To save or not to save old buildings on Fort Lauderdale's Hollywood Beach?
South Florida Sun Sentinel (FL), 2014-07-25
July 25 -- HOLLYWOOD -- A brewing controversy over whether the aging buildings on Hollywood beach deserve a historic designation has pitted property owners against preservationists.
On one side are land owners who fear losing their right to do with their property as they wish. Any plan to preserve old buildings, they say, would hurt property values and potentially halt a new era of redevelopment on the beach.
"Some of these properties are not worth saving," said resident Daniel Kennedy , who owns a home and three hotels on the beach. "I know buildings on the beach that are held together by termite spit and the grace of God, but they've been declared historic."
On the other side are activists who want to protect decades-old buildings from being demolished and turned into hotels, condos and parking lots. A historic designation, they argue, would preserve the old-time character of the neighborhood, boost property values and make owners eligible for tax exemptions and credits.
To longtime resident Patricia Smith , the older buildings are windows into Hollywood's past, gems that deserve to be saved.
"So many of our buildings are gone," she says. "It's important to save the ones that are left."
The debate comes at a critical time for the beach, where some are predicting a building boom triggered by Margaritaville , the Jimmy Buffett-themed resort set to open in mid-2015.
But Jack McCabe , a real estate analyst in Deerfield Beach, says the property owners have a point.
"When you get in an area when there's no vacant land, a historic designation can definitely hamper future development of that area," McCabe said. "Once they get these historical designations, they don't ever go away. If it passes, it's darn near impossible to reverse it."
That's why Hollywood's Community Redevelopment Agency is applying for a $50,000 grant to study which buildings should be given a historic designation, said executive director Jorge Camejo .
"We need to look at the buildings and see which are worth preserving," he said.
The prospect of a new study has people like Frieda Dragif up in arms, fretting about a long list of rules that might make it harder to sell or demolish their property.
"This will be a new study with new repercussions and new results," said Dragif, a Hollywood real estate agent and vice president of the Hollywood Beach Business Association . "If there are new guidelines, we will be beholden."
In 2006, Hollywood hired a Florida Atlantic University professor to compile a list of historic buildings in the area. The study identified nearly 80 buildings as historic.
The following year, Hollywood created the Broadwalk Historic District . All buildings in the district, a 2-mile span east of Surf Road between Sherman and Jefferson streets, automatically became historic, with all the requirements that come with it.
Anyone who owns property inside the district needs approval from Hollywood's Historic Preservation Board before demolishing or making changes to their buildings. They must use original materials and follow strict design guidelines. A property owner can appeal to the city commission if a request to level their building is denied.
Because some buildings on the list are outside the district, they are not subject to the same requirements.
Yet they remain in limbo, says Camejo.
A request to demolish one of these buildings would be met with greater scrutiny because it has been listed as a possible historic site, Camejo warned.
The Breakers, a two-story apartment building from the 1920s, had a date with a wrecking ball last fall.
Owner Tony Provenzano says he was able to get a demolition permit because the building, at 330 Hayes St. , sat outside the Broadwalk Historic District . But it took awhile.
"There were 10 apartments in there and they were in dire need of repair and upgrade," Provenzano said. "The building was by no means a landmark structure."
Beauty doesn't play a role when it comes to historic preservation, said Dave Baber , historic preservation coordinator for Broward County.
"Ugly or pretty, whether you like it or not is irrelevant," Baber said. "It's how significant it is as a piece of architecture or piece of history. It might be the last existing example."
Many of Hollywood's historic buildings were destroyed in the hurricane of 1926.
Smith, 86, believes it's important to save those pieces of history that remain standing.
"I think they should make every effort to preserve the historical buildings," said Smith, a founder of the Hollywood Historical Society .
Resident Leslie Soren also wants to see Hollywood preserve its older buildings.
"In relation to historic buildings, there are some people who view them as being in the way," she said. "But if you were to ask the question, there would be a story behind that old building. You point to a building that was erected five seconds ago, there's no story there."
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