Holocaust Documentation Center – Comments: 2010
December 30, 2010, 1:43 PM
Filed under: CRA Districts, Downtown, HDEC

December 30, 2010

Note:  The comments provided in this post respond to our earlier post on the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center here.


Thank you for that very informative and well-researched article on the Holocaust Museum on Harrison Street. As a museum professional for over 30 years (curator, archivist, director/CEO, member of the American Association of Museums), I find the process of developing this museum highly unreasoned. The figures you mention that the leaders of the museum are asking for are startling, to say the least, for a city the size of Hollywood. I have visited Holocaust museums around the country, and many are housed in modest buildings, and work with modest budgets, yet are able to present the history and documents in educational and satisfactory formats. The subject of the Holocaust must be treated with great respect. Throwing huge amounts of money at an unfinished and inactive “museum” does not create confidence in its future.

In order for a museum to raise money, the management must reach out to those they believe are or will be their public, their supporters. For example, how did the Holocaust affect people of Hollywood, Florida in the 1930s and 1940s?  I assure you that an exhibition on this topic could be prepared by two or three professionals with modest funding.

Next, this museum’s leaders seem to hope to open with a huge bang in an expensive building. I know from experience that it is far better to start small, develop your audience, and use your audience support to raise funds to grow. There are unfortunately quite a number of expensive museum structures around the country that simply fail to bring in an audience, while there are other small, poor museum organizations with visionary leadership to which the public flocks–and the museum then grows.

To your questions I will add another: who is hiring the director/CEO, and who provides oversight for that position? The duties of a museum director are: creating and maintaining a budget; establishing one-, five- and ten-year plans and keeping the organization on schedule for both the plans and the budget. As the Holocaust museum is a non-profit organization, both its budget and the plans should be made available to the public. The business and professional backgrounds of all leaders, the CEO and the board members, should also be made available to the public.

Also, does the city of Hollywood wish to be the major donor to this museum? Do the taxpayers agree? It is generally far more successful if the museum has a base of private donors.

Again, as both a museum professional and a native of Hollywood, I have been wondering for some years what was going on with the Holocaust Museum. Thank you for your very informative article.

Joan Mickelson
aka Joan Mickelson Lukach
author of A Guide to Historic Hollywood

You have misled your readers, hopefully because of a lack of understanding. The Holocaust Documentation and Education Center is not asking for a $1.7 million grant.  It is asking for the CRA to take back the $1.7 million building and own it, and lease it to the Center for $1 a year, as the City and CRA have been doing with several other non-profits for decades.  If the Center fails to fulfill its mission, the CRA gets back a tremendously improved building, instead of the decrepit building it bought and turned over to the Center.

Apparently you prefer the empty stores on Harrison Street–and perhaps would like to see another Pole Dancing establishment like the one we now have next door to the Holocaust Center.  Sara and Laurie, I’m sure you noticed it when you visited the Center–you couldn’t have missed its hot pink striped front and pictures of scantily clad ladies.  If HDEC is foreclosed on by the CRA, you can try to get another similar establishment in its building.  After all, the building was previously a nightclub holding “fetish nights” when HDEC took it over.  It can be one again. Oh–I guess it would be impossible for us to expect you to spend your energies helping the Center raise the $360,000 needed to open instead of expending your energies, as usual, to try to tear it down.   I know you have a long history of seeing the glass half empty, but you can at least be honest with your readers and let them decide for themselves.  Please print this in its entirety, so another voice can be heard.

Mara S. Gulianti

HDEC wants its $1.7 million purchase money mortgage debt to be forgiven and it wants control of 2031 Harrison Street for 99 years at no cost. Whatever you want to call this transaction, it sounds like a freebie to us.

Mrs. Guilianti says the CRA will get title to a building in better shape than it was when the CRA bought it for HDEC. Think about this.

First, the building would be encumbered by a 99-year no-rent lease.

