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Proposed Downtown Coral Springs Project: “Los Mizner or Lost Minds?”

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revised 12/31/01 by Howard Melamed

Downtown
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Perhaps you haven’t been following the latest developments at the City Commission meetings regarding an ambitious project known as “Downtown Coral Springs”. They have spent over $1,000,000 on professionals.  It is now time to pay attention. The City Commissioners and the Developer, Amera Properties are going ahead with the Downtown Coral Springs project. This will result in increase traffic, lower property values and increase crime. It will put the whole mess in the taxpayers hands within 7 years.  They won’t tell you this.  In fact this is my opinion.  However, as good of a case that the City Commissioners and their highly paid experts can make in favor of “Los Mizner” ( Los Olas + Mizner Park = Los Mizner),  I can make even a better one against it.

Proposed Development: Lots of space

The first phase of the development encompasses a total area of 136 acres. The boundaries are Coral Hills to the West, 31st street to the South, Sample Road to the North, and University Drive to the East. (Click here for the proposed site plan) There are smaller areas to the North included in the initial phase along with a small corner of the property on the South East corner of University and Sample road where the Coral Springs Charter School now lies .  This project site will have a makeup of mixed uses as shown in the table below:

Proposed Uses  Location Corner of University and Sample Road Total
Northwest Southwest Southeast
Offices (sf) 340,000 650,000 35,000 1,025,000
Retail / Restaurants (sf) 200,000 518,000 15,000 733,000
Theater Entertainment(sf) 0 85,000 0 85,000
Hotel (rooms) 150 450 0 500
Parking (cars) 1,600 3,000 0 4,600
Residential (units) 380 800 0 1,180

My source of this information is the actual Letter of Understanding that was signed between Amera Urban Developers Inc. and the City of Coral Springs.

Doesn’t it look great. More than 1 million square feet of offices, more apartments, more restaurants and a little more parking.  The building that Amera just built on University Drive (the one painted yellow)  is 90,000 square feet and it is not fully rented. Los Mizner is going to have 10 times that. However, the City will be renting some of the space and will probably take more than 100,000 square feet of it. That leaves only 900,000 square feet to worry about. Only 900,000 square feet?

The proposed 733,000 square feet of retail space is about the same size as Coral Square Mall, considering that it is fully enclosed and this won’t be. If memory serves us all correctly, across the street from this development was a shopping center known as Coral Springs Mall. It was the first mall to be built here, and it was also the first to close up. The City ended up buying it to turn it into a school. It also housed a theater as well; Guess what? So does this project. What makes little sense is to build another mall on the other side of the street hoping that this time it is going to work. Perhaps the only up side is that the city can once again buy it later when it fails and turn it into another school. Meanwhile, there has been no disclosure of any major stores indicating their willingness to open up in this development.  Without a major contender involved the developer will find it difficult to rent the rest of the 700,000 square feet. Unless of course they don’t have to worry about it, since their main partner, the City of Coral Springs, has lots of money.

Adding another 1,180 residential apartments makes little sense considering that the very same city commission has been declaring that there is not enough space in the schools to house our students. They said that the apartments are a major problem  when it comes to taxing the city services. Apartments take up most of the calls to the Police and Fire Departments and increase our tax burden.

The parking in the project will be substandard. Considering that Coral Square Mall has more than 4,600 cars, the proposed development being  2 times  the size has only the same amount of parking.  What about the standards by which other development must be governed? Forget about it.  If they worked out how many cars they really need for the areas that they are proposing, it would be well over 10,000.  Where is everyone going to park? In the residential areas around the development.  Maybe Plan “B” is to build a monorail system to bring the people to Los Mizner of  Coral Springs.

City Commission Justification: Los Mizner Park

The main thrust of  why the city wants this development has to do with the “Grass is greener on the other side” concept.  Our City Commissioners have looked at other developments and determine that what we need here is a Los Olas – Mizner Park type of area. After all, all of our citizens are trekking outside of Coral Springs in search of entertainment and shopping when they could be staying put right here in Coral Springs. That way, all of their money could be spent here.   They also claim that having a Mizner Park style center will inspire others to come to us.  Mizner Park and Los Olas draw people and so will we. I don’t think so.  In case they haven’t looked at a map lately, Boca Raton and Los Olas are all near the beach.  The beach is where tourists are.  Boca Raton is just like most of the communities west of US 1 that swell to 3 times their normal population during the tourist season.  With our 4 hotels, I don’t see us swelling that much, and besides, I don’t see the beach extending this far west. Well let’s build it and they will come. Well, lets not and say we did.

So what about the habits of the Coral Springers? Why do we go out of our way to Boca or Los Olas or South Beach? It is because we are exciting people that like to experience different settings. We go to Boca to see the expensive cars and the opulence. Not a lot of shopping, but more exciting. Maybe it is because we like to do something different. Going to Los Olas is entertaining in itself. So is South Beach. Let’s face it..the beach area is more exciting that’s why we live here, away from it all.

The Call For Proposals: Only one bid received

Last year the City of Coral Springs put out a call for proposals for the Down Town Coral Springs  development.  Of all the developers in the country, only 2 considered putting in proposals. That was how many actually felt that this project was possible. Out of the 2 that showed interest, one dropped out leaving Amera Properties as the only developer that wanted the deal. The fact that they are the only bidder in itself is nothing unusual. The City decided to stop at only one rather than reflecting on why so many developers did not have the same confidence in the concept.  In every deal you need competition. It is what keeps the project honest.  It is kind of difficult to negotiate with someone that knows he is the only bidder. Perhaps if I were the developer, maybe I would have asked myself the question: Why was I the only one to step forward when everyone else stepped back?

