Hooray For Hollywood! | Feature | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


Hooray For Hollywood!

Page 2 of 8

But hand-shaking alone wouldn't do the job. At the start of the meeting, city planning director Laurence Leeds pointed out that a 12-story hotel is incompatible with the surrounding low-rise community and does not meet state storm-evacuation standards. Koslow fought back by stressing the developer's strong credentials and the tax and tourist dollars the project would provide. He introduced the high-powered design team working on the project and presented a slick slide show. The capper was a short speech by Hollo himself, a courtly, 72-year-old, real-estate titan who's made and lost fortunes building high-rises in South Florida over the past 50 years. Charming the board with his Hungarian accent and Old World manners, he promised to build a hotel made of "environmentally sensitive" materials for families interested in nature-oriented vacations. Lectures and tours of nearby nature areas would be the featured attractions.

Koslow packed the room with supporters, many from places outside Hollywood. But opponents also drew a good turnout. For the next three hours, both sides offered impassioned testimonies, pro and con. The board members were obviously torn. Then the lobbyist made his move.

Koslow knows what his listeners want to hear, and he's willing to say whatever it takes to win them over. He knew his only hope was to fudge the height and density issue. Admitting that Hollo ultimately would seek permission to build 12 stories and 193 units, he reminded the board that, tonight, it was only voting on a land-use change. (Of course the primary reason for the land-use change is to allow the hotel to exceed a 50-room limit -- which, in turn, requires a height variance.) "This is not about height, this is not about height," Koslow said in rapid, Brooklynesque cadences. "This is all about leadership. It's about a vision for what this beach should be."

Board vice-chair Steve Werthman blasted the argument as "double talk." But Koslow won over most of the members, who were searching for a way to OK a promising beach development project without facing up to disturbing details. "Height is an issue," said chairperson Patricia Asseff, a realtor. "I'm not totally in favor of building what you suggested, but we should be honored that Mr. Hollo wants to build here."

A motion to deny the land-use change failed by a five-to-four vote. Board members then debated whether they should approve the change while urging the city commission to nix any subsequent request for a height increase. When a city attorney told them they had to decide on the issue without attaching any condition, the board voted in favor of recommending the land-use change, six to three.

Steve Welsch, who heads a group of neighbors opposed to high-rise development, said after the meeting: "Their attitude is, 'It may kill a thousand sea turtles and destroy an entire community, but doggone, if it raises property values, then it accomplished something.'"

Despite the board's recommendation, Koslow realizes he still faces a long, hard fight. A daunting series of city, county, and state hearings on Turtle Nest Suites looms in the months ahead.

He knows all this cold because he worked as Hollywood's chief counsel for three years, until he was forced to resign in disgrace in 1993. While working as city attorney, he negotiated the settlement of a sexual harassment complaint filed by a city secretary. What the commission didn't know at the time was that Koslow was having an extramarital affair with the secretary -- a clear conflict of interest. Later he lied under oath about the affair to the state's attorney's office, which was investigating charges that the settlement was improper. The Florida Bar suspended Koslow's law license for 45 days.

Becker & Poliakoff gave him a second chance by hiring him shortly after his resignation. He made the most of it, steadily rehabilitating his reputation through legal and charitable work. He's built a busy practice representing hotel, gambling, racetrack, film, TV, and real-estate interests. "Entertainment -- when you think about it, that's the common theme of what I do," he says in a moment of epiphany. As chairman of the Broward Alliance Film and Television Commission, he dreams of building a major production studio in the area. He's already planning a golf tournament to raise money for a financial-impact study. "People ask me why I don't live in Hollywood, California," he says. "I tell them I'm trying to bring that Hollywood to this Hollywood."

Koslow has established an extensive political and social network by joining the boards of several civic organizations and participating in many fundraising campaigns. He uses these volunteer activities to build personal relationships, which constitute the wellspring of his lobbying effectiveness. In March he helped organize a dazzling black-tie dinner at the Hollywood Art and Culture Center to honor one of his most important clients, Tom Driscoll, president of the 1000-room Diplomat Hotel, which is under construction in south Hollywood. Dapper in his tuxedo, Koslow thrived in the eye of the social whirl, schmoozing Hollywood's movers and shakers, including Mayor Mara Giulianti and maverick commissioner John Coleman. Although the $200-a-plate dinner raised $105,000 for the center, art took a back seat to business as a topic of dinner conversation. Last year Koslow and his co-counsel persuaded the city to allow his friend Driscoll to build the Diplomat 11 stories taller and with about 150 more rooms than otherwise permitted. "Alan is the best," Driscoll gushed after the dinner. "You say you've got a problem, he finds a way to get the job done. I have no idea how."

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Harris Meyer

Latest Stories