Broward News

Plans for Land Near Hollywood's Young Circle Now in Disarray; Maybe That's a Good Thing?

It appears that nobody in Hollywood government has a clear idea of where the city stands in its efforts to improve a big piece of property at the heart of downtown.

At the southeast corner of Federal Highway and Young Circle, two huge, bold condo projects have self-destructed. First was the Hollywood Art District complex, known as HART, which took a $3.5 million loan down with it in 2006. In 2007, Miami developers WSG swooped in for an apparent rescue, only to back out of its promise to pay back that $3.5 million. The developers still got approval for the 23-story ArtsPark Village, but the project never broke ground and was hit with foreclosure late last month.

So what now? Hollywood officials are asking the same question.

Bryan Cahen, finance manager of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, says that when WSG failed to meet construction deadlines, its site plan expired, meaning that if somehow the developers raised the money they needed to renew the project, they'd have to go back to the city for a new site plan.

Of course, it seems unlikely that in this economy a developer would still have an interest in developing a 23-story condo in Hollywood, considering how many vacancies exist in condo towers throughout South Florida. Cahen says there's no clear path for what the city should do next. It doesn't help that the city's CRA director position remains unfilled.

WSG developer Bernard Werner has not returned a call for comment.

Cahen told Juice that the site plan's expiration may not affect the development agreement between the CRA and WSG, meaning that theoretically, the buyer of the property could inherit what looked at the time to be an incredible deal: permission to build at a height that exceeded standards in the city's master plan as well as tax-increment financing that would have allowed the developer to pocket some $20 million in future revenue that would have otherwise gone to the city.

On the other hand, that development agreement is fragile, considering how poor a job WSG has been at holding up its part of the deal.

It seems entirely possible that the mortgage holder, Lehman Brothers, will unload the property at a loss to a developer who plans a much less imposing, controversial structure. In fact, there's a Hollywood official who I'm told is exploring this very possibility right now. After I get in touch with that official, I'll put the interview up.

In the meantime, the city remains in court with the HART developer, Gary Posner, trying to collect on Posner's $3.5 million debt. Posner is arguing that the city should honor part of the original agreement that called for him to be paid $270,000 annually for having built a charter school on the property, even though he failed almost every other aspect of the deal.

That charter school, the Hollywood Academy of Arts and Science, wants to expand, but it's held up by the flux that exists next door, where construction on the ArtsPark Village was supposed to have happened by now.

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Thomas Francis