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Thursday, July 24, 2008

The WSG/Young Circle ArtsPark Project

Looking southeast at scale model with Harrison Street to the left and U.S.-1 to the right;
July 22 photo by
South Beach Hoosier



Looking north at scale model from perspective of north-bound U.S.-1;
July 22, 2008 photo by South Beach Hoosier

I got up early this morning and for the first time, actually posted some comments to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's circus-like Topix forum, per Michael Mayo's Hold the Mayo blog comments of yesterday regarding the WSG/Young Circle project.

I'll greatly expand upon my comments there -below- on this blog site on Friday, including some photographs I snapped of the proceedings and the scale model, which was outside the Chambers in the lobby near the City Clerk's office.

(The sort of thing you NEVER see at Hallandale Beach City Commission/CRA meetings, save the Village of Gulfstream.)

Adding to their track record of doing less when more is actually called for, neither the Herald nor the Sun-Sentinel was smart enough to actually send a photographer to the critical CRA meeting, to either capture any of the inherent drama or snap some shots of the scale model outside in the lobby to give readers some perspective.

They didn't even run a rendering of the building that's at the very heart of the controversy.
Yeah, that good quality journalism, South Florida-style.


I may prove to be in error here, but I strongly suspect that Michael Mayo wasn't present at Tuesday's eight-hour meeting, based on what he's chosen to write.

More likely, got everything he knows about it second-hand, since I personally didn't see him around the Chambers at any point in the proceedings, and I walked around a lot.

Considering how every thorough he usually is, I was also very disappointed that John Holland's article in the SFSS seemed as threadbare as it was, too, though that may have more to do with when the meeting ended and their print deadlines than anything else.


A couple of points worth keeping in mind as you read what the Herald and Sun-Sentinel have chosen to write about since the meeting concluded Tuesday night at 11:42 p.m. -

1. The goals that have been generally outlined by Bernard Zyscovich, often referred to in these news articles as "recommendations," have, according to the Commissioners themselves, YET to be officially adopted by the City of Hollywood City Commission, though you wouldn't know that by reading the news articles or the various readers comments.

In fact, mention has been made numerous times throughout the entire debate on this project, at both public workshops and official meetings I've attended, including Tuesday night's, that Zyscovich and his team won't be finished with everything until January of 2009.
You know, five months from now.



Not surprisingly, the City Commissioners have constantly urged him and his team to go faster, sometimes almost as if they needed a life preserver to hold on.

Even though I greatly respect and admire Mr. Zyscovich, as I've written here before, the Commissioners are the ones who were actually elected to make tough decisions, not him, and it's often quite uncomfortable to watch them defer to him so often when they can't decide how to proceed.

He's honest enough to admit that quite frankly, he doesn't feel so comfortable with it either, since he's said before, including Tuesday night, that he doesn't want to have to play the role of a firemen, continually being dropped in to intervene every time something flares up.

Though many of the recommendations are commonly understood because of what's been articulated by Zyscovich and his colleagues at these workshops and meetings, some of whom I've spoke to, from an outsider's p.o.v., the recs have about as much legal weight as a Promise Ring, and that's been true since the ball got rolling with WSG as the developer.
And a Promise Ring at that that you don't actually have possession of yet.

I previously wrote about Bernard Zyscovich here:






2. I spoke to Terry Cantrell of the Hollywood Lakes Civic Association at Tuesday's meeting, introducing myself after having sent him the occasional email from time to time over the past few months about local matters, and his group's website and newsletter are listed on my blog roll.

I don't know how many members Terry theoretically represents, or whether they've even been polled recently regarding the newest incarnation of the WSG project, with 22-floors fronting Young Circle, instead of the previous 25, but I doubt it.

Frankly, I meant to ask, but I just spaced it out over the course of the evening, much like my appetite. But you'd think that it might've occurred to Sun-Sentinel reporter Ihosvani Rodriguez to ask those same questions when he interviewed Terry. so that the facts would be known.

And even if they were asked, we never get the answers to those questions in the article today, about the supposed dismay the decision is being greeted with, which was perfectly predictable.

Terry is clearly a very sincere guy who cares about these issues and does a lot of hard work in order to be properly informed, even if he necessarily finds fault with certain of the city's, developer's or CRA's conclusions or numbers in their myriad reports and presentations.
He's very cordial and professional, but the same can't be said of all the people who've opposed the WSG project over the past few months, who as late as Tuesday evening, were saying things, both in the hallway and into the microphone, that I knew to simply not be true.

Some things really are facts, not opinions, including the large number of empty downtown Hollywood storefronts I passed along Hollywood Blvd. as I walked to the meeting from Young Circle, after taking some photos of the property from different angles for future inclusion here, i.e. tomorrow.

