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People don’t usually think of pioneer families in South Florida, but they would if they met Lamar Fisher, president and CEO of Fisher Auction.
His great grandfather signed the articles of incorporation for the city of Pompano Beach in 1908 and Fisher’s grandfather became mayor in 1943. Lamar Fisher became Pompano Beach’s mayor in 2007 and is in the middle of his fourth term. He probably won’t finish his term, because he is favored to win a seat on the Broward County Commission in the Nov. 6 election.
In a South Florida filled with accents from the Northeast, Fisher has the warmth and a bit of a Southern drawl that speaks to his family’s heritage.
“Here’s an interesting fact. All of my family before me were farmers. That’s what people don’t realize … Pompano Beach was a farming community when it was first settled,” Fisher says. The produce was packed along Dixie Highway near Pompano Beach’s historic downtown along the Florida East Coast Railway.
The city of Coral Springs? That was the farm of Fisher’s great uncle, Bud Lyons, who was the largest green bean and pepper grower in nation, Fisher says.
The Fisher family had a home along what’s now called Pioneer Drive (Northeast Fifth Avenue) in Pompano Beach and Lamar Fisher grew up on Northeast 11th Avenue.
Fisher Auction was started by Fisher’s grandfather in 1972, and his father, who is chairman, joined the firm in 1972. Lamar Fisher joined in 1980, the same year he was married. Fisher Auction is now a fourth-generation business with the addition of Lamar’s daughter, Patricia, who is the in-house counsel, and Paul, who handles marketing, social media and some sales.
Lamar gained an associate degree from what was then called Palm Beach Junior College and went to auction school in 1979. He has several degrees from the Certified Auctioneers Institute, including one for real estate accreditation.
The auction company’s modest storefront on Atlantic Boulevard gives little hint that the company is one of the nation’s 10 largest auction firms. Fisher says he has sold real estate in 46 states, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“We kept the home base, but we are, indeed, a national firm,” he says.
Perhaps the most high-profile auction Fisher handled was the Versace Mansion on Miami Beach in 2013. The winning bidder was the family connected to Jordache jeans, and the backup bidder was Donald Trump, whose son Eric attended the bidding.
The minimum bid was $25 million, and the property sold for $41.5 million.
“Auctions create urgency. They create competition. There is no more tomorrow,” Fisher says. Auctions for trophy properties make sense because the wealthy are already accustomed to auctions for things like art, rare wine and thoroughbred horses, he says. The notion is, “Let the world compete for it.”
In one instance, partners in a land lease that had 35 years left in South Beach were breaking up and became bidders at a Fisher auction. The reserve was $8 million and the property sold for $31 million.
Economic downturns, which spark bankruptcies and receiverships, can be good for Fisher’s business, but he’s finding himself busy these days with not only high-end residential property but commercial, industrial and hospitality property.
Before there’s a winning bid, Fisher and his team have to brainstorm who the potential buyers are and how to target them. For a $35 million house, that might include Fortune 500 CEOs and wealthy people in the Northeast who want to escape to Florida, which doesn’t have a state income tax. Fisher uses his database, electronic communication, print ads, direct mail and personal solicitations. He also has been collaborating with Fort Lauderdale’s Mad 4 Marketing on auctions, such as one for Bella Fortuna in Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Isles, which was scheduled for auction on Nov. 1 with a starting bid of $19.5 million. (See SFBWmag.com for a preauction article and updates afterward.)
Fisher says his differentiator is providing personal service by his entire team during the 60 to 90 days of marketing. There’s a heavy emphasis on analytics every day to see who is calling and why.
Fisher’s longtime staff and well-oiled machine are one reason he can devote so much time to being an elected official. His first office was city commissioner in 2002, a position he kept until becoming mayor. The city has undergone a major transformation.
One of the big issues during Fisher’s time as mayor has been development of the city’s beach. He recalls how beach residents in red shirts came to commission meetings and said they didn’t want any development.
“Then, when I was elected, I was able to get stakeholders involved and get their buy-in on how we can create smart development,” Fisher says.
While there were hiccups along the way, Fisher says he asked constituents to trust him. “Once they saw the end result, they were very happy,” he says.
The city’s redevelopment has been profiled previously in SFBW. It includes $12 million in public works on the beach and key streets. The result is a freshly landscaped public beach area that still has a low-key charm, but also a new parking garage and a development designed to resemble a fishing village. The village already has some new oceanfront restaurants and will include a 125-room hotel and a banquet facility.
Old Pompano, at Atlantic Boulevard and the Florida East Coast tracks, has the Odd Breed Wild Ales brewery and sites for three restaurants. A multicolored fountain includes eye-catching propane flames. A new cultural center and library are located on the south side of Atlantic.
As motorists exit Interstate 95 and head east on Atlantic Boulevard, they might notice an abundance of vacant lots, much of it owned by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency, where the city is planning an Innovation District. The district spans approximately 400 acres along Atlantic, north to Martin Luther King Boulevard.
As previously reported by SFBW columnist Darcie Lunsford, the fulcrum for development within the district will be a $60 million system of recirculating canals, which will create picturesque outdoor settings. The overlay district zoning allows for 750,000 square feet of office space, 165,000 square feet of retail, 35,000 square feet of restaurants, 1,500 residential units, and two hotels with a combined 420 rooms.
Fisher expects the district to create thousands of jobs and be an economic engine.
“There are no more than 60 acres along I-95. This is the last remaining piece. It will be done right,” he says.
The city has hired Cushman and Wakefield as its broker to solicit requests for proposals and let the market propose what makes sense. Fisher expects that in the next nine months, the development will start to move forward.
The water features seem clever, because new projects have to retain rainwater on their property. Rather than ugly retention ponds, Fisher envisions a beautiful, walkable neighborhood with water sports like paddleboarding.
Further west, The Cordish Companies is working with the owner of Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park to add office, residential, hotel, dining and retail to the 223-acres around the casino and harness racing track.
Pompano Beach is already home to one of the busiest Tri-Rail stops, and Fisher is hoping that commuter service will be added to the FEC, where the Brightline high-speed trains currently whiz through Pompano Beach. The city already has purchased a site for station parking.
Fisher is hoping Broward County residents support the penny sales tax on the Nov. 6 ballot, because it would help to provide a dedicated funding source for transportation.♦