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Thursday, February 19, 2009

In Hollywood, blighted Block 55 gets a new lease on life as "Hollywood Circle"

My comments follow the Miami Herald article.

I should mention that due to the Blogger.com software once again playing tricks with the fonts and the Preview function, the below may appear very different from what I initially intended, as it took forever to actually post this.

Then I noticed a few mistakes I'd made in haste and received word that something I'd already written earlier in the day was not, in fact, 100% correct, causing more upset, since that meant jumping thru this hoop one more time.
Hopefully, this will be the last time I have to do this.

This corrected version is slightly different from what I originally wrote and posted a few hours ago, and also now has an addendum at the end. 
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Miami Herald
Proposed condo tower on Young Circle gets boost from Hollywood commissioners
By Breanne Gilpatrick
February 19, 2009

In a late-night vote, Hollywood commissioners on Wednesday agreed to pave the way for a proposed condo tower and retail development along Young Circle. There was one catch: to go forward, commissioners say, the proposed 25-story project needs to be shorter.
After roughly four hours of debate, commissioners voted 5-2 to give their initial approval to a key zoning change for the project known as Hollywood Circle. The development, which would sit at the northeast corner of Young Circle, currently includes plans for 424 condominium units, a new Publix grocery store and roughly 20,000 square feet of retail and office space.
However, commissioners said developers need to work with the city to reduce the project's height before a final vote in the upcoming weeks.
''What can I say?'' Commissioner Linda Sherwood said. ``This is Hollywood and Hollywood is always concerned about height.''

TOO TALL?

If built as proposed, the project would be the highest development planned for the Young Circle area so far.
City staff says that's too tall. Jaye Epstein, the city's planning director, urged commissioners to crack down on the growing high-rises cropping up around downtown.
He said the ArtsPark Village project -- a 22-story condo and office tower approved last year for another corner of Young Circle -- should serve as the city's development ceiling.
''In Hollywood, whatever A gets, B gets more,'' Epstein said. "There has to be a line in the sand. . . . The point has to be made. We need to stop the madness.''
Some residents also worry that the number of high-rises planned will create a canyon effect around Young Circle ArtsPark -- Hollywood's downtown centerpiece.
Critics also have said they don't want the city to approve any more major developments in the area until commissioners receive the results of a downtown master plan being created by architect Bernard Zyscovich.
But developers say only the portion of the project closest to Young Circle -- and furthest from the surrounding neighborhoods -- will be 25 stories tall.
Supporters and business leaders also praised the overall project, saying it will draw more residents and retail shops to the area and help reinvigorate downtown. Developers say the project is several years from completion, when the economy should be in better shape.
The property now houses a smaller town house development and the site of a former Greyhound bus station.

`DO A LITTLE BIT MORE'

''Downtown Hollywood really needs to be revitalized,'' Commissioner Dick Blattner said. "I think all of us feel strongly that we need this kind of development downtown. . . . You've done so much so far, just do a little bit more.''
Commissioner Heidi O'Sheehan and Mayor Peter Bober voted against the project, saying they couldn't support it until the height had been reduced.
''Do we need this? Is this a good project? Is this a blighted block? Absolutely,'' O'Sheehan said. ``But sometimes I need a new car, and I don't go onto the car lot and pay the sticker price.''

Reader comments at:
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/broward/story/910744.html?commentSort=TimeStampAscending&pageNum=1

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The Sun-Sentinel initially had a report without a byline at:

Later, they ran this article on the approval of Chip Abele's project, Hollywood Circle.

Downtown Hollywood condo-retail project gets initial approval
By Ihosvani Rodriguez
February 19, 2009

HOLLYWOOD
Plans for what could be a 25-story condo and retail project in downtown received an initial approval on Wednesday, despite the protest of nearby residents who say it's too high.

Commissioners passed on first reading a zoning change that would allow the proposed Hollywood Circle to tower above all other buildings around Young Circle.

The approval came even though commissioners have not yet received the recommendations of an architect being paid $200,000 to draw up a vision for downtown.

Even the city's planning director has issues with the proposed neck-arching height.

Under the proposal, the $100 million Hollywood Circle will include 424 condo units and an eight-story parking garage. It also will have 46,000 square feet to build a new home for a Publix supermarket.

Developer Chip Abele plans to build in phases, starting with the supermarket and stores. He would build the residential part when the real estate market improves.

The project has gained much support from the Hollywood business community and from residents in Parkside, just south of Young Circle.

