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Hollywood leaders OK final Margaritaville deal

It’s nearly 5 o’clock on Hollywood Beach.

Wednesday night, the Hollywood City Commission voted 6-1 to allow a developer to take over a 5-acre parcel of beachfront property to build the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort.

“This city needs this project,” said Commissioner Patricia Asseff, adding that the city has been waiting for years for something to happen on the beach. “We need a buzz; we need something happening.”

Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort LP — a partnership between Lojeta Millennium, Margaritaville of Hollywood and Starwood Capital — now has until July 9 to get its financing in line, secure bonds and get permits approved to begin construction on the 349-room hotel and restaurant complex.

“We all want Margaritaville to be successful,” said Lon Tabatchnick, the president of Lojeta as he pleaded with the commission for approval before the 6-1 vote.

The hotel complex will also include a garage with 600 public parking spots, a refurbished band shell and public restrooms.

The project is expected to cost $147 million and take 27 months to build.

The city is leasing the land to the developers and pledged to give $23 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment.

In exchange, the developers will pay the city a minimum $1 million in yearly rent, with a 15 percent increase every five years. The city could get paid more based on how well the hotel does.

City projections indicate Hollywood will receive $1.9 billion from the resort over the span of the 99-year lease.

“This is a huge money maker for the city,” said Mayor Peter Bober.

City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark said Wednesday the project has also spurred redevelopment on the beach.

Wednesday’s vote is the latest chapter in an endless story of failed dreams for the property, known as the “Casino” after the historic Casino pool built in the 1920s by city found Joseph W. Young.

Developers going back to 1997 have tried, and failed, to raise financing for a resort complex.

In 2009, Tabatchnick teamed up with Margaritaville resorts. Recently, Starwood Capital, the group that once financed high-end hotels, including St. Regis, W, Westin, and Sheratons, stepped in as a partner and committed a minimum of $45 million of equity into the project.

Among the final details the city commissioners had to approve Wednesday night: Recognizing that Starwood will likely sell its interest within 10 years, Hollywood worked out a formula on how it will be compensated.

“It may not be the absolute best deal, but it’s the best deal we can get here,” said Commissioner Linda Sherwood.

Commissioner Peter Hernandez said he thinks the city isn’t benefiting as much as it should from the beachfront land.

He said the idea of a 99-year lease means there will be no real immediate impact.

“No one in our lifetime is going to see this through,” Hernandez said.

He and fellow commissioners Kevin Biederman and Traci Callari questioned staff and the developers about traffic concerns, profit for the city and safeguards for future sales of the complex.

“I don’t believe that if we don’t pass this, nothing else will come,” said Hernandez, the lone dissenting vote.

Resident Howard Sher also expressed his displeasure: “I don’t like how this whole project was handled.”

But other residents urged the commission to vote in favor of the project, saying Margaritaville’s flip-flip vibe is exactly what Hollywood Beach needs.

“Margaritaville is escapism,” said Hollywood resident, business owner and self-described Parrot Head Violet Nikolici Lowery. “Where can you do that in Hollywood?”