Heartbreak Hotel

It's the end of an era on Hollywood Beach, where small, cheap motels are all that stand in the way of another playground for the wealthy

Just to the south of the Ocean Palms, a fenced-in lot belongs to Trump Hollywood, a project with plans for 40 stories and 200 condo units. The fence declares "Hollywood Redefined," and there's truth in that advertising.

"Finally, what we saw the last few years in Sunny Isles and Hallandale Beach — it's creeping north," says Sonia Figueroa, a vice president at Miami-based Related Group, a partner in Trump Hollywood. She doesn't seem to realize that this trend is not universally embraced, that it fills many observers with dread.

The Trump Hollywood advertisements are marketing a city not for what it it is but for what it can be. The sales website, for instance, calls Hollywood a "European-style getaway," which even in the hyperbole common to condo marketers is a stretch. But Figueroa insists her development is living in the present.

Location Info


Hollywood Beach

Johnson Street and Michigan Street
Hollywood, FL 33019

Category: Parks and Outdoors

Region: Hollywood

"It's not that it's going to happen in two years," Figueroa says of the Hollywood renaissance. "It's happening right now. You're seeing it in the cars that are driving around."

Indeed, traffic on Hollywood's south beach is beginning to look like that of Miami's South Beach — at least in the preponderance of luxury cars. But Hollywood's downtown still has plenty of vacant storefronts. And it remains to be seen whether the Trump Hollywood resident — who can afford condos ranging from $2 million to $4 million — will shop and dine near Young Circle or drive the extra ten minutes to Bal Harbor or 20 to Miami Beach.

In the north and central portions of Hollywood Beach, development has been slowed by height restrictions, but recent decisions by the City Commission suggest that in their battle against existing condo owners and small motels, momentum belongs to developers.

The projects now arriving on those portions of Hollywood Beach are not skyscrapers, but what they lack in height, they make up for in space or density.

The Villas of Positano, which will reach just 130 feet at the highest point, occupies a three-and-a-half-acre footprint on the northernmost section of beach, near Ocean Boulevard's intersection with Sheridan Street. That project, which has just 62 residential units, will complete its first phase of construction in a few months.

"We've been sensitive to the community, the neighbors on the beach," says Lon Tabatchnick, the developer. "We have a very good working relationship with them."

But go next door and one hears a different story. "A complete nightmare" is how Scott Rivelli, a partner in the neighboring Ocean Inn, describes the past few years. He credits Tabatchnick for making personal visits and for apologizing when the contractors are pouring cement at 2 a.m. or core-drilling at 5 a.m., but actions speak louder than words. "They live by the attitude that it's easier to say 'I'm sorry' than it is to get permission," Rivelli says.

The construction puts Rivelli's motel squarely in a losing financial equation: "I can't raise [room] rates more than 2 to 3 percent, while costs have gone up by 40 percent and my revenue is down by 20 percent."

Last July, the city inked a development agreement for the Marriott Ocean Villages, a 320- to 350-room luxury hotel in central beach where Johnson Street meets the Broadwalk. The project calls for upscale restaurants and shops — and the expressed hope among city officials is that these will bring more of the same.

A few blocks south, the Hollywood Grande will add more traffic — all 226 units come with a parking space. And its buildings will add another obstacle to the ocean view of existing condo owners.

Some existing residents actually lose their parking spots. At the Villas on the Circle, an aqua-green, single-story condo directly across Fillmore Street from the development, a longtime resident is furious that despite his years of paying property taxes in Hollywood, his condo must forfeit parking places to accommodate the five spots of valet parking, the loading zone, and the taxicab stand awarded to the Hollywood Grande in its development agreement with the city. "They're giving everything to the developer, and we have no place to park," fumes the resident, who refused to give his name for fear the city would punish him.

The Hollywood Grande will also be taking parking spots formerly used by guests at the Sun & Surf as well as two other adjacent motels, the Swan and the Mermaid.

But since the Hollywood Grande's construction seems destined to drive those motels out of business, parking spots are the least of their worries. Eileen Miller, who owns the Swan and the Mermaid, has gone to commission meetings and hounded city officials, with little to show for it. She's livid. "They treat us like dirt. We've been paying property tax for 27 years, and suddenly a developer comes along and we're the garbage they kick to the curb."

In January, Miller and her neighbor at the Sun & Surf, Liz Woods, were both summoned to individual meetings with Gil Martinez, director of the Hollywood Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, formed for the purpose of using tax-increment financing to spur economic growth on the beach. Miller and Woods each held out hope that Martinez would concede that the Hollywood Grande was driving their motels out of business, and since the CRA helped bring that project to the beach, the CRA would buy out the motels at fair-market value.

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