Governing by Waiver UPDATE
April 30, 2013, 3:53 PM
Filed under: Development

We have just learned that Stiles has asked that the waiver request be deferred from Wednesday’s City Commission agenda. Meanwhile, everyone should understand that this project is still moving forward.  It has been approved.   The ground breaking event is set for Thursday, May 2, at noon.

We hope that removing the waiver request from this week’s City Commission agenda will allow the City and Stiles to come to agreement on a way to uphold the ordinance and move the project forward.

Governing by Waiver
April 29, 2013, 1:09 PM
Filed under: Development

Up until the recession in 2008 Hollywood was widely known as the city that “governed by variance.”  Whatever a developer wanted, the developer got, mostly because Hollywood’s leaders seemed to feel that our city was somehow substandard and no developer would want to build here unless the City Commission “gave away the store.” Huge tax incentives were promised, minimum lot sizes and setbacks reduced, and other variances granted to the point where lavish developer handouts came to be expected by developers and protesting residents alike. Most of these giveaways came to a halt at least temporarily with the economic downturn, with the notable exception of the large Margaritaville incentives.

But now, development in Hollywood is picking up again.  The question this week is whether the City Commission will grant Stiles Corporation,  a large “invest-build-manage” company, the waiver it seeks from Hollywood’s Green Building Ordinance. This ordinance requires compliance with minimal environmental standards: only the most basic LEED or other recognized environmental certification programs.

Stiles is building West Lake Commons, a shopping center to be located on Sheridan Street just east of Federal Highway.  The anchor tenant will be Publix.  We’ve been told other tenants will include Pollo Tropical and Starbucks along with as many as 13 additional stores. In the site rendering below, Federal highway runs along the right side, with Sheridan Street perpendicular to it  at the bottom.

Will West Lake Commons be just another strip mall behind a sea of cars?  Or will it be an environmentally certified shopping destination that brings a measure of forward thinking and quality to our city?

West Lake Commons

Stiles Corporation is the first developer to seek a waiver under Hollywood’s 2011 ordinance (but we’re told Walmart at State Road 7  is next in line and what we say here applies equally to Walmart).  Stiles claims compliance with Hollywood’s green building requirements would be (1) cost prohibitive and (2) unmanageable because the project has multiple tenants.   We can’t see how the first of these justifications can’t be taken seriously. Lest anyone think Stiles a small mom-and-pop developer barely making ends meet, the logos of some Stiles clients proudly displayed on its website make clear that Stiles is comfortably positioned in the heavy-weight category.

Stiles Clients

The question of complications caused by multiple tenants has validity but should not be cause for an unconditional waiver.  Stiles’s concern seems to be that build-out of the out-parcel stores may not be under its control and could delay certification for months after the anchor store opens its doors. We don’t see a problem with certification delayed until the entire project is complete.  Stiles is delivering “vanilla box” and “raw shell” spaces in which the different tenants will build out their stores. Stiles can build these bare-bones structures to LEED specifications.  And by lease (or sales contract if applicable), Stiles can require green building standards of all the smaller stores.  Stiles also expresses concern that the ordinance will complicate its negotiations with potential tenants.  This is a poor excuse to trot out in the second decade of the 21st century.

Shopping center development with multiple tenants has achieved LEED certification in many other jurisdictions for many years.  From Savannah’s Abercorn Common which was the first LEED certified shopping center in the U.S. back in 2006 to the current Brooklyn Navy Yard‘s 74,000 square foot supermarket complex in the six-acre Admiral’s Row site, developers all over the country have managed to achieve Silver and even Platinum LEED certification for multi-tenanted shopping centers. Hollywood should follow the lead of these other cities and so should Stiles.

So long as City officials fail to hold development to high standards, mediocrity will continue to be Hollywood’s legacy.  It is very important that the City Commission uphold the City’s Green Building Ordinance. At its meeting last week, Hollywood’s Green Team unanimously adopted a motion opposing the granting of this waiver but the final decision will be made by the City Commission at its meeting on Wednesday, May 1.

The Green Team’s statement, after hearing Stiles make its case at a meeting last week, is clear: “The Green Team Advisory Committee vehemently opposes the waiver to circumvent the LEED certification for the West Lake Commons project. LEED certification will ensure a better, more environmentally friendly outcome that will be better for the city and its residents. The Green Team worked very hard to ensure that the green building ordinance would be mandatory and any variance would establish an unfortunate and dangerous precedent.”

If you agree with the Green Team, as we do, ask the City Commission to uphold Hollywood’s Green Building Ordinance by not granting a waiver for West Lake Commons. In addition, try to attend the City Commission meeting on May Day and speak your environmental concerns directly to the Commission.

April 1, 2013, 2:12 PM
Filed under: Beach, Budget, City Commission, CRA Districts, Development

Margaritaville will request an extension at a Special Joint Meeting of the City Commission and the CRA on Wednesday, April 3, at 5 PM, at City Hall.  The announcement of this event, made today from the City Manager’s Office,  is posted below.  According to the City Clerk, “the agenda and backup are not completed at this time.  When completed, the information will be posted on the [City] website.”

