South Florida hits adulthood

Everyone once in a while I run into someone new and they ask how long I’ve lived down here. The answer is “since 1984.” I usually add that living here that long is like watching a teenager grow up.

Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium offered another reminder. When I moved here, the Orange Bowl was still around and Dan Marino in 1984 was obliterating NFL records with 5,084 yards and 48 touchdown passes in a season.

The Orange Bowl was a historic venue, but was rapidly growing outdated. Dolphins’ owner Joe Robbie put up his own money and built Joe Robbie Stadium, providing a modern venue that hosted Super Bowl XXIII in 1989. H. Wayne Huizenga invested more money in the stadium when he purchased it, but that’s nothing compared to what Steve Ross has done under his tenure. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Arquitectonica’s Bernardo Fort Brescia, who said he wanted to come up with a first-of-its kind rectangular design, which was achieved by suspending the canopy roof from towers. The result was on stunning display during this Super Bowl with amazing beauty shots of the stadium roof and the skyline, including a gorgeous sunset.

Whole neighborhoods have changed since 1984.

I’m not sure of the exact time, but somewhere around 1986, I went to the first art deco festival on Ocean Drive. It was really cool, but the hotel porches were lined with patio furniture and elderly retirees. The Design District was emptying out with many tenants relocating to the Design Center of the Americas in what’s now called Dania Beach. Wynwood was an unremarkable industrial area.

I used to walk home along the New River in Fort Lauderdale past crack houses in the vicinity of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami and the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach didn’t exist either.

Metrorail had its first paying passengers in 1984, but Tri Rail and Metrorail weren’t around until 1986.

Alligator Alley was a scary two-lane road to Naples and construction on Interstate 75 across the Everglades didn’t start until 1986. There was a gap on I-95 in northern Palm Beach  County until 1987.

When I arrived at the Sun Sentinel in 1984, Assistant Business Editor Sal Vittolino told me he was getting an MBA at Nova University. My reaction was something like, “Nova what?”

Now, you can just look on the university’s website and see that Nova dates back to 1964 and was the concept of the “Oatmeal Club,” a group of business people in Fort Lauderdale who met for breakfast. They wanted to create an MIT of South Florida and it launched as Nova University of Advanced Technology with an emphasis on graduate degrees.  It wasn’t until 1994, that Nova merged with Southeastern University, which added the colleges of osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, optometry and allied health.

The emphasis on graduate degrees and the fortuitous merger with Southeastern University have resulted in an education juggernaut, which is highlighted in this issue’s cover interview with George L. Hanbury II, the president and CEO. As much as I’ve read and written about NSU in the past 36 years, the interview with Dr. Hanbury, as many of us call him, was pretty much mindblowing on its recent accomplishments and what’s ahead. Its geographic scope across the state, surging undergraduate enrollment, top 200 ranking, strong financial status and Jeffersonian Academical Village are truly remarkable. We have a world-class institution emerging and it’s certainly a valuable part of the region’s maturity.

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