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!



Historic Preservation
February 26, 2008, 1:16 AM
Filed under: City Staff, Historic Preservation

City Staff Need Training

February 26, 2008

The owners of a 2,000 square-foot single-family home on the SE corner of Tyler Street and 13th Avenue want to demolish the house which dates from 1944.  Their goal is to build instead a two-story 5-bedroom, 3.5 bathroom home with loft, office, and access to a three-car garage from 13th Avenue.  Hollywood’s regulations require a total of seven on-site parking spaces for a dwelling of this magnitude.


Back in 1995-96, the City of Hollywood designated this home a “contributing property” in the Harrison and Tyler Street Historic District. A contributing property is one that adds to the historical integrity or architectural qualities that make the historic district significant.  This 1944 home was found to contribute to the Tyler Street historic district, while a non-contributing property such as a newly built home-loft-office-garage, would not.  If we remove contributing structures, we eventually have no support for a historic district.

Hollywood used to have a historic preservation officer on staff but we have had no one in that position for several years.  This lack is nowhere more evident than in the staff memo dated February 26 on the subject of this property. Contrary to fundamental tenets of historic preservation law concerning contributing structures, the memo, which contained several errors, put forward the notion that the proposed new home would be equally compatible with the area.

Hollywood has taken some progressive steps over the years to preserve our city’s special historic character.  We have designated the historic downtown business district, the Tyler and Harrison Street historic district in Hollywood Lakes, and most recently the Broadwalk historic district on Hollywood Beach.  We need to train our staff to uphold these earlier actions rather than undo them one by one.

The Planning Director wisely decided to pull this demolition request from the Historic Preservation Board’s February agenda.  Before rescheduling it, we urge staff to review the existing Historic Designation Report on this property and provide a solid legal base for its findings and recommendations.

Further, we urge the City Manager and the Planning Director to seek sufficient funding so that at least one member of the planning staff can receive additional historic preservation training. Does it make sense for Hollywood, after spending money, time, and effort over many years on designating several historic districts, to lack sufficient historic preservation competence on its planning staff to protect and enhance these districts?

Update 3/28/08

The City’s Historic Preservation Board voted March 27 to recommend denial of this request for demolition.  That recommendation will now go to the City Commission for a final decision, probably sometime in April or early May. Several members of the Hollywood Historical Society attended the Board’s March 27 meeting and spoke in support of preserving the home as a contributing structure in the Tyler Street Historic District. The Board agreed.


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Sheridan Stationside & Coral Rock House
April 30, 2007, 12:52 PM
Filed under: Development, Historic Preservation

April 30, 2007

Sheridan Stationside Project

The Broward County Planning Council voted 11-4 to recommend approval of  the Sheridan Stationside “transit oriented development,” sending the proposal on to the county commission for its consideration of the project.

On the plus side, the developer announced a voluntary commitment to give the City of Hollywood six acres of oak hammock for a park. This acreage will include the coral rock house in its present location which the developer promised to restore for use as a community center.

On the negative side, Hollywood residents’ testimony about unacceptable levels of traffic was ignored. Just two days before the hearing, a traffic consultant produced a document purporting to show that the traffic would be better on Taft Street as a result of 1,050 new homes plus retail, office and hotel development at the Sheridan Tri-Rail site.  This “improvement” would be achieved by adding two turn lanes and a stop light. All but four of the Planning Council members apparently relied on this document to approve the project.

Some members of the Planning Council wanted to leave for lunch, so the majority voted to cut off public comments before everyone had an opportunity to speak.  They then rushed through their approval, holding virtually no thoughtful discussion on the project.  This meant that several residents were not allowed to speak although they had been sitting in the chambers for two and a half hours waiting for the opportunity.  A low point in the proceeding occurred when Hollywood Commissioner Fran Russo, who is a member of the Planning Council, voted with the majority to prevent several Hollywood residents from speaking.  At least one of those who had been patiently waiting to speak was from her own district.  ignoring residents’ concerns, she then voted to approve the project.

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Hollywood's Coral Rock House
February 1, 2007, 9:36 PM
Filed under: Historic Preservation

February 1, 2007

Coral Rock House…A Rare Example

Christopher Eck, Broward County Historic Preservation Officer, provides official comments on the Coral Rock House and surrounding area within the site of the proposed mixed-use development called Sheridan Stationside.

“Hollywood has been found to have a rare example of an oolitic rock (“coral rock”) residence constructed in a vernacular interpretation of the Mediterranean Revival-style bungalows constructed in Broward County from c. 1920-1935; there are less than a half-dozen examples of coral rock structures from this period still standing in all of Broward County and this particular example is associated with the locally prominent Butler family of Hollywood.

“The structure is of local significance and should qualify for designation as an historic structure within the City of Hollywood or for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  As a former high sand ridge with a hardwood hammock bordering a former fork of the Snake Creek drainage, the project area also has a moderate to high probability of containing archaeological resources that have not previously been surveyed.  Both an archaeological survey and an historical structure assessment should take place prior to development to determine the significance of the archaeological and historical resources contained within the project area.”

