Young Circle HodgePodge
May 29, 2008, 8:11 PM
Filed under: Development, Young Circle

May 29, 2008

Young Circle Towers

Ridicule masked foolishness, or perhaps complicity, at a recent city commission meeting. The subject was whether to call a time-out for development around Young Circle and downtown until new zoning, ordered last summer, could be finalized. Expected completion date for new zoning: March 2009.

“Only an idiot would call for a moratorium during this recession.
Nothing will get built anyway.“

That was the mantra of the day and it prevailed as the city commission roundly defeated the call for a temporary hiatus to downtown development until the new zoning could be created. Ignored was the rather obvious fact that a brief moratorium now would have no effect on redevelopment (because nothing will get built anyway) except ultimately to improve the appearance of the buildings that will be surrounding the ArtsPark.

While projects will not be springing up in this economy, why should this fact give the city license to facilitate mediocre and piecemeal development, especially after they have paid good money to avoid this result? Developers don’t want to limit massing or height or density so their goal is to get city approvals now, before the new regulations are enacted. Also they want their financial incentives locked in, even if a project doesn’t get built for years.

So, let’s hope you like the new look the city commission seeks around the ArtsPark. The most recent project on its way to final approval is called Hollywood Circle.  It exceeds the 150 foot height limit by 11 stories (266 feet), making it almost twice the height of the Radius. It also sports a blank wall on one of its tower facades to accommodate the elevator shaft.

We’re told that city staff requested and received additional scoring/architectural detailing on the subject wall but the city’s planning and zoning board voted unanimously to recommend approval of the rezoning and development plan just as it is shown here.

Then, there’s Young Circle Commons which is supposed to preserve the façade of the historic Great Southern Hotel, towering above it at 19 stories. And ArtsPark Village weighs in at 22 stories. Both of these mixed-use projects have been approved with hefty incentives from the CRA, the Commons back in 2004 and ArtsPark Village earlier this year. No ground has been broken yet on either project.

The developer of the Commons tower is currently in the bankruptcy court seeking reorganization, while the city is in the process of taking by eminent domain the adjoining property owned by the Mach family so the Commons project can be bigger. This seizing of private property for the benefit of a private developer was subsequently outlawed by the Florida legislature but Hollywood’s taking, perhaps the most controversial act of our city commission in recent memory, occurred before the state law took effect.

Hollywood Circle, the only one of the four not yet approved, would include over 400 units of upscale housing, a new Publix market, office space, and a garage structure for almost 1,000 vehicles facing the Hollywood Lakes residential neighborhood. The city has already waived the requirement for 25 feet of landscaping, so don’t expect much greenery aside from stick trees. As currently designed, Hollywood Circle’s height is 266 feet, just about double the height of the Radius condos.

It appears the City Commission has decided to continue settling for mediocre “piecemeal development” around the ArtsPark, despite the fact the CRA is spending our tax dollars for new design and zoning regulations that can always be shelved if not implemented.

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