Second, the CRA would be paying the purchase price ($1.2 million) and absorbing loss of HDEC’s interest payments on that amount (over $500,000 as of 10/2010). Add in the CRA’s grants to HDEC for renovations ($550,000) and you’re asking Hollywood taxpayers to invest $2.2 million on this property. And don’t forget the CRA borrowed the original $1.2 million to buy the building and is still making payments on this loan. Does this sound like a good deal for Hollywood taxpayers? We don’t think so.

In addition, there’s the liability issue. We have been told that the police advised HDEC that parking spaces would have to be removed on Harrison Street and HDEC would need armed guards and a metal detection entry system to provide safety if a Holocaust museum is to open there. We recognize there are crazies and hate groups out there, and agree that special security would be necessary. But we question the advisability of CRA ownership of this building in light of the potential liability.

Mrs. Giulianti was mayor when the CRA bought the building and “sold” it to HDEC. If she thought a 99-year no-cost lease would be a better arrangement for the City of Hollywood, that should have been arranged back then. It was her administration that orchestrated the $1.2 million loan with six years of deferred payments. And it was her administration that converted the $500,000 loan to a grant.

Does it really make sense to justify the proposed give-away to HDEC on the basis of Harrison Street’s vacancies and night clubs? And as for pole dancing and “fetish clubs” downtown, it was Mrs. Giulianti’s administration that overruled the Police Chief’s objection to late night hours for the clubs. He knew there would be problems, and he turned out to be right.

Lastly, our article does not mention foreclosure. For one thing, HDEC has $1.5 million in its building fund according to its Executive Vice President. Why not use it to pay off the outstanding debt on 2031 Harrison now. Then HDEC can concentrate all its attention on a serious fund-raising program for its documentation and education projects.

Balance Sheet Editors

As your report indicates, the CRA does seem to have lost its core mission which is to stabilize and improve the infrastructure and public spaces within the CRA.  A CRA should consider financial support for private or independent non-profit ventures only when they can reasonably be demonstrated to be feasible and which clearly further the overall plan.   A CRA should generally be in the business of attracting good private (or independent non-profit) redevelopment, not financing it.  A rule should also be considered which prohibits loans from being converted to grants.

Henry Sniezek

It’s much too late to close the barn door:  The Holocaust Museum is in the wrong place.  While it is an essential institution with an invaluable educational program, it does not enhance the area or the desirability of nearby spaces.  If it occupied independent space, say, the ground floor(s) of The Radius, or a site on Tyler Street, or the for-sale Methodist Church site at Van Buren and Federal, or (some day) the Polk Street Post Office, it would have the same importance and accessibilty but not the same negative effect on the leasability of neighboring properties or on the celebratory spirit to which so much of Downtown Hollywood and its developers aspire.

Further subsidy to the Holocaust Museum, no matter how politically correct such accommodation may be, is just not feasible or fair to the taxpayers in these difficult times.  The Museum’s and its management’s failures in meeting obligations and representations is not a basis for additional support no matter how much we might like to support the Museum’s purpose and intentions.  Even if there were sound basis for further support, we just don’t have the money, and any unsound accommodation is, at the end of the day, PUBLIC MONEY.  We should certainly not be creating further liabilities for the city.  We are already terminally pregnant with litters of ill-conceived subsidies, abatements, and gimmies, each of which is difficult if not impossible to wean from the public trough.  The City should not allow itself to be the Rescuer of Last Resort.

Has anyone ever done a cost/benefit analysis of the CRA over the last 30 years?  Today’s pretty picture (and underlying financial failures) provide no justification for additional investment without a sound plan, and we don’t have one.

James Bullock

What are the “substantial ongoing payments owed the developers of The Radius and Hollywood Station”?

Christian Mulack

Answer to this question:

Radius – $200,000 this year, with four additional years

Radius – $850,000 between now and 2017 based on the value of the residential development

Hollywood Station (PB Capital) – $300,000 this year, with seven additional years

Balance Sheet Editors

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