|By Ihosvani Rodriguez, South Florida
Sun-SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 3, 2007 - HOLLYWOOD -- The developer of a planned luxury hotel and resort on city-owned beach land assured Hollywood officials on Wednesday they are not checking out of their project.
Officials asked representatives of the $80 million, 323-room Marriott Ocean Village and Resort to provide an update on their progress. The proposal by Ocean Properties, of Delray Beach, was first approved in 2005 in hopes it would spur development. But while there has been plenty of building at the beach, construction of the 5.5-acre resort site at Johnson Street has not begun.
Commissioners had expressed concern recently after hearing reports that the Ocean Properties team had cancelled several meetings with city staffers and were not returning phone calls.
On Wednesday, Mark Walsh, Ocean Properties' vice president, said his group has been busy finalizing design details and will be ready to move forward by late summer.
"Everyone keeps asking us when they'll be able to come and have dinner," Walsh told commissioners. "I am here to assure you that progress is being done and it's all about details. We're trying to move forward quickly."
According to team officials, several architectural challenges are partially responsible for the delay. In particular, the team is trying to figure out how to build beachfront restaurants and shops that comply with Florida's strict building codes.
Officials said they are awaiting final word concerning potential legislative changes to the codes before drawing up the final design.
The team has also been retooling designs to keep the traffic flowing around the area.
Walsh said the group plans to start work after securing building permits and other city approvals. Construction could take up to 30 months, starting with demolition of the city's Johnson Street parking garage, he said.
City Manager Cameron Benson said Wednesday he was encouraged by the update.
"We all agree that this project is one of the top priorities on the beach," Benson said.
When plans were approved in 2005, city officials were hoping the resort with oceanfront and Intracoastal views, ballroom, spa, restaurants and shops would be the catalyst to transform the sleepy beach. The city's beach redevelopment agency agreed to build a 1,600-space parking garage to serve both the resort and the public.
The site is known as the Casino property because it was the home of the Hollywood Beach Casino until the 1920s.
The property languished and in 1997, gambling operator and Miami Subs founder Gus Boulis proposed building a $68 million luxury hotel-retail complex, Diamond on the Beach, at the site. That deal fell apart, the city revoked the lease in 1999 and the Boulis group sued the city for breach of contract. Two years after Boulis' 2001 slaying, the group, which also included hotel developer R. Donahue Peebles, won an $850,000 jury verdict.
Ihosvani Rodriguez can be reached at email@example.com or 954-385-7908.
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