City’s Announcement:

“As you know, the City of Hollywood and the Hollywood CRA have been working with Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort LLC for the redevelopment of the Johnson Street property on Hollywood Beach after a two-stage competitive Request for Proposal process.  A Development Agreement and Ground Lease was executed in February 2011 followed by a First Amendment in April 2012 which revised the timelines for development.  Later, in September 2012, additional amendments revised the funding sources for the project including the diminished role of EB-5 financing, the introduction of a $23 million Compensated Funding Agreement with the CRA, and the anticipated role of Starwood Capital as an equity partner in Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort LLC.  Third Party reimbursements (allowing the City and CRA to contract with advisors at the expense of the developer) and rental income to the City were increased as a result of the updated funding sources.  Because the project had encountered unanticipated delays, an April 10, 2013 “outside possession date” was also established.  Several important milestones would have to be satisfied by that date thereby allowing the property to be transferred to the developer for the commencement of construction.  Although City and CRA staff have been vigilant in reminding the developer of the upcoming deadline and the developer has made significant progress, Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort LLC has asked to appear before the City Commission/CRA Board to provide an update on the project and to request one last extension. Representatives from Margaritaville, Lojeta, and Starwood Capital will be in attendance. 


Hollywood Playhouse
October 14, 2012, 4:28 PM
Filed under: Development, Historic Preservation, Neighborhoods, Residents

“…a growing body of research suggests that the arts can be a valuable engine of civic renewal….The arts can nurture social capital by strengthening friendships, helping communities to understand and celebrate their heritage, and providing a safe way to discuss and solve difficult social problems.”  Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement in America. John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

The Hollywood Playhouse, a successful community theater for 50 years, fell victim to poor planning and developer greed a decade ago. The property is in foreclosure with bank and  City engaged in litigation over its future.  The City Attorney is recommending a settlement that would allow the bank to sell the property to a private party, with the stipulation that the City be allowed to use it for public purposes at least four times a year.  This would be a sad end to our community theater. At 5 PM on Wed., Oct. 17, the City Commission is scheduled to vote on this proposal.

A Better Alternative

Hollywood Resident Rene Barrett is a strong advocate for saving the Hollywood Playhouse.  She says “It takes a village!” to save our community theater.  To launch such a project would take more than talk, more than deploring mistakes from the past.  We residents would have to donate our time, our skills, and our money to make it happen.

Can we do it?  Read Rene’s article posted below.  It is followed by a few thoughts of ours to help you answer this question.

Hollywood Playhouse – by Rene Barrett

The Hollywood Playhouse is very special.  We can’t lose it.   I think it  has the potential to prove to be the best resource this city could ever have.

HP was self-sustaining and successful for 50 years.  In its heyday we had busloads of people coming from condos in the tri-county to this easily accessible facility.  The history of success is immense.  It included recognition by the Kennedy Administration in the early 1960’s.

We need people who are willing to roll up their sleeves.  What makes community theatre successful are the associations that can be made with the community by providing opportunity for a diversity of uses, such as for universities, community education programs, children’s theatre, community arts programs; creating a teaching venue for dance, music, voice, stage craft, etc., etc. Look at the successful Inside Out Theatre in Weston. The Ft. Lauderdale Children’s Theatre has been in business for 60 years.

There are so many ways to utilize this renovated building that has office space, kitchens, a large rehearsal hall, dressing rooms and several large rooms for multiple purposes.  As a 501C 3, just as one example, we can apply for grants from United Way to give music and dance lessons to Hollywood children. Hollywood Playhouse could provide a venue for touring plays as well as mounting its own productions.  Parks & Recreation and the Art & Cultural Center could utilize this facility.  An established production company might like this for their home.

A question has been raised that the demographics have changed in Hollywood, and indeed they have.  They have improved.  Hollywood now boasts a diverse cultural population that would provide a mission for this theatre to create a venue where various groups can have their artistic cultural events.

There are many ways that you can help. The first is to sign the petition at:

Come to the next City Commission meeting on Wednesday, October 17th at 5:00 pm. If you are willing, please step forward and speak from your heart. If you belong to a neighborhood organization or to an art or theater organization, think about what value this little Theatre facility could have for your organization and let the Hollywood City Commission know.

If the City Commission agrees to demonstrate the leadership needed to secure the Hollywood Playhouse, we will need to begin to raise funds to restore the facility. Donate; help to run the fundraising drive; write a grant; help us to organize. We will need to paint, refurbish and restore the theater. Theaters need carpenters, electricians, etc. Would you volunteer to make this happen? What are you good at? We need very active community support. 

If we don’t try, this mini-Shubert Theatre will be lost forever. We can only do.

