BALANCE SHEET BLOG – HOLLYWOOD, FL


ArtsPark Village: Final Approval
July 21, 2008, 10:08 PM
Filed under: CRA Districts, Development, Young Circle

July 21, 2008

Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Our elected officials all agree that we need to have more people living, working, and playing downtown for Hollywood to thrive.  They have been handing out increasingly large incentives toward this end for more years than we’d like to remember. Yet, Downtown Hollywood has more vacant stores than ever, and many others are barely holding on.

In the last five years, the City Commission has signed agreements with developers for at least six big downtown towers, all with substantial public tax dollar subsidies:

Golfview
Hollywood Station
Radius
SoHo Lofts
Townhouse site
Young Circle Commons

Only two have been built — Radius and Hollywood Station — but neither has brought significant numbers of people downtown.  And the other four?  They haven’t even broken ground.  When these projects were approved, recession was not an issue.

Additionally, the Commissioners were not really satisfied with the design and other features of the Radius and Hollywood Station, yet they approved them anyway in the rush to “bring people to Downtown Hollywood.”

Today, we are looking at yet another project — WSG’s ArtsPark Village — to “bring people to Downtown Hollywood.”  And our commissioners are saying the project must be approved now even though not one commissioner has expressed enthusiasm for it.  Some don’t like the design (e.g., blue glass and metal), others regret the large subsidies, or the extreme density of the site.  Why must it be approved?  Because we can’t wait any longer “to bring people to Downtown Hollywood.”

Despite the dismal record of unbuilt projects, the City Commission — acting as the CRA Board — is poised to approve and subsidize WSG’s 22-story condo tower, office building, garage and charter school project in exactly the same manner and for exactly the same reason as the prior Commission approved the six projects specified above.  In approving WSG, our elected officials will be dishing out more of the same, only worse.

Are We Expecting Different Results From The Same Old Thing?

This time around we have public admission that this project is “challenged.” No one knows whether it can be built at all, despite city subsidies that are exponentially greater than those promised other downtown developers.

Why are we doing the same old thing that has failed over and over again. Hollywood’s downtown redevelopment needs a new vision that the public can embrace and support.  We do not want to keep repeating what is not working.

Money, Money, Money!

Our elected officials are expected to approve sweetened subsidies for WSG by forgiving repayment of a CRA $3.5 million loan.  This $3.5 million is on top of the city’s promise to pay the developer 90% of all the new tax revenue the project generates every year through 2025 (assuming it can be built).  This means that an estimated $25 million in future tax revenues will be diverted to private pockets.

Hollywood’s budget is in crisis mode, though you would never know it from the CRA’s huge public outlay planned for WSG, not to mention the $15 million the Beach CRA recently approved to cover the cost of relocating a new fire station on A1A.

While the CRAs spend with abandon, the rest of the city is faced with a $14 million budget shortfall. Commissioners are considering which services to cut, how much to raise user fees, whether to lay off all the sanitation workers, and whether to raise our taxes. They recently voted to set up a medical clinic in city hall at a cost of $1.6 million with the goal of reducing the city’s health care costs. The city’s liability (unfunded) for health and pension costs has skyrocketed. For health, the city is liable for about $300 million today, an amount that will grow as employees and retirees age. For pensions, the liability is another $300 million more or less.

The city’s master plans for water and sewer call for hundreds of millions of dollars to maintain, update and expand the city’s obsolete — and in places, failing — water and sewer systems. Then there is the state mandate to stop sending our sewage into the ocean which means we will be facing huge capital outlays in coming years. How many injection wells must be dug to handle the approximately 43 million gallons of wastewater we now pump daily into the ocean? Will we build a new plant to treat wastewater to potable standards?

What Do You Think?

Do you think now is the best time to approve this WSG project that will cause us to lose $3.5 million today and some $25 million in future tax revenue?  And by the way, we have spoken with every elected official but one.  None of them really likes the project yet most feel compelled to approve it now because we need “to bring people to Downtown Hollywood” without further delay.

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