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The community around Broward Center

A point of pride among the team that created the new Huizenga Pavilion on the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale is something you don’t see.

While designing the 15,000-square-foot waterside building — the jewel of a $56-million expansion of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts that includes the Mary N. Porter Riverview Ballroom on the top floor and the New River Bistro on the bottom — project managers extended their vision away from the river. A thick warren of bushes and small trees between the center and Esplanade Park was trimmed and cleared, which allows visitors seated on the New River Bistro's lovely terraces a view not only of the gentle bob and weave of the river, but of the popular nightlife flow of the Himmarshee District. The two have never seemed so close.

"Before, it felt like two distinct places," Broward Center CEO Kelley Shanley said. "It was important to have that connection with what's going on in Himmarshee, to make us feel like one community."

That community continues to evolve around the Broward Center.

Shortly before the Riverview Ballroom had its first performance in July, a dazzling show by the indie-Americana duo Johnnyswim, you would have found three pairs of ticketholders dining nearby at Taps, a chic Himmarshee spot that opened this summer just on the other side of Esplanade Park.

If it's Cap'n Crunch chicken fingers you're after (don’t judge), there’s Bull Market, from the folks who brought us Whiskey Tango in Hollywood. Not much nuance going on there, but we hear its sister spot next door, Chow, does good things with sushi.

For pre- and post-show cocktails, not enough attention is paid to 'Stache, the Prohibition-era themed boite along the railroad tracks under the awning slyly marked "Himmie Health Club." 'Stache prides itself on a staff knowledgeable on how to prepare craft cocktails and a bar stocked with rare bottles, from Don Julio 1942 tequila to Krug Champagnes.

Hard to believe, but the post-college crowd that created the first buzz when Tarpon Bend opened is now nearing 40. The restaurant and bar that brought a new spirit to the ghost town that was Himmarshee 15 years ago continues to be an anchor of laidback maturity, a commodity that seems to be growing in value in the neighborhood.

In fact, these days Himmarshee's vodka-and-Red-Bull reputation is in danger of being sullied by the morning-after pull of pancakes. Thanks to the crowds standing outside the Old Fort Lauderdale Breakfast House, many Himmarshee restaurant-bars are offering Sunday brunch. Who would have thought the original burger-as-art house Rok:Brgr would one day become equally well known for its bacon-infused cinnamon apple pancakes?

Broward Center for Performing Arts

201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-462-0222; browardcenter.org

Parking: 950-space garage across the street. Monday-Friday parking is $7 from 6 a.m.-6 p.m., $12 from 6 p.m.-6 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday. Valet is $20.

Size: Au-Rene Theater has 2,658 seats, Amaturo Theater holds 590.

Insider tips: Marti's New River Bistro is scheduled to open Oct. 5 on the first floor of the new Huizenga Pavilion, serving prix fixe dinners before shows, drinks after. A la carte menu after 8 p.m. every Friday and Saturday, plus Saturday and Sunday brunch.

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