From the window of his Hollywood shoe repair shop, Sean Keen has been looking at the long-closed Millennium Mall building for the entire six years that he has been there.
The massive red building is now shuttered with plywood and sits on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and State Road 7 as a reminder of a stagnant corridor that needs “a lot of work.”
But Keen’s view may soon change with the new owner’s plans to transform the 40-acre property into a Walmart Supercenter.
“Anything is better than what we have,” said Keen, who owns Allrite Shoe Repair at 260 S. State Road 7. “What we have is an eyesore.”
Wal-Mart spokesman Bill Wertz said the 180,000-square-foot store would be a full-service shop with groceries, a pharmacy and a fast-food restaurant option. There would also be parcels that would house other restaurants and businesses, such as TD Bank and Pollo Tropical.
Once construction begins, it will take about a year to build the Supercenter.
“It will definitely be a catalyst for other businesses in the area,” Wertz said.
If the project comes to fruition, it would be a welcome change for a business corridor that has struggled for more than 20 years.
The spot was once the epicenter of shopping, when it was the Hollywood Fashion Center and featured stores like Burdines, JCPenney and Jordan Marsh.
“Everyone went there,” said Hollywood City Commissioner Linda Sherwood, who has lived in the city since 1961. “It was a destination.”
But when Burdines, JCPenney and others moved west to the Pembroke Lakes Mall in the early 1990s, the Fashion Center began failing, and eventually closed.
For almost a decade, the building was tied up in lawsuits. Throughout the years, various plans surfaced, including one to build an outlet mall. But nothing happened.
Then in 2003, a new owner, Weston-based Millennium Development, opened The Millennium Hollywood’s City Place.
It was billed as a discount mall with hundreds of booths for people to sell their wares.
The developers came with big ideas and a nearly two-story tall carousel.
But shoppers didn’t come and vendors began to leave. By 2005, the flea market closed its doors.
Again the center sat vacant.
“It’s sad looking,” said Joan McLarty, who lives and works in the area. “We need more places to shop.”
Davon Barbour, director of Community and Economic Development for the city of Hollywood, said it “hurts” to see an empty building there when it could be generating significant tax revenue for the city.
He said Walmart not only fits the demographics — with 200,000 people living within a three-mile radius — but it will give the entire area a boost.
“Curb appeal is very important,” he said. “You are not inclined to shop somewhere that is not visually appealing.”
The development company Dacar Management bought the land four years ago because of its potential, said representative Alberto Micha.
“There is not a lot of retail in the area,” he said, adding that the closest Walmart stores are in Hallandale Beach and Miramar.
Dacar also bought most of the shopping center across the street — where the shoe repair store is — and plans to give it a makeover as well.
Inside Santo’s Barber Shop, Orelbys Jimenez has wondered whether anything was going to happen there.
News of a Walmart gives him hope.
“It will be good for everyone,” he said as he trimmed a man’s hair. “This area needs help.”
But not every one is happy with the selection of Walmart.
“We need something there, but I don’t think Walmart is a good idea,” said Sara Pierce, who works in Hollywood and was shopping at GFS Marketplace, which sits next to the vacant building. “I think Walmart will further depress the area.”
Idelma Quintana, president of the nearby Hollywood Gardens Civic Association, thinks differently. While Walmart is frequently met with some resistance in other communities — Hollywood is “welcoming Walmart with open arms,” she said.
The nearby Lawn Acres Civic Association also supports Walmart.
“The vast majority of people are looking forward to having a viable plaza,” said president Jean Morford.
Walmart has worked with the community to address some concerns, including noise, Morford said.
The city still has to approve the project, which could happen in September or October.
Micha is hoping demolition can happen by the end of the year.
At the same time business owners are hoping for new life to come to the intersection, State Road 7 is undergoing a multimillion-dollar expansion project that will add landscaping and medians to the main thoroughfare, which is now two lanes in either direction.
The stretch from Pembroke Road to Stirling Road is the only piece in Broward that has not yet been expanded.
The street repairs will tie in great with the new development, said several business owners and the city.
“It can’t come fast enough,” said Sherwood.