- Associated Press - Sunday, March 19, 2017

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. (AP) - The Hollywood Beach Hotel may have been an elegant grande dame in her heyday, but the deteriorating 1925 landmark could soon be replaced.

Developers trying to buy the condo apartments in the building are saying they plan to build two luxury condo towers with 500 units apiece, said Clotilda Sepe, a retired accountant who bought a unit here in 1990.

The development team also wants to reconfigure the Hollywood Boulevard bridge and add a roadway that would allow drivers to pull up to a new second floor entrance, said Jorge Camejo, director of Hollywood’s redevelopment agency.

Although no formal plans have been submitted to City Hall, Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy said he likes the idea of bringing the property back to its former glory.

“That’s the centerpiece for the beach and it needs to be grand,” Levy said. “It’s our Biltmore. I’d love to see the façade restored to the original design.”

Built by Hollywood founder Joseph Young and later renamed the Hollywood Beach Resort, the sprawling property at Ocean Drive and Hollywood Boulevard is considered by many to be historic - although it is not on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Personally I think it would be a travesty if they tore it down,” said Karen Albertson, president of Hollywood Historical Society. “It’s of great historic value. If some savior came along and renovated it and made it look like it used to, that would be one of our dreams.”

Still, Albertson admits the place has seen better days.

“It was a beautiful place,” she said. “When you came down Hollywood Boulevard, it was magnificent. And it just deteriorated over the years. It’s a hollow shell.”

The 7-story hotel, which cost more than $3 million to build, opened to great fanfare in 1925.

It quickly became the central spot for Hollywood’s high-society soirees, earning a reputation as a playground for the rich. Concerts were held in the hotel’s lounge on Sunday nights. An elaborate fountain and formal landscaping greeted guests. The second floor lobby sported checkerboard terrazzo floors.

When World War II started, the hotel became a training school for newly commissioned Naval officers. It was remodeled, trading its Mediterranean Revival design for Art Deco. Years later, in the 1970s, it became a Bible college.

In 1987, the place got a new name - Hollywood Beach Resort - after undergoing yet another renovation. The adjoining Oceanwalk Mall opened a year later, but failed to draw in the anticipated crowds and was put up for sale a year after opening.

Developers have been circling for several years, and now The Related Group is reportedly trying to buy out the condo owners, according to papers circulating among the resort’s residents, many of whom are retired snowbirds.

If 80 percent of the owners agree to sell, The Related Group will be able to take ownership of the condos and timeshares.

Related Group officials told residents 60 percent of the owners were willing to sell as of two weeks ago, unit owner Sepe told the Sun Sentinel.

“We think it’s probably going to go through,” Sepe said. “They are offering a fair price.”

Eric Fordin, vice president of The Related Group, declined to comment.

Sepe says she’s hoping a benefactor will step in to save the building, but a pending assessment may help spur the sale.

“We need at least $10 million to bring the building up to code,” she said. “If we don’t sell out to Related, we are going to get hit with a huge assessment. So we’re between a rock and a hard place.”

The transaction is complicated by the fact that the 10-acre parcel is divided among so many owners. The resort has 360 condo owners and 36 timeshares; the adjoining two-story mall has two separate owners; and the parking garage has yet another owner, represented by Margaritaville developer Lon Tabatchnick.

“The only way the property gets developed is if all the property owners work together,” Tabatchnick said. “All the stakeholders have to participate to get this done.”

He declined to say whether the development team would demolish the building if it gains control of the condo units.

The property is “in a state of disrepair,” Tabatchnick said. “You have this failing condominium in the middle of the property. Most of the commercial space is closed or failing. The original concrete structure is there, but all the architectural elements have been replaced.”

Any redevelopment proposal would need to go before Hollywood’s commission and historic preservation board. The commission has the right to override any vote by the preservation board.

Two years ago, Tabatchnick and his partners had plans to build a 17-story hotel on the northern edge of the property that would have left the resort untouched. That project never got off the ground.

Hollywood resident Ron Clasky says he’s been hearing rumors of a takeover ever since he opened a T-shirt shop in the mall 11 years ago.

Clasky says he’d love to see the place redeveloped, even if it means his shop will be forced to close.

“This should be the center of the beach, not Margaritaville,” he said. “I’ve got mixed emotions. It would put us out of business. But it really ought to be redeveloped and upgraded.”

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Information from: Sun Sentinel , https://www.sun-sentinel.com/


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