Just so you have some sense of my perspective on the evening's proceedings, Terry was sitting one seat to my left for much of the meeting, in the fourth row to the right as you enter the Chambers, directly to the right of WSG's attorney Alan Koslow, who was on the aisle.
That placed the two of us directly behind Bernard Werner and Jennifer McConney, the project architect from Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design, Inc., http://www.kobikarp.com/

McConney had to endure lots of criticism of the building's design features from people for hour after gruelling hour, and she kept an upbeat look on her face throughout, even though everyone also said publicly that it was an IMPROVEMENT

It was a rather jarring example of 'killing with kindness.'
Big kudos to her!

This is the old 25-story design:

To my immediate right and in front of me were a number of Hollywood Academy of Arts & Science charter school supporters, including members of the Armas family, two of whom spoke persuasively and enthusiastically during the public comments portion of the proceedings.

(Rather inconveniently for the public, that came about FIVE HOURS into the process.)

That included both Kelly Armas, referenced below in the Holland story, and her charming daughter Marina, who had the room laughing with her, who was the last public speaker around 9:10 p.m. or so.

Tomorrow morning I'll be posting a critical email about local Broward news coverage that I sent last week to the Herald's AME for Broward, Patricia Andrews, along with a cc to Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal, and the Herald's part-time, once-in-a-while Ombudsman.
By the way, the original headline for Holland's story was "Hollywood says developer can keep the loan ... and build the tower."
______________________________________http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/broward/sfl-flsbartsparkx0723sbjul23,0,2091786.story
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
$3.5 million loan payoff deal approved in Hollywood
By John Holland
July 23, 2008


A downtown developer can keep a $3.5 million taxpayer-funded loan and build the highest residential tower ever allowed on Young Circle, City Commissioners ruled last night over the objections of some residents who live nearby.


The 4-3 decision followed eight hours of debate and paves the way for Arts Park Village, a $120 million, 22-story apartment complex on the Southeast corner of the circle that includes an office building and a charter school.


It also allows WSG Development Group to back out of its promise to pay off a $3.5 million loan it assumed last year when bailing out the previous developer.


And commissioners voted to give WSG 90 percent of future property tax revenues, estimated at between $13 million and $20 million.


WSG Development moved in last year to take over the project from former developer Gary Posner, whose failed HART District was heading toward foreclosure.


"Developers like WSG don't come into town very often and the city has to take advantage of having such a great partner,'' WSG attorney Alan Koslow said during the meeting of the Community Redevelopment Agency.


Supporters hope the project sparks a downtown revival for a city hit by waves of vacancies and business closings despite tens of millions of dollars in financial incentives to developers.


Parents also praised the inclusion of a new home for the Hollywood Academy of Arts & Science charter school, which already has a highly-rated school on the site.


Critics countered that the project doesn't conform to the city's own rules for development, is too large for the area and will overshadow the $32 million Young Circle Arts Park.


Perhaps the strongest criticism came from Bernard Zyscovich, the city's own independent design consultant.


Zyscovich, who has been highly-praised and highly compensated by city leaders for his role in reshaping downtown, said the project was too flawed to win his support.


"There are still some issues I think are problematic for the overall, long-term development,'' Zyscovich said, pointing to its size, height, shape and potential to infringe on Van Buren Street to the south.


"It's my mission to look at the overall good for the circle and our vision for downtown,'' Zyscovich said.


"This is better than it was, but it's not there yet.''


But commissioners, who have used Zyscovich's recommendation to approve controversial projects in the past, ignored his pleas.


That upset Commissioner Heidi O'Sheehan, who said city practice specifically mandates that commissioners follow Zyscovich's recommendation when approving certain zoning changes.


The area, abutting Federal Highway South of Young Circle, has been plagued by problems.


Five years ago, City Commissioners gave Posner millions of dollars to build a charter school, playhouse and residential tower on the property, even though Posner had no experience building large-scale urban projects.


Only the charter school was completed before Posner walked away from the deal, leaving the city scurrying to find a developer.


WSG stepped in, and asked the city to change its zoning rules to allow a 25-story tower.


After complaints from residents of the adjoining Hollywood Lakes section, the project was cut to 22 stories.


In return, WSG asked that the loan be foregiven, to make up for money lost by a smaller tower.


For many, inclusion of the school was crucial.


"The charter school is a great benefit to the entire city and I'm asking you to help make sure this project goes forward,'' resident Kelly Armas said.



_______________________

Miami Herald
Hollywood OK's Village project
Hollywood commissioners approved a controversial downtown redevelopment project after a late-night debate Tuesday.
By Breanne Gilpatrick
July 23, 2008

Hollywood

After more than eight hours of debate, city commissioners approved plans Tuesday for a 22-story apartment tower and office project in the heart of downtown Hollywood, frustrating residents who argued the project was too big for Young Circle.


