|By Shannon O'Boye, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Sep. 30, 2005 - HOLLYWOOD -- An $80 million luxury hotel and resort with oceanfront and Intracoastal views could transform sleepy Hollywood beach back into a hot tourist destination.
That's what city commissioners are hoping.
On Thursday, after years of grand plans and stalled efforts that included a successful lawsuit against the city, they endorsed a plan by Ocean Properties, of Delray Beach, to build the Marriott Ocean Village and Resort on 5.5 acres of city-owned land at Johnson Street. and the beach. The project will include a 323-room hotel of 16 or 17 stories, a ballroom, spa, and restaurants, bars, and shops.
It will still be several years before the hotel opens. Before construction can begin, city officials must sign a formal development agreement.
"We definitely have a project that certainly is a destination [point] for the city of Hollywood," said City Manager Cameron Benson. "I believe this project will create opportunities for redevelopment not only along the beach but throughout the city."
The site is known as the Casino property because it was the home of the popular Hollywood Beach Casino, which closed in the 1920s.
The beach Community Redevelopment Agency will pay for a 1,600-space parking garage. About 1,100 will be public parking spaces.
The plan also calls for public improvements in the area, including new landscaping, lighting, restrooms and upgrades to the beach bandshell. Details will be ironed out in the development agreement.
Hollywood has been trying to get the property redeveloped for more than eight years.
In 1997, gambling magnate Gus Boulis proposed building a $68 million luxury hotel-retail complex, Diamond on the Beach, on the Casino property. That deal fell apart and the city revoked the lease in 1999. The development group, which included hotel developer R. Donahue Peebles, sued the city for breach of contract and were awarded $850,000. Boulis was murdered in 2001.
In the meantime, the city entertained several proposals for the site, including one from International Swimming Hall of Fame President Sam Freas. The hall of fame proposal was pulled in late 2001.
When the city solicited new proposals last year competition was stiff. Elected officials selected Ocean Properties in March after a long, raucous commission meeting. Since then, the city manager and his staff have met weekly with representatives of Ocean Properties to work out financial terms for the project.
The Walsh family, which runs Ocean Properties, won praise from commissioners and from several beach business people for their involvement Hollywood and with local charities. The Walsh family also built the Hilton hotel in Key West and is developing a convention center hotel in West Palm Beach.
"Their unique character is that they make you feel like family," said Alan Koslow, the lawyer who helped them win city approval for the project. Koslow is a former Hollywood city attorney.
If the Casino property is redeveloped, it would be the third modern full-service hotel currently in Hollywood, after the Westin Diplomat and the Marriott Hollywood Beach. The Marriott, a 229-room hotel, was also developed by Ocean Properties, on the old Howard Johnson's site on Taft Street and the Intracoastal.
Commissioners balked at the developer's initial proposal, which included such hefty incentives that the city wouldn't have made any money from the project for more than 30 years, said Assistant City Manager Dave Keller.
Benson and other city officials eliminated the tax incentives, Keller said, so that the first year the hotel is on the tax rolls it will generate $845,000 for the beach CRA. Ocean Properties will get an 89-year lease for $275,000 a year, plus $75,000 a year for the bandshell beginning on the third year after the project is built.
Once the hotel complex is established and profitable, the city will get 6.5 percent of the revenues from shops and restaurants and 1.2 percent of hotel room revenues, Keller said.
The project is expected to pump about $38.7 million into city and CRA coffers over the next 20 years, Keller said.
Ocean Properties agreed to lend the city $1 million to help clear up the Diamond on the Beach legal battle.
County tourism officials have long hoped for a renaissance on Hollywood beach, which has plenty of small-scale hotels but few brand name properties. Last year, Hollywood collected about 15 percent of the $20 million in bed taxes paid by tourists to Broward County. Fort Lauderdale's share was 46 percent.
"What's been missing is something that isn't the Diplomat, but a mid-sized hotel that would look attractive to business groups and more upscale leisure travelers," said Nicki Grossman, president of the Broward County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Staff writer Tom Stieghorst and researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.
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