Who Killed Kenny's Project?
I'm going to be updating this damn bloggy beast all day long, but wanted to start with news coming from Hollywood that former state legislator Ken Gottlieb and Cynthia Berman-Miller have dropped their development proposal in that city. The Miami Herald's Todd Wright begins his story: "A weary former state Rep. Ken Gottlieb stood before the Hollywood City Commission a beaten man on Wednesday."
Well, the city insiders were going to benefit from millions in dubious incentives, there's a reason Gottlieb and Berman-Miller were beaten. But this is about more than just that project. With the indictment of now-ex Hollywood Commissioner Keith Wasserstrom (and revelations about further corruption published in the Sun-Sentinel this morning), the wheels are coming off Mayor Mara Giulianti's dirty empire. Obviously Gottlieb and Berman-Miller didn't have an appetite for raw pavement.
But what does Berman-Miller blame it on?
The media, of course.
In a letter she sent out to "friends and colleagues," that has been obtained by your Pulper, she explains the withdrawal of the development, which is called Metro Hollywood:
"We have fought for over a year to overcome a rising tide of innuendo and media bias. Our reputations and integrity have been called into question on a nearly daily basis."
In another letter from the development team to the city, you can hear the tiny violins playing as Gottlieb and Berman-Miller whine about how they were going to make "ZERO PROFIT" and how all they ever wanted to do was selflessly help the city return to its "former glory." In that letter, they don't specifically mention the media, but refer indirectly to it when they bring up a "vocal minority" (Pete Brewer and Howard Sher, I see you blushing) who have ruined everything. Everything!
"But unfortunately, there is a vocal minority who believe we are not acting in the best interest of the community -- or at least, not in their best interests," they write. "There has also been a rising tide of misinformation, unfounded accusations and mistrust, due to the actions of these vocal few. In this environment, it is difficult if not impossible to move forward with our project."
Gosh, using insider status to feed off the public trough ain't what it used to be, is it?
After the jump: The Full Text Of Hollywood Letters
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
Today Ken Gottlieb made an unscheduled announcement at the City Commission meeting on behalf of the Metro team. We have fought for over a year to overcome a rising tide of innuendo and media bias. Our reputations and integrity have been called into question on a nearly daily basis. We are still committed to the Highland Gardens neighborhood and the city as a whole. We hope at the end of the day we can fulfill our promises and build Metro. However, we also feel it is in the community's best interest to restore public confidence in the redevelopment process. Therefore, Ken went before the Commission today and asked that the City re-advertise our Metro project. I am sending you a copy of our open letter to the community which was read into the record at today's Commission meeting (see below). In closing I would like to thank the many friends and colleagues who took the time to understand the complexities of this project and who stood up and supported our efforts to redevelop this most blighted area of our city.
What follows is that letter:
FROM: Ken Gottlieb, Bruce Gottlieb, Cynthia Miller, Margi Nothard
TO: Mayor Mara Giulianti, Commissioner Cathleen Anderson, Commissioner Beam Furr, Commissioner Sal Olivier, Vice Mayor Frances Russo, Commissioner Peter Bober, City Manager Cameron D. Benson, City Attorney Daniel Abbott, Downtown Hollywood CRA Director Neil Fritz, and residents of Hollywood
DATE: February 7, 2007
RE: Metro Hollywood
We are writing to make an important announcement about the Metro Hollywood project.
As you have heard us say before -- we were born here, our kids were born here, and we care deeply about this community. We have passion for the community. We love Hollywood, and throughout the process to design and build Metro, we have tried to keep the community's best interest at heart and to do the right thing -- in the face of the risks and challenges of redeveloping what is considered to be the most difficult project in the Downtown CRA. As a Commissioner and Representative I always have been an activist for the community. I have envisioned this project as a continuation of public service and an opportunity to put my money where my mouth is and create a beautiful redevelopment project that is significant. Especially, when no other developer came forward.
When everyone else dropped out of this project due to the risks and lack of profit potential, we stayed in. When it became clear that there would be ZERO profit at sellout, we stayed in. When we asked you to combine your land with ours and the TIF to ensure that Metro would be special to the community with its architecture, generous setbacks and lush landscaping -- we made the request even though we knew it would be controversial.
We did all of this because we felt it was important to get rid of the crime and blight and to restore this neighborhood to its former glory -- the way we all remember it. Metro had the potential to bring new families and businesses to the area. We wanted to improve the community and serve as a catalyst for others to invest in the neighborhood.
We put in time, resources and money to create an architecturally significant project that would transform the corner of Dixie Highway and Washington Street into a new and vibrant southern gateway to the city. Our award-winning design included more set backs and parking than required, with varying rooflines and less height and density than other Hollywood projects. The plans called for retail stores, affordable housing, space for artists and other live-work-play community benefits. We could have done a generic project and designed the project to fill every square inch of the site, squeezing out all the density we could get and requiring fewer incentives from the CRA, but we didn't do that. We wanted to do the right thing for the City and the neighborhood, even though it made it less financially feasible to do the project. Rarely does a redevelopment project offer so much change and improvement. Rarely does a redevelopment project have so much potential to make an enormous difference to our entire city.
We tried to create a project that would be responsive to the residents who have waited decades to transform this blighted area into a safe and clean neighborhood to raise their families.
We moved forward because we felt it was in the best interest of the community, a sentiment shared by the majority of surrounding neighborhoods and residents.
Over the past year, we have worked closely with staff and outside consultants to stay true to the City's vision and master plan. We have also attended countless civic and homeowners meetings to keep the community posted on our progress and to answer questions. We have been welcomed with support and encouragement.
But unfortunately, there is a vocal minority who believe we are not acting in the best interest of the community -- or at least, not in their best interests. There has also been a rising tide of misinformation, unfounded accusations and mistrust, due to the actions of these vocal few. In this environment, it is difficult if not impossible to move forward with our project.
So in the best interest of the community and in order to restore public trust in the redevelopment process, we are putting aside our interests, not to mention the considerable time and money we have already invested, to request that you re-advertise this project. We also ask that you make clear that there may be substantial incentives available. We want to ensure that all proposals be given fair and reasonable consideration.
We are making this request in the hope that it will put to rest, once and for all, the speculation, rumors, innuendo and mud slinging that has permeated and clouded this vital redevelopment project. In the end, if the City gets a better offer, you should take it.
If not, we will still be living, working and raising our families right here in the city we love.
The Metro team would like to thank all of the great people who live in the neighborhood and stood up to support our project. We would also like to thank the elected officials and staff who had the courage and vision to support Metro in this very difficult environment. We feel this is the best course of action and the honorable thing to do at this time.
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