Quaint cities around the world, take note: If you’re looking to refresh your image without alienating your citizens, take a cue from Pompano Beach.

This northern Broward County city with a population of roughly 100,000 has long been on the map for its desirable vacation homes and beautiful coastline. With that identity, though, eventually came an aging crowd, an unimproved pier and a lack of entertainment around the city. But all that is changing since the city invested $12 million of its own money in revitalizations – thanks to the Pompano Beach Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA).  

The strategy began with major beach rehabilitation efforts, a beautiful new streetscape on Atlantic Boulevard, a playground along the oceanfront and more. As envisioned, those cleanup efforts prompted developers and retailers to quickly follow suit. 

Pompano now finds itself in the midst of a quiet renaissance, the details of which include an in-the-works pier village, several trendy residential developments, two renovated art complexes, a new library with a cultural center and thousands of square feet of new restaurant and retail space. Despite these changes, the Pompano charm has remained impressively intact.  

“The change has been gradual for the most part, which I think is important,” says Susan Aichele-Sanders, a local resident and marketing director for the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa. “Pompano has always had that old Florida, laid-back vibe, and I don’t think the city wants to lose that fabric.”

Aichele-Sanders says her favorite transformation thus far has been the development along Atlantic Boulevard. “Cleaning up the streetscapes and bringing dining outdoors creates a social feel – it’s gorgeous, it’s more inviting and it’s more attractive to a younger crowd,” she says. “These enhancements are not only great for tourism, but they are great for our day-to-day life as residents.”

 Left: Bailey Contemporary Arts (BaCA) is bringing gallery spaces and workspace for artists to the city’s historical downtown. Right: The indoor bar at McCoy’s Oceanfront. 

Aichele-Sanders points to the Marriott, which opened just two years ago, as a good example of Pompano’s image shift. “When I first moved here, in the hotel industry, the only opportunity for bigger, branded hotels were on Fort Lauderdale Beach,” she says. “This Marriott opening was really exciting.” 

The hotel’s restaurant, McCoy’s Oceanfront, has also emerged as a beachfront hot spot, which is something locals were craving. Along with newer outposts such as the Rusty Hook Tavern, 26° Brewing Co., Table2201 and The Foundry, the restaurant scene has decidedly stepped up its game. “There are things to do now,” Aichele-Sanders says. “You don’t have to leave Pompano to enjoy nightlife or a nice dinner.” 

Those existing enhancements are just the beginning of the larger picture for Pompano. New plans for real estate projects and retail sites have picked up quite a bit of steam in recent months. The pier itself is in the midst of a $12 million face-lift, while Kevin Rickard and Tim Hernandez of New Urban Communities of Delray Beach have gained approval for the Pompano Pier Fishing Village, which will feature 48,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space across six acres. A highlight of the village will likely be the two new restaurants scheduled to open next year – the Pompano Beach House and Oceanic Dining – both of which will offer upscale beachside dining. The city also approved a $19 million, 600-space parking garage nearby that will include ground-floor shops and restaurants.

The beach area will also soon be home to two chic condominium developments: Koi Residences & Marina and Sabbia Beach. Both projects are targeting a wealthier demographic seeking a modern, waterfront lifestyle. Additionally, developer Yuri Gurfel has plans for a large multiuse property that will include 420 residential units, a 200-room hotel and 100,000 square feet of retail just west of the Intracoastal Waterway.

 Left: Sabbia Beach is bringing modern luxury condos to the oceanfront. Right: Koi Residences & Marina is near a new library and cultural center that’s under construction.

Aichele-Sanders feels that improvements to the beach area will help to create an overall better experience for visitors and locals alike. “To have something to point to that’s so close and not send guests outside the city limits not only helps us, but it helps the surrounding businesses,” she says. 

Expansions in Pompano Beach also include various art and performance complexes that are either under construction or newly opened. Bailey Contemporary (BaCA) is a recently opened studio and exhibition space drawing consistent crowds, while the Ali Building and Cultural Arts Center has reopened as a performance and rehearsal music venue after a $2 million renovation. 

“Pompano is growing rapidly,” says Chef Oliver Saucy of Cafe Maxx, one of the most popular and well-established restaurants in the area. “We are starting to see the children of longtime regulars coming in, as well as a new crew of regulars that are new to the area.”

The downside of rapid growth is always a worry of overdevelopment and change happening too fast for existing residents to contend with. That concern seems to have been addressed by the city, according to Aichele-Sanders, who says Pompano Beach has managed to create the best of both worlds. 

“The city planned well, they thought this out,” she says. “There’s a good balance. Pompano has enough to offer someone younger or starting a family. There are things to do, but it doesn’t have the congested feel that some of the other cities do. It still has that ‘I’m home’ feeling.”