In recent weeks — before Mr. Eck’s opinion became available — the developers of the big mixed-use project have spoken informally of a revised development calling for 1000 residential units, including 50 townhouses to be situated in the site’s oak hammock, a 150-room hotel, and 639,000 square feet of office and retail.

But as of this writing, none of these changes have been formalized and the original proposal stands as the official one:  1600 residential units including 99 3-story townhouses where the majestic live-oak hammock miraculously still stands, 300,000 square feet of office and retail, and a 150-room hotel. Neither the city staff’s nor the developer’s presentations to the City Commission made any mention of the coral rock house.  Now, it cannot be ignored.

Still unresolved is the fate of the majestic old oaks — an historic treasure in their own right.  Their demise remains hidden in the city staff report on the proposed development which states in part that an unspecified number of trees “may need to be mitigated.”  Mitigation in this context means the developer will be allowed to destroy them and plant new ones either on this site or elsewhere.

The towering majesty of these oak trees cannot be over-emphasized.  The typical tree canopy in Hollywood. and for that matter all of Broward, is just puny by comparison, especially since Hurricane Wilma.  Interestingly, this majestic native oak canopy “was mostly unscathed” by Wilma, according to the city staff report.

The next stop in the approval process for the proposed development will be the Broward County Planning Council’s review.  The Planning Council’s public hearing on the Sheridan Stationside Village development is scheduled to occur in March.

What needs to happen now is for the City of Hollywood, the Hollywood Historical Society, and the developer to carry out all of the recommendations of the Broward County Historic Preservation Officer.

In addition, we urge the developer to scale down, significantly and officially, its proposed development.

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Coral House and Towering Oaks: 2006
August 25, 2006, 12:00 AM
Filed under: Development, Historic Preservation

August 25, 2006

Question:  Where can you find an old house built of coral, surrounded by hundreds of ancient, towering oak trees?

Answer:  In Hollywood!

But the City Commission has just approved changing the land use for this property to allow a huge 1600-residential unit, office, hotel, and retail development that could include as many as 99 three-story townhomes where the grand live-oak hammock miraculously still stands right in the middle of Hollywood. And tucked away in its midst is the coral house.

The developer’s and city staff’s many presentations on this massive development project have never, to our knowledge, included mention of the coral house.  What is planned for it, and how can it be saved? Why have developers and staff failed to even mention it?

As for the spectacular oaks, city staff say they are working with the developer “to adjust the site layout” in order to preserve “some clusters of these trees.” But the demise of old oaks lies hidden in the staff report’s language: an unspecified number of trees “may need to be mitigated.”  Mitigation in this context means the developer will be allowed to destroy them and plant new ones either on this site or elsewhere.

The towering majesty of these oak trees cannot be over-emphasized.  The typical tree canopy in Hollywood. and for that matter all of Broward, is just puny by comparison, especially since Hurricane Wilma.  Interestingly, this majestic native oak canopy “was mostly unscathed” by Wilma, according to the staff report on the proposed project.

The huge new development, now called “Sheridan Stationside Village,” is to be a “transit-oriented development” (T.O.D.), packed into the area around the Sheridan Street Tri-Rail Station, from Sheridan to Taft, between I-95 and the railroad tracks.

The developers have secured a 99-year lease from the State Department of Transportation for the land around the Sheridan Tri-Rail Station.  In addition, they have purchased the trailer parks nestled beneath the towering live-oaks, and are in the process of relocating (i.e., evicting) all of the residents to make way for the new “village.”

In September, the Hollywood City Commission approved the T.O.D., despite repeated opposition from residents of the nearby neighborhoods. This opposition was based primarily on (a) incompatibility of the proposed 15-story high-rise buildings with the low-rise, traditional Hollywood residential neighborhoods in the area, (b) too many people in too small a space with limited access and egress, (c) destruction of the oak hammock, (d) school overcrowding, and (e) the traffic nightmare such a huge project would visit on the surrounding residential streets as well as on Sheridan Street and the I-95 ramps.

At a community meeting on October 7, the developers presented their project once again to the 25 or so residents who took the time to attend.  During the question period, residents expressed traffic, building height, and quality of life concerns.  With respect to traffic, the developers said they had hired a local traffic consultant, Calvin-Giordano, to make recommendations.  What no one said was that Calvin-Giordano is also the city’s consultant on this project, a fact that leaves us with no independent review when it comes to traffic.

The city planning director also spoke at the October 7 meeting. He said he believed that 15 stories was too high, and that 8-10 stories would be more appropriate.  There was also talk of creating more office space and fewer residential units. But this talk of down-sizing was easy and no commitment was made to accomplish it.  What we have as of now is the Hollywood City Commission’s approval of 15-story buildings, along with others of lesser height, for a total of 1600 residential units, plus office, retail, and hotel, for the proposed “village.”

