Pretty tower, ugly deal, critics say of plan to build condo on public land at Florida beach

·3 min read

They came with blowhorns and plenty of moxie, ready to blast the news that Hollywood doesn’t need another 30-story luxury condo tower on the beach — especially one built on taxpayer-owned land.

Close to 100 residents, many waving “No Private Condo” signs, gathered Sunday morning at the beachfront site where the tower would be built if city commissioners sign off on the controversial deal.

In recent months, the Related Group’s plan has sparked an outcry from critics who call the proposed 99-year lease allowing the Related Group to build on the 4-acre parcel a land giveaway.

“People say you can’t fight it,” Cat Uden shouted to the crowd gathered outside the Hollywood Beach Culture & Community Center. “You can fight it! It’s going to be twice as tall as Margaritaville. We need to put our foot down. We don’t want a mass of skyscrapers down the beach.”

Eric Fordin, the Related Group’s senior vice president, could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Critics fear a commission vote is just weeks away.

And they may be right.

On Sunday, Mayor Josh Levy said he expects the commission vote will come in November or December.

So far, only one commissioner — Caryl Shuham, who represents the beach — has come out against the plan.

On Sunday, protester Connie Furze said she fears her favorite beach spot will be forever altered if the tower gets built.

“This is what I call my backyard. It’s a place of peace and quiet,” said Furze, who lives eight blocks away and moved to Hollywood from Buenos Aires in 1996. “If they build the tower, it will be ruined.”

Local activist Clive Taylor Jr., armed with the blowhorn, warned of the condo canyon effect.

“I call it the march of the Hallandale monsters,” he said, arguing that one towering building can lead to another and another after that.

“If they really think the people want it, put it to a public vote,” he told a reporter. “And if the people vote for it, I’ll shut up.”

The land, deeded to the city 47 years ago, is now home to the community center and Harry Berry Park. The deed restriction requires the land be used for a park or other public purpose.

The Related Group came to the city in March 2020 with a pitch to develop the land and build a tower seven times what the current code allows.

In late August, the developer unveiled plans to the public showing a sleek tower 347 feet high, 18 feet shorter than the original proposal. The developer promises to upgrade the property with a new two-story community center, a bigger park, a casual restaurant and renourished dunes.

The land, valued at $35 million, would become more valuable if a private condo tower were built, city officials argue. They point to the money that can be made if Related Group takes over the land.

Under the current deal revealed in August, the Related Group would pay $5 million in an upfront rent payment; $18 million to $20 million from sales of the 190 condos it plans to build; $150,000 to $300,000 a year from resales; and $400,000 in yearly rent payments that would increase based on the Consumer Price Index.

Hollywood would also collect $1.9 million in property taxes each year.

Not everyone is opposed to the plan, the mayor says. He pointed to an email one woman sent to City Hall urging the commission to vote yes.

The woman, a resident of nearby Summit Towers, told commissioners she considers the site an eyesore with a rundown building, pitiful playground and bathrooms that are an embarrassment.

“Please help us improve our neighborhood,” she wrote.

Susannah Bryan can be reached at sbryan@sunsentinel.com or on Twitter @Susannah_Bryan

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