McNab House blossoms with plans for botanical garden

The historic McNab House in Pompano Beach is about to get a makeover. The goal is to make the house into a destination place for residents as well as visitors from around South Florida.

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Nguyen Tran, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency director, said he sees a lot of potential for a redeveloped McNab House and grounds. The McNab House, originally owned by an early 20th-century farming pioneer family, was built in 1926. It was moved from its original location on Atlantic Boulevard in March when the owners sold the land.

The Pompano Beach CRA, along with the city’s Historical Society, saved the home, moving it several blocks to McNab Park, 2250 E. Atlantic Blvd. The goals for the historic building have taken on a bigger vision under Tran’s guidance.

“The house has been in the McNab family for three generations,” he said. “The house is a huge part of Pompano’s history. This is the major farming family that helped shape what Pompano is today.”

While Tran acknowledged the value of simply preserving the home, he and the city saw even more potential in terms of gaining value for residents and visitors.

“We at the CRA typically don’t get involved in a project, unless it makes business sense for us,” he said. “It’s always about economic impact and projects that drive the economic growth of the area. When we looked at it, we realized that houses like this are very rare to come across.”

Tran said he realized the value of the house transcends just its historical value.

“The inside of the house is beautiful,” he said. “That sort of craftsmanship doesn’t exist anymore. There’s a quaintness that you can’t capture in new construction. So we decided we wanted to try and convert it.”

One of the first thoughts that came to mind for the CRA was to create a restaurant experience to bring people in to eat and enjoy the surroundings of the craftsmanship of the house. There are examples of doing that in South Florida, such as the Sundy House in Delray Beach.

The botanical garden concept

The idea is to not only draw outside people to the McNab House with the restaurant but also to create a botanical garden as an added attraction to make it a destination. Tran envisions the garden creating opportunities for events, as well as just being a place to experience beautiful flowers and greenery.

“The botanical garden can also be a wedding venue or a corporate retreat,” he said. “We looked all over for examples of what we wanted to do, and the example we came up with was the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. The size of it is the same as in Pompano.”

“When you go to the garden in Miami, you can’t even imagine that you’re in the middle of a bustling downtown community, right across from the convention center,” Tran said. “It’s a lush tropical paradise. It’s all about education, preservation and education. Those are all the components that we want for Pompano.”

He said he thinks this plan is a win-win for the city and its residents.

“We’re reactivating a very passive park and we’re designing it to be used by the public and the taxpayers to actually fund it, rather than just be sitting there and not being used,” he said.

The design plan for the botanical garden and for the redevelopment of the space is now in the hands of Randy Hollingworth, director of landscape architecture, planning and urban design from the firm Bermello, Ajamil and Partners.

“They were selected because they were the architects for the city’s Parks and Recreation master plan,” Tran said. “It was an ideal fit.”

The international architecture firm works with major waterfront parks and botanical gardens spanning hundreds of acres. Tran said even though the McNab garden would only be about 3 acres, he hopes that their expertise can make a smaller park have a bigger impact.

Hollingworth recently had a virtual meeting that was open to the public to talk about potential concepts for the garden based on his experience creating public parks and open spaces.

“There is tremendous potential for the McNab House & Botanical Gardens to become a premier attraction in Broward County,” Hollingworth said in a statement. “I join this project with no preconceived notions, just stunning possibilities. And I look forward to robust public input leading to the creation of an amenity-filled botanical garden.”

According to the Pompano Beach CRA, it offered multiple public meeting opportunities during Phase 1 and is tentatively targeting November for an initial community stakeholder meeting to discuss the design process.

Visit pompanobeachfl.gov/pages/cra.

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©2020 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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