say, let it be strictly controlled and planned so that people will have decent yards and space to breathe when it’s done.
Plantation real estate was incorporated in 1953 with an astonishingly small population of less than 500. Just North of Broward Boulevard, the city is situated in the center of Broward County, directly west of Fort Lauderdale. Its slogan, “The grass is greener,” is the perfect descriptor wherefore it’s best recognized: stunning environment-friendly spaces, thousands of trees, as well as warm exotic winds.
Presently, the city incorporates around 22 square miles, and also its residences, like those in Jacaranda Golf Club, differ to meet budgets and passions of all kinds.
Country club, just South of West Broward Boulevard, has a fascinating decades-old history that illustrates the story of the Fort Lauderdale location itself. Since its opening on December 1, 1926, and proceeding today, the Fort Lauderdale Country Club. has seen its successes related to the ebb and flow of Broward Area’s development as well as its rise in its significance in South Florida.
Plantation homes up for sale keep with the owner’s strategy to flaunt hometown charm; all emanate warmth, from the most elegant grand homes on acres to the quaintest of condos.
The city does this through community events like parades and holiday celebrations. Contemporary amenities and resources perfectly complement the undeniable antique charm. Recently created were two new parks: Plantation Woods, a forest-themed park with its own water playground, and Camp Everglades, an Everglades-inspired park that is perfect for exploring Florida wetlands and wildlife. There are also private golf facilities, an aquatics center, an equestrian center, adult and youth athletics, and public.
Contact one of A.N.Shell Realty’s certified Realtors® to learn more about new construction in 2021 and 2022 in Paragon and Plantation Acres.
Plantation is a suburb of Fort Lauderdale with a population of 100,000+. Plantation is in Broward County and is one of the best places to live in Florida. Living in Plantation offers residents an urban, suburban mixed feel, and most residents own their homes. In Plantation, there are a lot of parks. Many families and young professionals live in Plantation, and residents tend to lean toward liberal. The public schools in Plantation are above average.
✔️ American Express
✔️ Florida Power and Light
all have either regional or national headquarters there.
The median list price of homes in Plantation, FL was $550,000 in September 2022, compared to $549,000 in 2021. Price range from $89K $1,699,000, with the median list price per sq ft of $309 Plantation, FL was a seller's market in September 2022, which means that there are more people looking to buy than there are homes available.