BALANCE SHEET BLOG – HOLLYWOOD, FL


ArtsPark Village Give-Away: March 2008
March 29, 2008, 8:22 PM
Filed under: City Commission, CRA Districts, Development, Downtown, Young Circle

March 29, 2008

Giving Away $25 million to cover loss of $3.5 million

Eyes are on the new City Commission as it comes to grips with its first big development project. Will it act like the old commission — approving another big high-rise with millions of tax dollars pledged as developer incentives?  Or will the new Commission remember that the overwhelming majority of voters do not want extravagant giveaways to private interests and do not like high-rise development?

Another Big High-Rise and a Huge Financial Incentive

The developer WSG has planned a mixed use residential tower at least ten stories higher than the Radius, along with a separate office building, two garages, and land for a new charter school — all of this to be sandwiched around the existing Home Building on the southeast side of Young Circle.  The project, called ArtsPark Village, is being pushed by both the Downtown CRA and the charter school located in the Home Building.

It is important to understand that this city is committed to the charter school and that if the WSG project is deferred or derailed, this will not be a vote against the school.  Please read further.

From a financial standpoint and from a planning perspective, this project may be the worst deal for Hollywood that we have seen in recent years.

  • The CRA has promised to give WSG an estimated $25-26 million – an unprecedented 90% of the new tax revenue the project generates every year until 2025.
  • 30% is designated as reimbursement for land worth approximately $8 million that the developer is to donate to the school.
  • 60% – approximately $18 million – is incentive for the rest of the deal including a reward to WSG for assuming $3.5 million in CRA
    • The result is that almost none of the tax dollars this project generates will be available to pay for the city services the development will require, much less improve the city’s tax base, until after 2025.
    • The residential component is to be 437 units of rental housing (because there is no financing available now for condos).
    • Like the the Radius and Hollywood Station — the two new, big, mostly empty residential buildings downtown — WSG’s development is designed to be built close to the sidewalk, with very little landscaping.

Charter School Site

There is no money in this deal to build the school.  The only provision is for land.  While virtually everyone supports providing land for a new charter school building, many do not believe the WSG development site is large enough to accommodate a decent school building and playground, with easy access for parents to drop off and pick up their kids.

If the city commission wants to invest $8 million in a charter school, it should begin by donating a nearby piece of land the city owns instead of paying WSG to take land off the tax rolls for the school.  This would be a cost effective way to provide adequate land.

In addition, removing the school from the WSG development site should allow the developer to decrease the height, improve parking, and provide much needed green space around the project.

Developer Demands and Pressure on City Commission

The latest twist is that the developer claims he is entitled to 90% of the increased tax revenue whether or not he provides land for the school. He has said that the 90% incentive is non-negotiable, despite the fact that his contract with the city ties 30% to donation of land for the school.  He has also said he will lose his financing commitment unless the city approves the deal now.

Pressure is on the commission to approve the deal, with its towering rental housing structure and its $25-$26 million developer incentive.

Those who succumb to this pressure will say exactly what the old commission used to say when they approved big financial grants to developers: “This is only the first reading and there is time to make changes before the second reading.”  But this is an empty promise because changes between first and second reading are rarely allowed and when done are rarely, if ever, significant.  Or they will say “This project will be a turning point for downtown.”  Just what the old commission said over and over again as they doled out public tax dollars by the millions to private interests, while no corner was ever turned.

Approval at first reading will signal business as usual in Hollywood.  Discussion (with no approval) and deferral until significant modifications are fully negotiated will demonstrate that the new City Commission recognizes a new day in Hollywood.  School supporters must understand that the city is committed to the charter school and deferral of WSG is not a vote against the school.

What We Can Do

E-Mail

It is essential that Hollywood residents who oppose huge financial giveaways to developers make their views known.  Will a majority of the new commission vote for extravagant developer incentives just as the old commission did?  The elected officials must hear from YOU now.  Write the Mayor and Commissioners to ask that any decision on the WSG project be deferred until the deal is restructured to put the public interest before developer enrichment.  You can also call the mayor and your commissioner at 954-921-3321. If you can’t get through, leave a message asking them to defer the WSG project (Artspark Village).

Come to City Commission

Join us at City Hall on Wednesday, April 2, at 5 PM to demonstrate your support for a deferral.

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