Shortly after 11:30 p.m., commissioners voted 4-3 to approve a key zoning change and site plan for ArtsPark Village, a proposed residential, office and retail project on the southeast portion of Young Circle.


The project by WSG Development Co. also includes an expanded home for the Hollywood Academy of Arts & Science, a charter school now housed in a nearby property, and more than a half dozen parents came to the meeting to support the proposal.


''I have a lot of people in my district and in the downtown -- civic associations in particular -- who want me to vote for this project, because they think it will help the downtown and help the neighborhoods,'' said Commissioner Beam Furr, who voted for the project. "The area needs something like this to pull the neighborhoods up.''


An initial vote on the project in April split the commission 4-3 after seven hours of debate. Now, the commission's final decision could set the tone for how the new slate of political leaders tackles future redevelopment projects.


Commissioners also approved eliminating a provision in the contract with WSG requiring the company to repay $3.5 million in community redevelopment agency money given to the project's previous developer, who defaulted on the loan.


WSG's Bernard Werner told commissioners that deleting the repayment provision makes it more affordable for the company to build a slightly smaller building on the property. Original plans called for a 25-story tower and more office space.


Hollywood has spent years trying to redevelop the property bordered by Harrison Street, 17th Avenue, U.S. 1 and Van Buren Street.


Developers plan to replace the rundown residential and commercial buildings on the property with 390 luxury apartments, about 35,449 square feet of retail space and an eight-story office building.


The project would bring in an estimated $24.3 million in new tax revenue, and supporters say it would help kick-start the city's struggling downtown by bringing residents into the area.


But critics say the 22-story residential tower is too tall.


''The people of Hollywood aren't served by this mess that you're going to stick us with,'' said Hollywood resident Joe Schneider.


And architect Bernard Zyscovich, a city consultant, told commissioners that approving the project would interfere with the master plan for Young Circle and recommended they reject the current proposal.


Mayor Peter Bober, Commissioners Heidi O'Sheehan and Fran Russo agreed, voting against the project.


''Clearly, the block needs improvement,'' O'Sheehan said. "But I just don't buy into the idea that anything is better than what's on the block now.''



_______________________

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Hold the Mayo blog

Hollywood vote: New faces, same old resultPosted by Michael Mayo at 11:54 AM


By a 4-3 vote late Tuesday, the Hollywood city commission voted to approve a 22-story residential complex on Young Circle that included some major concessions and incentives for the developer.



_________________________So without further adieu, my comments to the Sun-Sentinel:

Everyone's entitled to their own opinion on this issue, of course, but this morning, in reading the morning-after reports in both the Sun-Sentinel and the Herald -since no South Florida TV stations deigned to actually cover this important local story- what I'm most shocked by is the media's complete dis-interest in mentioning, much less analyzing, so much of the context and facts presented yesterday that led to the decision, most of which was left out of both the news article by John Holland and Michael Mayo's blog comments.


As someone who was actually there at the meeting from beginning to end, all eight hours and twelve minutes, and who took about 34 pages of notes, frankly, reading what's been printed is like hearing someone else describe the ups and downs of a titanic football clash -as told to them by someone who heard it on the radio.


Having actually been at the game, and seen what happened with my own eyes, and not having a particular dog in the fight, I think I'm in a better position to analyze what ACTUALLY happened.


Here, in my opinion, are the four largest elements of the hearing that have been completely neglected in the Sun-Sentinel's coverage.


Among these are:

a.) That precious HOURS of the meeting were wasted on listening to Mr. Butler as intervenor for the residents of the Home Tower Building -a party NEVER mentioned in either the Sun-Sentinel or Herald stories, despite their centrality to both the narrative and Block 58- argue endlessly, even to the point of cross-examing parties about city memos from ten years ago that they couldn't possibly know anything about.


It was both comical and mean-spirited all at the same time, and once it became clear to almost everyone in the room that the whole exercise by Mr. Butler seemed predicated on securing a certain number of parking spaces in the future, people were gnashing their teeth.


To listen to Mr. Butler talk about it, you'd think the Home Tower had a National Historic Landmark designation, and that the parking spaces they were angling for -plus money for new facades- were future heirlooms, to be passed down from one Greatest Generation to another. Boy, did he ever mis-play his cards and mis-read the audience!


b.) The rather odd change in Comm. O' heehan's seeming one-woman mutual assurance society, in that at prior meetings on WSG, she had specifically pointed to the absence of City Planning Director Jaye Epstein as proof that WSG's plan were either bad, unacceptable, not good, etc.


And she didn't just imply that previously, she actually said it. Okay, that's fair, she can use him or anyone else she 'trusts' as a barometer if she wants. He's not the worst choice in the world, I suppose.