City planning staff routinely tell opponents of development projects, as they did in this case, that “this approval” is only “preliminary,” and details are yet to be worked out over time.  Anyone who observes closely Hollywood’s development approval process has learned by now that each preliminary approval locks the city into final approval, and soon it will be too late to make the project smaller because the developer will have invested so much in securing the preliminary approvals for the larger one.  How many times have we heard city commissioners say that they feel bound to grant final approval to a project because of what has been approved already?

The next stop in the approval process for the proposed “village” will be the Broward County Planning Council’s review.  The Planning Council’s public hearing on the Sheridan Stationside Village is expected to be scheduled some time in the first part of 2007, date and time not yet set.

Postscript. A word must be said about the city planning director’s performance at the Oct. 7 community meeting.  He gave up a Saturday morning to attend this meeting, for which residents can only thank him.  But when he stood up to speak to the group, he lost the good will that might have been his. Instead of presenting his subject in a positive, professional way, he lit right out against the president of the North Central Hollywood Civic Association who had spoken against the size and scope of the project.  “It would take me longer than we have been here this morning to turn what Pete Brewer has said into the truth,” was how Mr. Epstein began his own remarks.  The audience booed at this nasty dig from a city department head. This would not be worth a mention if it were an isolated occurrence, but too often the planning director has disrespected Hollywood residents in public meetings. Fortunately, this gratuitous, momentary nastiness was the only negative occurrence in what was otherwise a well-run meeting on a controversial subject.  
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Great Southern Hotel
September 28, 2005, 12:53 AM
Filed under: Historic Preservation

September 28, 2005

Replacing the historic Great Southern Hotel with a condo tower turns out to have more negative consequences than just the opposition of thousands of Hollywood residents which the mayor and commissioners have routinely dismissed, with only Commissioners Furr and Oliveri responding positively to the public outcry.

We now have historic preservation staff weighing in from three levels of government (national, state and county) raising a specter of serious consequences from the “drastic change” to the Great Southern Hotel that would be caused by the 19-story condo/garage building planned to replace it.

The Acting Chief of the Historic Preservation Grants Division of the National Park Service wrote to the Mayor in July expressing his belief that issuing the demolition permit for the Great Southern Hotel could cause our historic business district to be removed from the National Register of Historic Places.

Then in August came a letter from Chris Eck, Broward County Historic Preservation Officer, directed to the State Historic Preservation Officer, requesting an opinion on the Great Southern development project. Mr. Eck wrote in part as follows:

“Recently, I have had discussions with members of my board and have received hundreds of telephone and email messages from both residents and non-residents of Hollywood concerned about the negative effect that the proposed 19-story condominium building may have on the historic hotel and the district.”

In response to Mr. Eck’s request, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Barbara Mattick wrote in part as follows:

“The redevelopment of the Great Southern Hotel, as proposed, would entail the demolition of nearly all of the building, and the subsequent construction of a 19-story garage/condominium within the remaining shell of the historic building.  We concur with Mr. Hampton Tucker, Acting Chief, Historic Preservation Grants Division of the National Park Service, that such a drastic change to the Great Southern Hotel will totally change the character of the building and would result in the loss of its designation as a contributing resource in the district; i.e., it would lose its National Register status and all benefits attached to that designation.”

“Furthermore, the construction of a 19-story building would be a severe departure from the scale and massing of the rest of the HBHBD [Hollywood Boulevard Historic Business District] and would insert a major non-contributing element between Young Circle and the downtown commercial corridor of the district.  The intrusion of a building that is so out of character with the rest of the district could jeopardize the district as it currently is configured.  At the very least, it would call for the re-evaluation of the district’s boundaries for continued listing in the National Register of Historic Places.”

So now here we are, with federal, state, and county historic preservation staff concurring that Hollywood is on the brink of destroying the very heart of our historic downtown and that if the city should carry through with this plan, there are consequences to pay.

How did we get to this low point?  The answer lies in large part because we have amateurs in action.  The mayor and commissioners are playing the part of developers as they approve one mixed use condo tower after another, without adequate knowledge of the consequences.   The fact is that our elected officials are not developers and we did not elect them to get carried away as they have in pursuit of destructive development.

In this case, some Hollywood Historical Society (HHS) board members tried their hand at playing developer too. Back in 2004, a handful of HHS board members (most of its executive committee at the time) approved an agreement with the developer in which the HHS would receive a “facade easement” and some $200,000 for an archives building.  In return, these executive officers committed HHS to support the 19-story condo/garage development to be fronted by two facades of the old hotel and a partial third one.

When the rest of the HHS board learned the details of this agreement months later, disagreement erupted with the outcome that those executive committee members who agreed to support the development are no longer members of the HHS board.  While the former board members may have felt their actions were in the best interest of historic preservation, that turns out not to be the case as the reaction of professional historic preservation officers at the county, state, and federal levels reveals.

How to unravel the damage that has been done:  this is a question in need of serious attention.  Whatever it takes, we should preserve the Great Southern Hotel in its entirety and stop this ill-conceived condo/garage tower now, as Beth Dunlop, architecture critic for the Herald, urged us to do over a year ago.

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