The owners of five acres at the gateway to Fort Lauderdale beach, at A1A and Las Olas Boulevard, are working on plans for a major mixed-use development.

The project would eventually replace most of the T-shirt shops and bars that made the beach a popular spring break destination. Only the Elbo Room bar, which is owned by a different party, would remain on this block.

Aiton “AJ” Yaari said he worked with long-time business partner Lior Avidor to assemble about 5 acres there over several decades. They started selling T-shirts on the block, bought out their landlords, and gradually convinced neighboring property owners to sell.

“We’ve both been on the block for over 30 years now. We started as two young guys working for six bucks an hour in T-shirt shops,” Yaari said. “This is going to be a lifetime project for us that will leave a lifetime legacy.”

Some of the land was acquired without a deed, as Yaari and Avidor took over as managing members of El-Ad FL Beach LLC from previous manager Insite Development Group, with an LLC filing. This gave them control of 2939 Banyan St., to go with most of the property along A1A between Las Olas Boulevard and Poinsettia Street.

Attorney Tom Angelo said he represented the investors in securing a $45-million loan from Miami-based City National Bank of Florida to refinance the properties, which will help them prepare a development. He estimated the site could contain 1.5 million square feet of buildable area.

“It’s the most important beachfront property in Fort Lauderdale,” Angelo said. “It will be an iconic development.”

Yaari said he hired Miami-based architect Kobi Karp, local attorney Courtney Crush and Flint Engineering to work on the project. He doesn’t have all the details yet, but he said the TRD zoning permits a great amount of density and he’s looking to build residential, hotel and commercial space, plus a ride-share drop-off area and public parking. He won’t touch the neighboring Elbo Room, but everything else will likely go.

“We want it to be something not just for tourists, we want it to be something for everyone in the area to come and enjoy,” Yaari said. “It’s all about connectivity, connecting our piece to the park, the marina, the parking garage and the aquatic center. …This is the diamond in the crown of Fort Lauderdale.”

There’s been a development boom in Fort Lauderdale in recent years, especially with more multifamily units and hotels. However, the city has been challenged by struggling infrastructure systems, especially dealing with water service in aging pipes and treatment plants and flooding.