Reimagining The City | Wilton Drive

Five exceptional architectural firms show us just what they envision and why.

In 2007, Author James A. Bacon wrote, “The biggest obstacle to the re-development of decaying “inner suburbs” built in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s is the irrational fear of density. Any developer asking to re-zone land at greater density will run into a buzz saw of neighborhood opposition. The inevitable complaint: Density = congestion.” Fourteen years later, this same fear still stifles cities in need from moving forward. 

Wilton Manors was a city of just a few thousand as it developed along a timeline that paralleled America’s postwar love affair with the automobile. And, while it might have seemed idyllic to drive a mile for a gallon of milk or four miles to have a good steak in 1955, today, it can verge on nightmarish. What small cities and large suburbs are doing to combat this is to create walkable centers where, more often than not, the car can stay in the garage. Housing and shopping are in close proximity, and the focus is on enlivening the streets with human-scaled, urban design. 

A neighborhood plan rendered by SOW Design shows the subject property, on Wilton Drive at NE 21st Court, in yellow.

With all this in mind, we asked five architectural firms to roll up their sleeves and design what they think should rise up in one of those spaces along Wilton Drive, the spine and lifeblood of that City. We told them not to get caught up in zoning rules and regulations, but rather, to think of this as an ideas generator. We said, specifically, “You are free to design what you think Wilton Drive wants in this location… and explain why.”

On the following 15 pages – in random order – are the results.

Participating firms:

Adache Group Architects
FieldAgency Architecture
Glavovic Studio
SOW Design


Reimagining The City is generously sponsored by:

Pallant Insurance | Joe Pallant
Grand Properties | Tony LoGrande
Wilton Manors City Commissioner | Chris Caputo
An anonymous donor.

Glavovic Studio creates an Eco-Agora utilizing cross-laminated timber.

The vision for this concept is to connect the vibrant street life of Wilton Drive to the tradition of the marketplace/mercado/ bazaar, with a uniquely Florida experience and focus on resilient solutions. The “Eco-Agora” is grounded by City Hall and comprised of a large outdoor civic space, a boutique hotel, ground floor retail and affordable housing, helping to address the housing crisis in South Florida.

Sustainable building strategies include elevated ground floors, pervious paving, large, shaded, landscape areas, sustainable materials, increased ventilation and shade. Glavovic Studio proposes eliminating of use of concrete with its inherent large carbon footprint, instead choosing Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) as a sustainable structural system. CLT inspires the concept as one that belongs to the land. This laminated timber creates an arbor or horizontal shade structure for the two shorter exposures on the east and west side of the site.  

Overview of the project in its entirety showing landscaped marketplace caressed by two new structures.

Repetitious, volumetric modular hotel rooms and apartments are fabricated offsite in warehouses to reduce cost and construction time. The building is porous by omitting modules, allowing for visual and physical connections of the site with Wilton Drive and City Hall, promoting breezes, providing shade and outdoor connectivity to Wilton Drive and the plaza. 

Numbered diagrams:  1. Boutique hotel faces Wilton Dr. and courtyard marketplace. Affordable residential on the community side.  2. Passive cooling through breezeways, deep overhangs, operable windows, hydroponic gardens. Raised ground level for cooling, combatting sea level rise. Horizontal brise soleil solar protection.  3. Urban Street section: sidewalk/retail/hammock/market/housing/community.  4. Cross laminated timber in a modular system reduces carbon footprint.  5. Modular, with fast track construction and factory production. 6. Hammock with undulating topography, habitat generation.
Seen from the corner of NE 21st Court and Wilton Drive, the Eco-Agora proposed by Glavovic Studio makes extensive use of Cross-Laminated Timber both in terms of shading device and as the overall structure itself, eliminating most steel-reinforced concrete from its construction.
Looking at the proposal from above Wilton Drive, the Eco-Agora’s civic space, market, boutique hotel and affordable housing units all come together in a human-scaled campus..

CLT structural members together with the use of native landscaping (Cypress Trees, Florida Oaks, Native Palms) provide shade and subtle varied topography; creating the “agora” or marketplace that nods at the hardwood hammocks not too far west from the site at the Big Cypress National Preserve, engendering habitat.  

CLT structures can potentially be successful in hot humid climates if certain guidelines are followed during fabrication and erection. The concept we present seeks to spark a discussion into the use of CLT in our masonry dependent region.