Editors’ Thoughts

Will Hollywood residents pull together to take the lead in creating a public-private partnership to purchase the property from the bank? We can do this if we choose.

Will we raise significant dollars? (If 3,000 Hollywood residents would contribute $10.00 per month for a year, we would have $360,000 to put to the cause.)

Are you willing to donate your time, skills and $10.00 a month to reclaim Hollywood’s community theater?

Bottom Line:  If we want to save the Hollywood Playhouse, it’s up to us to do the job.  It’s not governments that save community theaters. It’s communities!



Economic Development
March 8, 2012, 2:37 PM
Filed under: City Staff, Development

March 8, 2012.  Hollywood has quietly rolled out an eye-popping economic development policy – one that has solid intellectual underpinnings and a promising track record in other locations. This is the first time, to the best of our knowledge, that our City has formulated an economic development strategy that focuses not only on improving the City’s economic base but also on raising the earning power of Hollywood residents.

The new approach is based on the concept of the “industry cluster” – that is, a geographical concentration of companies that are interconnected by the markets they serve and the products they produce. Silicon Valley with its thousands of high-tech companies is the most obvious example. The big question for us is this: Does Hollywood have the necessary assets to create an environment in which industry clusters will grow and prosper?

To answer that question, we start with what we already have.  Take for example, our city’s coastal location between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach: three shipping ports, three airports, ready access to the Florida Turnpike and I-95.  Listen to Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, our city’s economic development guru, applying this approach to Hollywood. She says we must understand and capitalize on what’s already here – the “high-growth, high quality industries that are located in Hollywood (such as Life Sciences, Marine Industries, Aviation/Avionics, Logistics/Transportation, and Tourism) and the cross-clustering of these important industries.”  She adds that these are unique assets on which to build our development strategy.  Groups of closely related and complementary industries operating in Hollywood would reinforce each other. In addition, they would result in more and better jobs for our residents, the great majority of whom now work outside Hollywood.

She goes on to name the Joe Di Maggio Children’s Hospital, Nova Southeastern University’s National Coral Reef Institute, and Barry University’s College of Health Sciences Campus in downtown Hollywood as thriving Hollywood industries that have remained stable and strong during the recent recession and are projected to grow in the future.

Meanwhile, in furtherance of the new economic development policy, city staffer Anthony Grisby has been studying Hollywood demographics, documenting such troubling statistics as an unemployment rate higher and median income lower than nationally.  He’s also documented that health sciences, for example, can provide many entry-level jobs for high school graduates as well as job training and advancement opportunities that can help to increase Hollywood’s dwindling middle class. He demonstrates that a focus on business recruitment in health sciences would build on the resources we already have and  provide more employment opportunities for Hollywood residents.

To support this new approach, the City has combined its economic and community development functions in a new Department of Community and Economic Development.  Since the Director of the former Community Development Department resigned last year, the position has remained vacant. A search is now underway for a director of the new combined department.  Keep your eyes trained in its direction to spot what we hope will be significant, positive changes to community development, economic development, and redevelopment in the City of Hollywood.



Corridor Development
September 18, 2011, 10:07 PM
Filed under: City Commission, Corridors, Development

No one knows more than our Commissioners how desperately Hollywood needs to stabilize and improve its neighborhoods and its corridors. Yet when our elected officials had an opportunity earlier this month to reduce the number of pawn shops on 441, they let us down.

The City Commission, in a 6-1 vote, approved a pawn shop’s request to build a new building on 441 at Duval Street now that the shop’s current location a little further south is being taken by eminent domain for 441 widening.  City staff recommended against approval as did the Planning and Zoning Board.  Both informed the Commission that there are already 12 pawn shops on a six-block stretch of 441 and here was a chance to eliminate one. Approving this pawn shop was the Commission’s first development decision for the “new” 441 corridor.

What was striking about the pawn shop proposal was its full court press led by Hollywood lobbyist Alan Koslow and the champion Broward County lobbyist George Platt.  In  hasty nonspecific disclosures before the public hearing began, every commissioner announced a prior meeting behind closed doors with “the applicant,” but none disclosed whether it was with lobbyist, pawn shop owner, or operator.  Not one member of the public spoke in support of the pawn shop and several spoke against it.

Only Commissioner O’Sheehan took the obvious principled position against the proposal. Commissioner Blattner approved it, seeming to be angling for improvements to a pawn shop on Stirling Road owned by the same company.  Commissioner Russo said the new 441 pawn shop would be a “beautiful building.”  We are quite certain that Commissioner Asseff would never have approved a pawn shop in her district.  Nor is it likely Commissioner Furr would approve one in his district. Both of them have been fighting blight.  But they were willing to put it on 441, as were Commissioner Sherwood and the mayor.

We are left with these questions:

1.  Why do Hollywood’s elected officials think so poorly of our City that a new pawn shop becomes a desired development?

2. What can we do as a City to raise our sights and recognize once and for all that we deserve better and can actually achieve it?