As I indicated in my reply to commenter Sharpo yesterday, I got my facts wrong about the Great Southern Eyesore and need to clarify. Most importantly, the price tag is $100,000, not “millions” as I speculated, and it isn’t coming out of public funds. You can find additional details in today’s Miami Hurled.
But even before I see the story, I have a conversation with Merkin Way, a South Florida developer who has had various projects going in Hollywood for some years. He sort of agrees with me that the facelift is a waste, but for entirely different reasons.
“Bad move,” he says. “Waste of resources, but even more to the point, it takes downtown Hollywood in the opposite direction from where it can be successful.”
What place is that?
“Well, back up. The former Mayor spent 20 years pouring money downtown, trying to make it artsy-fartsy, upscale, and yuppie. It didn’t work. Cute little businesses opened and closed in 6 months: cafes, boutiques, little designer shops. Bah.”
I lived through all that. Nothing caught on.
“People didn’t want it, first. And second, there aren’t enough people anyway. You want places like that you need three times the density. It’s why there’s no national chains for years; they don’t have the business presence or the residents. I told her that, but she don’t listen to nobody but Alan Koslow, that lawyer behind everything.
“But the real problem is, Hollywood ain’t that kind of raised-pinky place. They don’t want fine art and gourmet food and designer clothes, they want street festivals, cheap eats, and bargain stores.”
“Bingo. Think redneck. Look what made it downtown – not the jazz place, but the honky tonk, Whiskey Tango. Pizza stores. Sports bars. One-day denture repair. That’s who Hollywood is, and you can’t change that. It ain’t Las Olas or Lincoln Road and it never will be.”
So, what’s this got to do with the Great Southern Eyesore?
“You got this festering rockpile across the street from Whiskey Tango, right? Prominent location as you enter the area. Rats, bums, peeled paint, holes in the façade, furniture in the back alley…..what could be better ambiance for a white trash crowd in a downscale city? It’s the business model of the whole region, an emblem of what works. Leave it there until it physically crumbles or blows over in a storm. Great advertising!
“Damn fools don’t know a beacon when its light hits ‘em ‘tween the eyes.”
So fixing it up just ruins the image?
“Damn betcha! It’s a façade, phony! Hollywood doesn’t buy phony any more than high-end, they don’t see the difference! A real live busted dump is something they’re comfortable with. If anything, there should be more – you’d have crowds every weekend!”
Afterwards, thinking this through, I figure I’d just had my leg pulled out of joint. But you never know. Merkin has been around a long time, almost as long as the Great Southern Mound of Rubble, and knows where the bodies are buried. If you’ll pardon the expression.