SOW Design Studio creates dynamism for the city center.

When asked to design a new, mixed-use complex for Wilton Manors, we were inspired by the potential for the creation of a new center for community life, especially given the site’s strategic geographical location along Wilton Drive, halfway between Sunrise Blvd. and Oakland Park Blvd. 

At the center of the site, a new public plaza featuring green spaces, water ponds, and ample seating, allows for a variety of public activities, taking full advantage of the beautiful South Florida climate year-round. Pedestrian and vehicular internal passages are provided at ground level to allow for fluid circulation through and around the block.

By lifting the east portion of the building and leaving the west side of the site open, the new pedestrian plaza becomes a connector between Hagen Park to the east and Jay Cee’s Park to the west.

By concentrating the building mass on the north and south edges of the site, the project is integrated into the existing fabric of the city, complementing the nearby scales and uses. To the south, a cascading system of programmed volumes embraces the plaza, adding publicly-accessible retail, restaurant, studio, and flex spaces to the site. A residential component and boutique hotel are located at the top to the north and east, taking advantage of the long, unobstructed views of the surroundings.

By offsetting floors, the architects not only create a visual dynamism, they create a diversity of shaded spaces as well.
A diagram breaks down programming of spaces, including hotel, residential, retail and art studios

By offsetting the floor volumes, we were able to create diverse, green and shaded outdoor spaces to be enjoyed by the public and new residents. Planting on all levels and a system of wood louvers on the top floors further protects the glazing from direct sunlight while enhancing the welcoming appearance of the project. Furthermore, the extensive system of green roofs helps manage stormwater and reduce energy costs for cooling.

The open courtyard has potential to double as public event space.

To satisfy the future parking needs of the project and the city, we identified a parcel east of City Hall as the perfect spot for a garage. This will be connected to the proposed development via an elevated bridge and will match the aesthetics and design of the rest of the project. An active roof featuring gardens and event spaces will top off the garage.

Strang Design asks: 

Why travel for a purchase when a purchase can travel to you?

Reimagining an empty lot in the middle of Wilton Manors, this scheme looks to connect technology and the community. In the first phase, the structure will incorporate commercial space, a parking structure, a community center on the upper level, as well as an adaption of drone technology in the local area. 

The community center incorporates entities such as classrooms, open terraces, and public gardens, this would be combined with the existing infrastructure of the “drone port”. With a range of 5 miles capable of reaching downtown Fort Lauderdale, this “drone port” will act as a vital center of trading goods. 

With more companies looking to drones as an environmentally friendly way of delivering packages, this would become an iconic form of infrastructure able to serve the local area, with the potential to increase it’s range when the technology becomes readily available. A landmark “LOOK UP” sign in neon red would become a visual beacon, emphasizing the multitude of drones buzzing up and away to their destinations.

Seen from Wilton Drive, the drone port would rise eight stories and would be landscaped to encourage vines to create a green wall.

The commercial space for this phase would be delegated to the street level, with an immediate connection to Wilton Drive. The diagrid structure of the parking garage levels would incorporate green vines creeping up the side, creating a “green wall” moving through the structure, along with native plants topping the commercial space on the first level. 

The second phase removes the parking garage completely, and in its place comes more development for small businesses, while still incorporating the “drone port” and community center from the first phase. 

The Drone Port would incorporate parking garage, ground level commercial space, and community center on top.

FieldAgency Architecture forges an anchor for today’s Wilton Drive.

As our firm is based in Wilton Manors, it’s difficult for us not to notice how unique this city really is. It offers up lively restaurants and bars that pour onto Wilton Drive, tree-shaded streets, and picturesque neighborhoods. Combine the two, an active Drive and nearby neighborhoods dotted with mid-century homes… and you can imagine you are on some sort of movie set. As a local firm, we’ve been lucky enough to get deeply acquainted with some of the small businesses and individuals that continue to make – and reshape this beautiful city. That’s when we realized how significant the evolution of Wilton Manors has been. There’s a collective forward-looking energy here encouraging the city’s growth. It was with this realization as an “anchor” of sorts that we decided to move forward with our concept.

FieldAgency’s site plan of the subject property shows the pedestrian’s ability to enter at multiple points. It even creates a new walking path between NE 21st Court and Wilton Manor’s current City Hall.