"Life presents opportunity and here's a great opportunity in this economy," said Parkside resident Barry Stock. "We need help in this economy and we shouldn't complain to the Lone Ranger that his horse's legs are too long."

But residents in adjacent Hollywood Lakes say they want to see a project there, but not one that high. They wanted Wednesday's meeting postponed until after March 10, when architect, Bernard Zyscovich, presents his study. Officials plan to incorporate the study -- including building heights -- into city zoning laws.

Mayor Peter Bober and Commissioners Richard Blattner and Heidi O'Sheehan voted to postpone the meeting.

"I don't think this is consistent to what the majority of the Hollywood residents want to see," said Bober.

The rest of the commission didn't want to wait, and received the scorn of a number of residents.

"You all talk about being stewards of our money, but how do you explain to your districts that you spent $200,000 and then disregarded the report," said Siobhan McLaughlin. " I find that absolute disheartening. It's a disgrace."

Commissioner Patty Asseff, whose district covers the area, said she wanted to move quickly on correcting the blighted corner.

"It's been too many years," said Asseff. "Everyone has been waiting patiently, and now is the time to finally do it."

Hollywood Lakes residents are not the only ones concerned with the project's height.

City Planning Director Jaye Epstein said the developer should lower the height at least three floors before the plan returns for a final vote in upcoming weeks.

A different project, on the southeast corner, has already been approved at 22-stories. Epstein said that should be the limit for all of downtown.

"The message should be that we're fed up ad we're not taking it anymore. It has to stop," said Epstein. "Whether its Zyscovich or Epstein, I think it needs to stop. Stop the madness"

But Abele said lowering the residential tower would be costly and could mean having to raise the rent on tenants.

"We're in a horrendous economy. To chop down or take things away from the project is not the right thing to do," he said.

Commissioners have not yet scheduled a final vote that would include setting a height limit.

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Looking north towards Hollywood from in front of Gulfstream Park, 500 block of South Federal Highway in Hallandale Beach, the block south of Hallandale Beach City Hall.
February 18, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier.



A different perspective on Hollywood than what you're used to, using my camera's Zoom-in function. Looking north towards Hollywood and The Radius at Young Circle, from the 500 block of South Federal Highway in Hallandale Beach, the block south of Hallandale Beach City Hall. February 18, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier.



Looking north at Radius, the NW corner of Young Circle, from the east side of The ArtsPark at Young Circle, Hollywood
February 18, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier.



Looking north at Block 55 from the east side of The ArtsPark at Young Circle, Hollywood
February 18, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier.


I plan to comment on this article later on both the Miami Herald's website and more later on the blog, but I wanted to post this now in case you hadn't seen it yet.
In my opinion, this Herald article has a weird combination of both mis-statement of basic facts as well as a paucity of important self-evident facts that add context to this story.

The most glaring being that the article starts by saying "In a late night vote..."
H-m-m-m...

Well, I got home from the meeting around 8:45 p.m., after poking my head in for a few minutes at the HB City Commission meeting -Donald Shockey of EDAW was making his presentation of the HB Master Plan they've been working so hard on- I turned on my computer to watch the rest of Hollywood's meeting via their website, something we can't do currently in Hallandale Beach.
The final vote on Young Circle happened just before 9:05 p.m.
Late night?

Hollywood Planning Director Jaye Epstein specifically said that just as Hollywood 
residents and City Hall all recognize that the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa will be the tallest structure on the beach, they also recognize that the WSG will be the tallest structure on The Circle.
Absolutely nobody disputes this point at City Hall or anywhere in the city.
Now that is context.

Yet in her article, Gilpatrick mentions the number of storeys of the proposed WSG 
project on the SE corner of Young Circle -never actually referring to it as the WSG
project- even though everyone else does- or more importantly, even say what the actual height approved by the city for that project is: 236 feet.

So how do you not mention the actual approved height of WSG in a news story about the height of structures on The Circle?
Or neglect to mention the height of the much-criticized building directly across the streetRadius, is 141 feet?

I don't know, and for what it's worth, outside of Hollywood City Hall, I've heard exactly one person in the area refer to it as ArtsPark Village, not WSG.

I think for the most part, Gilpatrick is a good reporter, but I honestly don't know how she could neglect to mention the approved height of WSG when it directly answers the comparison question.
She also neglected to mention that the project will actually have many MORE parking spaces than required, or even the presence of the Papa John's Pizza on U.S.-1, the only existing retail on the entire block.

More importantly for HB's consideration, she neglected to mention that Jaye Epstein 
specifically said that he personally doubts developer Chip Abele will be able to do all the 424 condo units until at least 2011.
2011.

