River Reach is a beautiful condominium community in Fort Lauderdale. It hugs the eastside of the South Fork of the New River after the river splits. River reach is just north of the Davie bridge and the Citrus Isles. To to west is I-95. North is the Little Florida Bend. River reach is an actual island surrounded by an 70 foot wide moat. River Reach provides protected dockage along the north and south sides of the moat for residents.
William Godfrey lived in Ft. Lauderdale since 1939. For three decades, he had enjoyed the unique flavor of the city. He witnessed the tremendous population growth, the Spring break crowds, the land booms and busts. So in the late 1960’s, he decided to try his hand at Ft. Lauderdale’s favorite business, real estate. He thought up a unique condominium community, a “private island”, on one of the last undeveloped lands along the New River, a 26 acre plot at 1111 SW 9th Avenue.
Work started in 1970 with Godfrey dredging a moat around the property creating the distinctive island. Caldwell-Scott Engineering & Construction Co. excavated 290,000 yards of dirt to create the encircling 70 foot wide moat. The water is 11 feet in the middle and nine foot at the edges. Then, they had to put in seawalls. To secure the 8,200 running feet along the moat, they decided to build an on site concrete factory. Concrete trucks came in and poured the seawall panels. Normally, Caldwell-Scott would pre-cast and ship in the panels. After 6 months of challenges, they completed the moat and island. The first boat sailed in on December 12, 1970. Dockage was a glorious $3 per foot per year! Wow.
By this time, Caldwell-Scott nearly had completed the first of the six condominiums. William G. Crawford was the architect. Crawford designed each five-story building to hold 111 families for a total of 666 apartments. Apartments came in one, two, and three bedroom variations with 8 floor plans. Prices ranged from $20,500 to $41,800. Buyers put a minimum of 10% down. The first building sold out immediately. Godfrey urged buyers to get in quick! Or you might be left out. The second building sold out three months later in March 27, 1971. Residents started occupying the first building. Most islanders were local residents.
Along with the dockage and apartments, River Reach offered a nine-hole chip-and-putt golf course, three swimming pools, tennis courts, shuffleboard, card rooms, lounge areas, and landscaped gardens. Edward Durrell Stone, Jr. was the landscape architect. He along with exterior designer, Wells M. Squier Associates, and land planner, J.A.W. Davis, Jr. designed the look and feel of the River Reach grounds.
To enter by land, River reach is gated. To enter you must have a resident call the guard. You drive up to the guard gate and tell him/her who you’d like to see and who you are. The guard checks his/her white list and verifies you’re okay. Then, the guard gives you a pink slip with your destination and gives you instructions. You drive over the only ingress to the island, a three pronged bridge.
Once past the gate, you drive between the five story high giant pink condos. The scenery is gorgeous while the river flows around both sides. The groundskeeper cuts the grass nicely and prunes the palms perfectly. Tennis courts are portside as you drive halfway through.
Now, after the gate and drive, you reach your destination. Park in a yellow spot that says “guest.” Well maintained trawlers and classic cruisers like a marvelous Mason 44 line the docks. The docks are only open to residents, and the waiting line is long. A resident has to wait a year or so for an open slot. The yachts rope up parallel to the edges of River Reach. The dock is a wooden slabbed border around the island. The boats tie up to dock cleats to their starboard. River Reach provides power to run a yacht’s A/C and electronics while water to wash her down. Dockside lockers stow gear. The New River flows placidly and sparkles blissfully. Looking north from the northside canal is the Coconut Drive neighborhood and bordering boats. The other bank of the southside canal is Florida wilderness: palms and scraggly oaks.
To leave, head back to your car and out between the pink palaces. Drive past the guardhouse, whose gate automatically opens, and off the island.
Finding by water is easy. Follow the South Fork of the New River. Past the Little Florida Bend and just before the Davie Bridge is River Reach. You’ll see the massive pink palaces rise up. A sign labels this private island.