We started by considering some of the more pressing challenges we faced. Mainly, a growing local population expecting to live, work and play all within their local municipality. Specific to the site, we had the challenge of considering the iconic Wilton Drive and all of its activities as well as the very nearby 

 residences. We knew that for any design to really work here it had to deliver a durable and sustainable solution that adapted and elevated the neighborhood’s allure.

Using the cube as a module, FieldAgency Architecture’s submission celebrates the area’s sub-tropical climate with open courtyards, multi-level gardens, and a human scale that encourages year-round interaction.
Concept of the project’s modular system from Wilton Drive.

Beginning with an understanding of the site’s unique properties we decided that the design needed to have three components broken up into levels of public participation: 1.) High public participation, (located closest to Wilton Drive with small scale service-based commercial program) 2.) Medium public participation, (the layer further away from Wilton Drive consisting of semi-private establishments such as co-working spaces and offices) and 3.) Low public participation, (further from Wilton Drive and mainly the residential component and supporting amenities specific to the residents) 

A view from one of the project’s upper floors shows active spaces of every variety working to create a very dynamic whole. According to the architects, this configuration could be added to if needed.

To tie this concept together into something tangible, the design incorporates the cube as a modular system that can be added and subtracted, adapting the density to the city’s needs as it evolves. Harmonizing a modern design aesthetic with the local design heritage, the orthogonal cubes are softened by lush vegetation, shaded and passively cooled via vertical louvers, and makes extensive use of playful terraces and elevated views. 

The W-Hub… 

Adache Group Architects’ city within a city.

Over the years, Wilton Manors has become a diverse part of greater Fort Lauderdale. Known for its sizable LGBT Community, it has become a destination recognized throughout the country, attracting both tourists and locals, to its esteemed entertainment scene. Wilton Drive, in particular, has become the de facto “Main Street” of Wilton Manors, offering a unique blend of entertainment, arts, shops, dining and living.

Located at the corner of Wilton Drive and NE 21st Court, “W-Hub” takes inspiration from what the city has become as well as its potential. Offering a mix of retail/dining, hotel, residential, public parking, public greenspace as well as its very own multi-purpose museum space, W-Hub takes bits of what Wilton Manors does best and plants them strategically on one site: a city within a city.

Rather than building a typical box with its interior program looking out, the idea was to flip that typology and have multiple, unique masses celebrating the space within. Removing the core piece of the cube allows for a central courtyard that is open to the sky via a multi-level atrium space. Separations of the masses in the X, Y & Z directions gives the impression of floating boxes, which work for providing layers of habitable space as well as maximal air flow through the site. The vertical shifts provide height and room for numerous rooftop gardens and public amenities, while the horizontal shifts provide gaps on the ground level to allow for easy circulation to and through the site, for foot traffic and potentially for food trucks at social events.

Along with the separations, each block architecturally represents a new function; an all glass box for the museum, wood screening elements for the hotel component, or angled balconies of the residential portion. Each program is clearly identifiable, yet integrated seamlessly through the use of landscape and connecting “social” stairs.

A view of the entire, multi-story project from Wilton Drive, showing museum located in a vitrine-like glass-sheathed box.

W-Hub becomes an extension to Wilton Manors’ recreational centers and parks. Having Hagen Park adjacent to the site, W-Hub proposes to have an elevated public park atop the garage, overlooking the existing athletics center, as well as having a view towards the east and Fort Lauderdale Beach. This 35,000 square foot plaza and its open landscape offers unlimited 

potential. It could be used by locals as well as hotel guests to walk their pets, for yoga or aerobic exercise or just to enjoy a morning coffee before work.

A 3-dimensional sketch showing location of hotel, residential, museum and amenities within the project.
The proposed project, showing extensive green roof coverage.

The museum is intentionally positioned as a floating box that proudly hovers at the corner of Wilton Drive and NE 21st Court. Inspired by the LGBTQ community that makes up much of Wilton Manors, the Museum primarily functions as the city’s very own Pride Museum. When not in use, this gallery space can be utilized for other indoor events, art shows and performances. On it’s south façade is a 20’x34’ projector screen for playing televised events or movies to the crowd sitting on the public steps. The museum is positioned to become a greater Fort Lauderdale hotspot easily recognized by locals and travelers from out of town. Its sculptural spiral staircase and all-glass façade opens exhibitions to those on the street as well as cars waiting at the intersection. It becomes an architectural beacon of acceptance, not hesitant to stand out from the rest of the masses.