|By Doreen Hemlock, Sun Sentinel, Fort
Lauderdale, Fla.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Aug. 08, 2012--A group of international developers plan to transform part of Hollywood beach into an upscale European-style village, adding shops, restaurants and a nearly $30 million condo-hotel with a synagogue.
The Spanish-Canadian group has been buying up distressed parcels for the venture, including a Pierce Street site slated for a condo-hotel that had stopped construction during the real-estate slump.
Developers hope to start the condo-hotel-mall complex named Costa Hollywood this year, pending approvals. Broader investments could reach $250 million within a decade, said Moses Bensusan, of Liberty Sites LLC.
The proposal would be a game-changer for Hollywood's barrier island and excites city officials and local businesses, who have seen other plans stall because of the recession and financing hurdles.
"The beach has been waiting for a project like this for years," said Manuel Pila, program manager at Hollywood's Community Redevelopment Agency. "This would be a huge catalyst."
Added Javier Marsico, manager of the 42-room Hotel Sheldon now being renovated in the area: "It's what Hollywood needs. I think we're on the verge of transformation for Hollywood beach."
Bensusan said funding for the condo-hotel-mall would come partly from sale of condo units to Europeans and South Americans, including Jewish tourists who would like the convenience of a synagogue and kosher restaurant on premises.
Bensusan said the group already has pre-sale commitments on about 60 condos. It also is talking with investor groups in South America to help with additional funding.
Developers have submitted site plans for Costa Hollywood for city approval. The project sits on parcels that were to host the halted Hollywood Grande condo-hotel, plus properties nearby, officials said.
If all goes well, construction on Costa Hollywood could take about two years, Bensusan said.
Hotel analyst Scott Brush of Miami sees promise in the project. While the proposed 17-story, 349-room Margaritaville resort on Hollywood beach has hit snags to find $130 million in financing, the Costa Hollywood project is smaller and sells condos to help raise cash.
The project also touts a synagogue, a feature that some Miami Beach hotels used to offer guests but now don't, he said.
"Building an upscale resort and associated retail at the same time makes sense. If it's big enough, it creates its own ambience. Hollywood doesn't have that kind of market now. He'd be bringing it in," said Brush. "The trick is the financing and developing enough parcels to make enough ambience."
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