BALANCE SHEET BLOG – HOLLYWOOD, FL


WSG – Bad Deal
July 2, 2008, 11:58 AM
Filed under: CRA Districts, Development, Young Circle

July 2, 2008

Off The Tolerance Scale?

Back in April, the City Commission initially approved a zoning change that would allow the huge WSG 25-story residential monolith next to the Home Tower on the SE side of Young Circle (4-3 vote). But the deal has yet to come forward for final approval.  Commissioners Asseff, Furr, Blattner, and Sherwood voted for the project. However, the city’s professional planning staff, the adjoining Home Tower residents, and many members of the public did not support it, nor did the Mayor and Commissioners O’Sheehan and Russo.

Final approval of the WSG project has now been scheduled for 5:30 PM on Tuesday, July 15.  In the interim, city officials are continuing to try to restructure what is widely believed to be a very bad deal for the city. It should be noted, however, that the project does have some supporters in addition to the four commissioners, primarily the Downtown CRA Director and parents of the charter school children.

Background

Because Commissioner O’Sheehan and many members of the public raised so many questions at the initial public hearing, the CRA Director asked Architect/Planner Bernard Zyscovich to review the WSG project.  Zyscovich subsequently made a presentation to the City Commission in which he was very clear that from an architectural/planning perspective, the project was far too massive for the available land and it detracted from the beauty of ArtsPark.

What WSG Wants to Build
As Recommended by Downtown CRA and Initially approved by the City Commission (vote 4-3)
WSG’s Project, as initially approved by a majority of the City Commission consists of a 25-story residential tower, an office building and a charter school, along with two garages.  All of this development would surround the Home Tower, and remove existing Home Tower parking without supplying comparable new parking for Home Tower tenants.

Since the prior City Commission had already signed off on a development agreement with WSG, Zyscovich’s ability to recommend significant changes was constrained.  He said that after much negotiation, the charter school had agreed to retain its existing space in the Home Tower, a key concession that would allow for a smaller new school building on the site.  This reduction along with removal of the proposed office building to another site would make it possible to lower the height of the residential tower and change its shape to lessen the project’s massive wall-like character on U.S. 1 and Van Buren Street.   He added that the WSG project modified in these ways still left a crowded project that should not be viewed as a model for future Young Circle development.  He said that WSG even with these changes was at the “high end of his tolerance scale.”

Parties Not In Agreement

The charter school reportedly has accepted these changes.  But to the best of our knowledge, the developer has not, on the ground that changing the project as Zyscovich has recommended makes it financially not feasible.

The question of financial feasibility is mind-boggling.  New incentives are on the table now:  (1) removing the requirement that WSG repay a $3.5 million loan the CRA made to WSG’s predecessor (Gary Posner’s HART development that defaulted), and (2) providing a separate city/CRA-owned site for a WSG office building.  These sweeteners would be in addition to the CRA’s pledge to provide WSG with 90% of the increased tax revenue from the project until 2025.

Major Questions:

IF a such a highly incentivized project in a prime Young Circle location cannot be built in a way that meets even minimal standards of good planning and good architecture, should it be built at all?

HOW can we ratchet up Hollywood’s planning and business decision-making so that redevelopment becomes a source of pride instead of one more occasion to cringe at the huge public give-aways for new downtown buildings that fail architecturally, or repel the viewer, or never get built at all?

Bottom Line Issues:

WSG Project should be set back from U.S. 1 to provide a view corridor to Young Circle instead of a fortress-like wall.

The WSG Project should be surrounded by wide sidewalks.  We should avoid the dark, narrow pedestrian right-of-way the Radius presents on Polk Street — a public sidewalk that is peppered with encroachments that should be located on Radius property (trees, standpipes, electrical boxes, ramps of varying sizes and shapes, etc.).

The wall-like parking garage along Van Buren Street must be changed to provide a pleasant pedestrian-friendly streetscape.

Adequate, comparable parking must be provided for the Home Tower since the WSG development would remove its existing parking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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