Coming soon: This isn't your dad's Old Pompano Beach

Organizers of the monthly Art Hall exhibition in Pompano Beach will throw open their doors Wednesday night to let the creativity pour onto Northeast First Street in a literal and figurative embrace of a piece of downtown that may soon be an energetic nightlife destination.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m., Art Hall and the irreverent scrawlers of Dr. Sketchy’s South Florida (which invites all comers to pull out a pad and make art together on-site) will meet in the closed-off street between Flagler and Northeast First avenues for a free party that includes food trucks, refreshments and the band Weedline. One of the highlights will be a sneak peek at the Hotel Bailey Art Center (51 NE First St.), where Dr. Sketchy’s will host model Miss Jenna Beth Smith from Cupcake Burlesque (pictured) for your sketching pleasure.

“It’s a teaser, something to whet your appetite, a way of saying let’s all get excited. This is huge,” says Sharon McCormick, speaking for the Pompano Beach Community Redevelopment Agency.

After a $1.2 million renovation, the Bailey, filled with pigeons when the city purchased it in 2012, is nearly ready to take its place as a crucible of artistic energy in the city. McCormick says the Bailey, which will offer gallery space and 12-15 studios for working local artists, is just one piece in the city’s bid to rebrand the Old Pompano section near Atlantic Avenue, MLK Boulevard and Dixie Highway.

It joins a new performing arts space at the Ali Building, a few blocks away on MLK Boulevard. The Ali was once a rooming house that welcomed stars such as Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway when segregation prevented them from staying at the Hotel Bailey, McCormick says. “It’s literally on the other side of the tracks,” she says.

“The whole concept for a creative arts district started about 18 months ago,” McCormick says. “We were creating something new, but there is so much history, we wanted to brand the district around what was authentically there.”

This week, the city learned of another piece:  A new restaurant across the street from the Bailey by the owners of Delray Beach’s popular 32 East. Nearby, a new location of Fort Lauderdale's iconic Betty's Soul Food is expected to open in early 2014 at 731 Hammondville Road.

Says 32 East executive chef Wayne Alcaide: “We are excited to have the chance to be a part of the new things going on in Old Pompano Beach, it reminds us a lot of Delray when we opened in 1996. We can't wait to open the restaurant so that we can help bring new life back to a great old part of town.”

Info: 954-586-1111, PompanoBeachFL.gov, Facebook.com/DrSketchySouthFlorida

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