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Artsy Parksy

Hey, remember Young Circle in downtown Hollywood? Sure was a swell little patch of earth, before the city's grand planners envisioned something called an ArtsPark on the spot. It all started with a modest spruce-up. The county chipped in $5 million. Developers said they'd pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars -- and why not, when the real estate was hot and getting hotter?

But something happened on the way to civic euphoria. Plans have, er, metamorphosed. Projected costs have doubled, while the city had to own up to its overblown ambitions and key officials on the project abdicated. What should have been a nearly completed park by now isn't expected to look like much for another two years. And at this rate, we're not holding our breath. Here, the progress to this point -- and a look ahead:

November 2000: Broward voters approve a $400 million parks bond. Wheels begin turning. Young Circle needs some polishing around the edges. Let's make some plans, city leaders say.

Early 2002: Broward County awards Hollywood $5 million in parks grant money for ArtsPark on Young Circle. The project includes plans for an amphitheater, another stage, a cultural center, some gardens. It's supposed to be complete by 2005 at a cost of $11.8 million. That would be $5 million each from the county and the city and $1.8 million from the city's Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency.

February 2004: The 53-year-old amphitheater occupying Young Circle is demolished to make way for ArtsPark in an official groundbreaking ceremony. A mountain of soil is left behind, becoming a virtual arboretum for weeds, one of the county's most prominent eyesores. Expected bill for ArtsPark: $12.8 million.

June 2004: Miramar votes to accept county money for its own ArtsPark. The resulting Miami Herald story mentions Hollywood ArtsPark. Bu the price tag is now $14.7 million.

December 2004: Officials opt to redesign the parking around Young Circle, and they ask the county to push the expected completion date back to December 2007. They need time to "fine-tune" the design, which now includes a fountain, a play area with its own fountain, a visual arts building with studio and classroom space, a butterfly garden, a bamboo garden, and a promenade. And, oh yeah, because of rising prices of materials and labor, the expected bill is now at least $17.6 million. Maybe (city officials shudder here) $21 million fully loaded. "We were unfortunately very unrealistic in what the cost was," Mayor Mara Giulianti tells the Sun-Sentinel. "It was a guesstimate."

April 2005: Cynthia Miller, executive director of the city's Art and Culture Center, quits her job, becoming, among other things, a fundraiser for the ArtsPark. She promises "the largest community-wide fundraising campaign that we have had in Hollywood" to make up for the projected $4 million shortfall.

May 2005: Hollywood rips out hundreds of parking spaces around Young Circle to rejigger traffic flow. Businesses wince.

June 2005: Jim Edwards, the head of the CRA, announces he'll be leaving in July. Construction on the park finally begins, 16 months after the groundbreaking.

October 2005: Police are called when a solitary figure dressed in black -- onlookers later swore it looked like Hollywood City Manager Cameron Benson -- appeared to collapse in sobs against a rusting chainlink fence at the park. When the cops arrive, the figure tosses a handful of change at the park and flees, yelling, "Here's toward the $4 million!"

June 2006: A visibly worn Miller holds a news conference to implore Hollywood residents to donate money toward construction of ArtsPark, now expected to cost around $45 million and include a 100,000-gallon swim-along dolphin aquarium, a skateboard half-pipe, and a permanent Sno-Cone station. "Anyone who can get us discounts on steel girders and concrete," she says, "will get a freakin' sculpture garden named after them."

May 2008: With the project still mired in delays, Hollywood city commissioners vote to allow developers to clear the proposed park site and erect condominiums to offset the park overruns, as long as "the building itself conforms to standards of, you know, artiness."

August 2009: The presale for the proposed 48-story MCZ-Trump ArtsLofts draws 1,200 early buyers, a third of whom camp overnight with certified checks for $75,000.

March 2012: A decade after it promised the $5 million, the county allows the grant to go toward the purchase of a cocktail napkin signed by Picasso, to be displayed in the new building. It hangs in a tasteful frame outside the fitness room, where anyone buzzed in by a resident may view it.

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Sam Eifling
Contact: Sam Eifling

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