By now, almost nothing can shock us about Hollywood (Florida) news. Not a dead body turning up in a Federal Highway hotel. Been there. Not a dirty cop, nor a public official hit with criminal indictment. Been there and there. Nothing would have shocked us...except this. And this.
Yep, it's good news. In Hollywood!?!
Let me get this straight: A major hotel / condo can be built in the city without millions of dollars in incentives? And you're saying that the developer of this project did not respond to concerns of neighbors in the usual way -- by hiring a lobbyist who has a majority of the city commissioners in his pocket -- but rather by addressing those concerns until the the neighbors could live with the project? And to top it all off, this project would be built outside the city's Community Redevelopment Agency district, meaning that the tax revenue it generates will not go back into the CRA (so that it can be handed to the next developer comes knocking) but that it will actually go into the city's general fund?
I had to call Pete Brewer, president of the North Central Hollywood Civic Association, just to make sure this wasn't another one of my absinthe-inspired hallucinations. That interview, after the jump.
"Yes, the developer Hugo Pacanins, he sat down with us and said, 'What are y'all's concerns?'" says Brewer. "The development was going to be 15 stories, and that was the main concern. It is now eight stories."
But the compromises didn't stop there. Brewer's group, which met with Pacanins four times in the past six months, wanted to save an historic stone house that would have had to have been moved from its place on Sheridan, just west of I-95, and it may have been damaged in the process. Nor did the neighbors want their oak trees mowed down. And they wanted to make sure a development that contained over 1,000 residential units wouldn't become a traffic disaster.
So Pacanins designed a bigger park on the property, allowing the historic home to stay on its site. The park's road would be designed around the oak trees so most of those could be saved. And turn lanes would be added to accommodate the new traffic. "We didn't get everything we wanted," says Brewer, "but we got a lot."
His group sure got a lot more than the neighbors who went up against the ArtsPark Village earlier this year. The difference is that being downtown, the ArtsPark Village was in the CRA district, meaning that developers and their lobbyists knew that the city commissioners who sit on the CRA would have access to millions in grant money or low-interest loans. "The CRA goes hog-wild giving money away," says Brewer. "There's a handful of people in this town who think the CRA money belongs to them." The Sheridan Stationside Village project, being outside the CRA, had to make its project profitable the old-fashioned way -- based on the actual market.
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Of course, try though it might, the CRA can't soften market forces even for its favorite developers and lobbyists. Today, the darkened windows in shiny new downtown towers are a fitting monument to that shortsighted strategy.
Brewer, who narrowly lost a bid for city commission this past January, is already onto his next mission: convincing the commissioners that they can afford to take Hollywood Beach's massive Westin Diplomat out of the CRA -- meaning that its tax revenues would go straight into the city general fund rather than into the CRA coffers -- because next year the Palms will finish construction and generate revenue for the agency, and because the following year the Trump Hollywood will have a ribbon-cutting.
It sounds far-fetched -- Hollywood commissioners have zealously protected their CRA funds against all comers except developers. On the other hand, Brewer points out that CRA's exist only to cure slums and blight. With condos selling for well over a million on Hollywood Beach, nobody in that neighborhood is exactly slummin' it.
-- Thomas Francis