True Hollywood Story? NY Times Finds City to Symbolize Florida Failure

Downtown Hollywood, where developers had a picnic as storm clouds gathered.
Downtown Hollywood, where developers had a picnic as storm clouds gathered.
Flickr: apricoco

I suspect someone on West 43rd Street in Manhattan lost a boatload condo flipping. Why else is the world's leading newspaper so determined to embarrass Broward County? Just a week after the New York Times gave multimedia treatment to the delirious ramblings of health-care worrywarts in Sunrise Lakes -- a presentation that included video of a hip-hop-singing grandmother -- the paper headed south, for Hollywood, finding signs of the plague to come.

The article reflects on the sudden end of a century-long tradition whereby Florida's population increased every year:

Now consider Broward County in 2009. The county, between Miami and Palm Beach, was one of the first areas to shrink -- losing 21,117 people from April 2007 to April 2009, according to University of Florida data -- and its experience offers a glimpse of what could be on the way elsewhere.

Hollywood, in particular, embodies what the Sunshine State was and might become.

Which is to say, a depressed economy and a dismal attitude among the luckless folks who still live there.

But come on. Hollywood made its own bed. Not all Florida has to sleep in it.

The Times could have gone to any similar-sized city in the country and found the same anxieties as those quoted in the article, as well as scenes like this one:

In downtown Hollywood, chefs now stand outside with their arms crossed at dinnertime waiting for customers that never come. There are 10 shuttered businesses in the two blocks of Hollywood Boulevard north of Young Circle, the city's main shopping district.

In Hollywood, the hangover of the housing boom is more readily apparent because the city went whole-hog on downtown development. Commissioners, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, were so eager for new projects and were so blinded by the pie-in-the-sky scenarios spun by developer lobbyist Alan Koslow that they allowed the city to take absurd risks. To see the consequences of that, tour downtown Hollywood.

Every city in Broward made similar miscalculations but not nearly at the same scale as  Hollywood. In those cities -- and in those around the country -- there are vacant stores and empty, frozen lots. But slowly, those will come to life. It will just take a little longer in spots like Hollywood that had more to lose when the bubble burst.

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