I realize that all things involving design or real estate are a bit subjective, but having been there last night, just a few feet away from the renderings, and having previously read lots of the docs, in my opinion, the proposed project on Young Circle I saw is MUCH MORE attractive than any of the three recent development projects I can think of involving residential units that the HB City Commission has approved over the past 18 months, but which have yet to start building.
And that's true of those on U.S.-1 and Hallandale Beach Blvd., like Oasis, the project that Steve Geller represented.

Background docs on the Hollywood Circle project are at:


City of Hollywood City Commission
February 18, 2009 photo by South Beach Hoosier

To me, that's not only very bad news for Hallandale Beach, but an important reality check, since if Abele's very attractive project will have vacancy problems before 2011, how long will the HB projects remain vacant, garbage-strewn lots?

Recall what I said previously about having personally observed -and photographed- the fact that at the much-ballyhooed, pie-in-the-sky project known as The European Clubon HBB 
and Three Islands Drive, there was a red warning notice put on its fence on Dec. 15th by a contractor for non-payment of funds?

Well, as bad as that area is now, in part because of the bus stop, imagine that huge lot 
without a fence!
Instant new dumping point for the many lazy residents and contractors of SE Broward, who already are pretty brazen about dumping materials in the city, whether at the city's poorly-run (and inadequately-marked) recycling areas, or, even just off of U.S.-1 itself.

It recently took the City of Hallandale Beach almost two weeks to respond to a report I called in to the Sanitation Dept. of a Christmas tree having been dumped across the street from Gulfstream Park on SE 7th Street, a popular dumping ground that I complained about two years ago, next to the city's "NMB water connector."
The tree that had already been there for two weeks.

In case you're trying to visualize that location in your head, that's exactly two blocks south of Hallandale Beach City Hall.
Yet somehow, day-after-day, week-after-week, the city and its employees never quite
noticed the Christmas tree off the side of the road, next to a govt. location it is legally responsible for maintaining.

To be honest, last Friday morning, before heading to downtown Miami for the Marlins 
Stadium hearing, I was tempted to go over there and drag the tree down the sidewalk 
and deposit it in front of the HB City Hall sign, to see what the response rate might be for the city's slothful employees, but decided not to.
We all know how that would've ended, don't we?

More alibis, excuses and finger-pointing from HB City Hall, as if I haven't already heard a lifetime of that from this crew in five years.

Looking towards Hallandale Beach City Hall.  September 17, 2008 photo by South Beach Hoosier

This is a city, after all, which never noticed that ALL the parking lot lights in front and 
alongside of their own City Hall and Police Dept. HQ were out for well over three weeks in October, right before the election.
Even while all sorts of things were taking place there, including, yes, evening HB City 
Commission meetings.

In case you're coming late to the party on that embarrassing issue, see my October 15th post: Lights Out -AGAIN!- at HB City Hall; Anger at City of Hollywood!



The HB Cultural Center suffered a very similar fate, a point I made repeatedly to print and TV reporters who were assembled there late every afternoon covering the long lines of Early Voting taking place inside.
As usual, the reporters had Less Than Zero interest in figuring out how a city that poorly-run could have the gall or chutzpah to nominate itself for a City of the Year award from the Florida League of Cities, the eternal opponent of Florida's concerned citizenry.

Just because the city says on their terrible website that, "Hallandale Beach is a progressive city with big city sophistication and a hometown feel." doesn't make it true.

In any case, since she didn't see fit to mention it, the much-anticipated Bernard Zyscovich zoning/design plans for the City of Hollywood are scheduled to be publicly unveiled on March 10th.

FYI: The official address for Chip Abele's Hollywood Circle project will be 1740 Polk Street, Hollywood, FL 33020
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Earlier I initially posted that I hadn't seen Breanne Gilpatrick present in the Hollywood City Commission Chambers as I usually have in the past, and nobody I knew (and trust who also recognizes her) had seen her either, so I naturally assumed she wasn't there.
I also mentioned that I hadn't seen anyone from the Sun-Sentinel, either.
Now I know why.

Around 8:30 p.m. or so tonight, I received an email from the Sun-Sentinel's Ihosvani Rodriguez informing me that the two of them are now working "out of Room 215 (rear City Hall conference room) during meetings."
"It's now the quasi-press room."
"We were both there "late" last night."

I apologize to Breanne Gilpatrick and Ihosvani Rodriguez for my mistake and will know better next time not to assume that just because I can't see a reporter in the room, that they aren't necessarily there somewhere.

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