Hollywood paving way for three 25-story towers, four-story hotel on public golf course

HOLLYWOOD — Here’s what’s on the menu for Hollywood’s Orangebrook Golf Course: A redesign by legendary golf course designer Rees Jones; a four-star, four-story hotel with 175-rooms; and three 25-story towers with 750 apartments.

A local developer beat out two other suitors Wednesday vying for the chance to redesign Hollywood’s public fairway, ensuring the city won’t need to use $25 million from a voter-approved parks bond to spruce up the greens.

In a 4-3 vote, Hollywood commissioners ranked the suitors they want to take to the dance, as Mayor Josh Levy put it in an interview this week with the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

GCF Development/PPG Development, led by Hollywood builders Chip Abele and Ari Pearl, got the top ranking followed by Maitland-based E2L Real Estate Solutions in second place and Jupiter-based Ernie Els Group in third. A fourth firm, Green Lynx, withdrew from the competition just days ago.

The vote came after a spirited debate that lasted more than three hours and had one woman fighting back tears while she implored the commission to reject plans to build a hotel and high-rise towers on taxpayer-owned land.

The controversial project involves a 99-year lease of public land to pave the way for the hotel and high-rise towers — a prospect that has elicited protests from critics who don’t want to see the historic course developed.

Elmyra Powell, who lives one block from the mammoth 260-acre golf course, is one of those critics.

“Once again, I’m standing here before you asking you to represent the people’s interests,” Powell told the commission, her voice soon trembling with emotion. “We asked you to look out for our little golf course that was dying a slow death. You’re talking about our heart when you talk about that golf course. We want to save Orangebrook. We don’t want you to give us a new country club resort.”

A golfer tees off at Orangebrook Golf Course in Hollywood on Tuesday. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

A no-brainer

But fans called the plan a no-brainer, saying the redesign will help make Hollywood a golfing destination and might even bring a PGA tournament to town.

The plan calls for two public full-size 18-hole courses, a 34,000-square-foot clubhouse with a restaurant, a pro shop and driving range, fitness facility, banquet hall, lighted nine-hole practice course and a 3-mile walking trail.

The project — an investment that the builders say exceeds $400 million — will also add to the city’s bottom line. The developer has offered Hollywood a 50/50 split of the profits from the golf course and clubhouse. In 30 years alone, the GCF/PPG project is expected to add $152.4 million to Hollywood coffers.

One resident asked how the city got to this point.

Here’s the answer: In July 2020, Hollywood got an unsolicited proposal from Green Lynx to redevelop Orangebrook. As required by state law, the city solicited additional proposals for a public-private partnership, commonly known as P3s.

Four teams submitted bids by the October deadline and were later ranked by an evaluation committee made up of city staff. But the commission has final say.

Longtime resident Ann Ralston fumed over the fact the parks bond approved in 2019 made no mention of a hotel or apartment towers at Orangebrook.

“I would like to know where this money is,” she told the commission. “It’s been four years and I’m paying for [the bond]. Now I’m paying for something that’s not getting done. Never again. If you people think you’re going to pass a bond in the city to do a bait-and-switch, it’s going to be over my dead body.”

Hollywood plans to use the millions that were slated for Orangebrook on other parks projects throughout the city.

The mayor had reassuring words for commissioners before they cast their votes on Wednesday.

“Today is not a marriage,” Levy said. “As things get fine tuned, there can be improvements and changes [to the initial proposal]. If we can’t reach terms with the number one team, we go to team number two and team number three.”

Rotten and damaged boards are shown at Orangebrook Golf Course on Tuesday. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Seal the deal

In June, the commission is expected to vote on a comprehensive agreement that will seal the deal.

If all goes as planned, the golf course will break ground in the beginning of 2024 and open 18 months later, said Keith Poliakoff, attorney for the developers. The clubhouse and golf course amenities would open six months later.

And the trio of apartment towers will take about five years to complete.

To sweeten the deal, the developer offered to set aside 100 apartments for affordable and workforce housing — or about 13 percent of the entire project.

The hotel and apartment towers will take up less than 5 acres of the golf course, Poliakoff said.

The developers have tapped Rees Jones to design the course.

Jones has designed or redesigned more than 250 golf courses in his career, including some of the most well-known public courses in the world, the developers said in their pitch to the city.

Jones designed Torrey Pines, known as one the best golf courses in California with two 18-hole championship courses. Torrey Pines played host to the U.S. Open in 2008 and 2021.

He also designed Bethpage Black on Long Island. The course hosted the PGA Tour in 2011 and the PGA Championship in 2019.

Jones, who spent more than three hours watching the debate from the audience, drew praise from the mayor for attending the meeting.

“A PGA tournament will come here if we have a sponsor,” Jones told the commission. “I think there is an opportunity to have a tournament. [But] we’re really building this for the people of Hollywood. This is my love, the public golf course.”

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

Article Link: Hollywood paving way for three 25-story towers, four-story hotel on public golf course
Author: Susannah Bryan