At exactly 4: 50 p.m. Tuesday, Epstein was asked a series of questions by WSG attorney Alan Koslow about whether he thought the new WSG proposal was, in fact, acceptable to him, based on the City's myriad existing ordinances, rules and regs, AND the City's list of "Conditions" that WSG would have to meet.


These "Conditions" had been outlined earlier by Epstein in minute detail for everyone present, thru a visual presentation he had made, contrasting the prior WSG plan and what would now be expected of them.
Following the presentation, Mr. Werner said he'd accept the "Conditions."


Mr. Epstein responded to Mr. Koslow by saying that given the changes and acceptance by Mr. Werner, he was satisfied with the plan.


Those "Conditions" are never mentioned or described anywhere in the Sun-Sentinel that I could see.


That's curious, because for whatever reason, while Mr. Epstein might've previously been O'Sheehan's 'constant,' to help guide her in weighing her decision, as she herself had claimed, on Wednesday night, once Mr. Epstein's opinion was yes, rather suddenly, in my opinion, it seemed to have much less weight with her.


(Well, at least Mr. Epstein now knows how fickle Comm. O' Sheehan's "faith" in his professional opinion will be in the future, as do we all. I very much doubt the lesson will be lost on any of us.)


c.) The attempt by many in the community and at City Hall (Comm. Russo channeling "The Wicked Witch") to move the extremely successful Charter School off-site to another location in the general neighborhood, is an element of the story that's completely ignored, despite the fact that it was by far the most emotional aspect of the hearing.


Also never mentioned is the fact that if the school should ever go under, the land reverts back to the Downtown CRA, despite widespread insinuations within the Chambers by opponents that, somehow, the city's money was going to be Gone With The Wind, and wind up in the bank account of the head of the charter school's parent corp.
(Like the smart, articulate and assertive parents I've met would ever allow that to happen!)

d.) Considering how much space is devoted to the $3.5 million, and people's opinions on that, based on a 25-story building fronting Young Circle, not the 22-story presented Tuesday night, it's shocking that neither John Holland nor Michael Mayo ever mentions provisions that the City insisted on, to help ameliorate that issue.


"Look-back" provisions, as described by Paul Lambert, would act as a hedge against any excessive windfall profits by WSG, ensuring that the CRA gets money flowing back sooner at an amount that is the greatest of two particular calculations dealing with financial returns.


In retrospect, of course, that should've been there in the first place, but better late than never.

Posted by: HallandaleBeachBlog July 24, 2008 5:53 AM

_________________________________


South Florida Sun-SentinelHollywood civic group fears ArtsPark sets unwelcome precedent
They turn focus to another Young Circle project
By Ihosvani Rodriguez
July 24, 2008

Hollywood

Leaders of a civic group are concerned the commission's approval of a 22-story project on Young Circle sets a bad precedent for an even taller proposed tower nearby.


And massive towers on the site are not what Bernard Zyscovich had in mind. The city's design consultant was paid $100,000 in 2003 for a downtown plan and has been promised $200,000 for an update. Zyscovich argued against ArtsPark Village, a $120 million, 22-story apartment complex that will include an office building and a charter school. But by a 4-3 vote late Tuesday night, commissioners approved a zoning change that will put the project on the southeast corner of the circle. They also let WSG Development Group off the hook for a $3.5 million loan it was supposed to assume from a previous developer that defaulted.


Now the same neighborhood association that opposed ArtsPark Village is concerned about Block 55, a proposed 25-story residential and retail complex planned for the northeast side of Young Circle. It has already cleared a number of preliminary hurdles and could be in front of commissioners later this year.


"It is taller, but I don't really perceive my project as being as controversial [as ArtsPark Village]," developer Chip Abele, of Southern Facilities Development Co., said Wednesday. Abele said on Wednesday about 90 percent of the project will be under 25 stories, and he has been working on designs with nearby residents. Those residents, leaders of the Hollywood Lakes Civic Association, confirmed talks with Abele, but said they are not ready to endorse the project. "Yes, we're working with him, but no, we are not happy," said Terry Cantrell, the group's president.


"There's a lot of work left to be done with that one." Since late last year, Cantrell's group has voiced opposition to ArtsPark Village, saying it was too tall and would ruin downtown's historical ambience. The project was redesigned to be three floors lower than first planned.


Still, by Tuesday's vote, the City Commission showed it would be open to other ill-considered projects on the circle, Cantrell said. Commissioners Beam Furr, Patty Asseff, Linda Sherwood and Richard Blattner voted for the project.


They voted after Zyscovich, who has been praised for his role in reshaping downtown, said the ArtsPark Village was too flawed to win his support.


"There are still some issues I think are problematic for the overall, long-term development," Zyscovich said, pointing to its size, height, shape and potential to infringe on Van Buren Street to the south."


It's my mission to look at the overall good for the circle and our vision for downtown," Zyscovich said.


Staff Writer John Holland contributed to this report.

_______________________________

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