Coral Springs Slums: University and Sample Road

So how is the City going to finance their costs with this development project without raising taxes and encourage investment? They have declared the entire project area as “Blighted”, thereby qualifying for State Funding.  Wait a second. What does Blighted Areas mean? It means areas of abandoned building, slums,  crime ridden, drug infected crack houses. Isn’t the Charter School in this area (see photo)?  How about you? I am sure you have driven through this area and you would agree with me that there is no evidence of blight. What about the existing tenants of 3300 University Drive and the merchants in the shopping center across the street. How do they feel about being in an area called “Blighted”? This area is established  and well maintained. In the future it will undergo redevelopment with or without any government funding.

Unsightly arrangement of flowers on the NE corner of Sample and University.  Further evidence by the city that blight is in the area.

Take a close look at that area that they describe as blighted and see if you agree with them. Their experts Siemens and Larson,  made a presentation at a City Commission meeting and declared with straight faces and certain confidence that this area is “Blighted”.   The property values have never been greater as property taxes in Coral Springs keep rising with the appraised values. The experts say differently. They say that the appraised values have been going down, but offered no direct proof of this. If you look at any of the property that has been sold in the past  you will see an increased value in the area.

Just take 3300 University Drive as an example as shown in the photograph. This building is right in the Southwest quadrant of the project. It was purchased for $6,000,000 about 6 years ago and sold 2 years ago for $12,000,000.  Yep, that is what I call ‘Blight’.

There are some seriously blighted areas in Coral Springs close to Sample and Riverside Drive and the area Southeast of Coral Ridge and Wiles Road.  It seems to me that these areas should be considered for Community Redevelopment before the city looks at anything else.  Why don’t the Commissioners consider this? I think it is because it is not as high a profile as  Los Mizner of Coral Springs, and not as much fun either. I think everyone likes the idea of building a legacy. There is no legacy in the redevelopment of housing. Certainly no statue that I know of has ever been erected in a housing development.

The Case for Opposing Los Mizner

We should be opposed to the development of this project for the following reasons:

  1. Crime: This area will have an increase in crime associated with increased transient population.  Parking lots in Coral Springs are a haven for stolen vehicles and other crimes. The added high density housing will strain our police and fire department.
  2. Traffic: Broward County has already declared University Drive and Sample Road as being over their capacity. As a result other developers have been forced to pay for turning lanes and traffic lights in a way to increase the capacity of the roadways. There is no plan to widen any of the roads going to the project and University Drive, already experiencing increased accident rates, will be further burdened by the increased cars.  Incidentally, the city believes that Broward County will like this plan since it will reduce traffic in other streets in the county. How? The Experts believe that by having more offices in Coral Springs more of us will stay here and not work anywhere else in the county. My belief is that with the increase in office space more people from outside of Coral Springs will work here thereby increasing the traffic on our roads including the over capacity University Drive.
  3. More Accidents: It is dangerous to place a high density project with increased traffic and more people near a school. The added traffic will result in more accidents.
  4. Lowering of Property Values: I believe that the increase in space will result in an abundance of office  and retail space in this city. This will increase the vacancy rates, lower revenues throughout the city as other office space try to compete with the project.  This will  lower their appraised values. It also places an unfair advantage to the developer of the project when compared to other property owners not within the project boundaries.
Downtown by Petula Clark When you’re alone and life is making you lonely You can always go – downtown When you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry Seems to help, I know – downtown Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty How can you lose? The lights are much brighter there You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares So go downtown, things’ll be great when you’re Downtown – no finer place, for sure Downtown – everything’s waiting for you Don’t hang around and let your problems surround you There are movie shows – downtown Maybe you know some little places to go to Where they never close – downtown Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova You’ll be dancing with him too before the night is over Happy again The lights are much brighter there You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares So go downtown, where all the lights are bright Downtown – waiting for you tonight Downtown – you’re gonna be all right now —— instrumental break —— And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you Someone who is just like you and needs a gentle hand to Guide them along So maybe I’ll see you there We can forget all our troubles, forget all our cares So go downtown, things’ll be great when you’re Downtown – don’t wait a minute for Downtown – everything’s waiting for you Downtown, downtown, downtown, downtown …
  1. Increase Tax Burden.  Listening to the words of the City Manager at the last City Commission meeting , he was careful in saying that people within the redevelopment area will not pay more in taxes than other property owners in the rest of the city.  In other words no tax increase exclusively in this area, but the possibility for raising additional funds in the entire city was not ruled out.  Should the project fail, expect the city to raise our property taxes to pay for it…in other words.
  2. More Failed Retail Space: It is wrong to allow a project to have more preferences than the existing retailers in our city that have paid their fare share of taxes and occupancy licenses every year.  The ambitious retail space will only increase the likelihood for other business owners in the city failing as they all try to go after the same customers.  The City Commissioners stated that we are almost fully built out in this city. Then the only new customers will be those that are generated by people coming from other cities to shop here. That better be a substantial amount of more people  or retailers in other parts of the city will suffer as the same customers, you and me,  will spread their buying dollars over more stores.
  3. Expropriation of Land: As part of the project,  it will be necessary to acquire property from owners within the redevelopment area.  What if someone doesn’t want to sell? The City has the right to invoke Eminent Domain and take the property.  Of course they must pay the owner based on the appraised value of the property. Is this the process that we want to happen? The City stepping in to help the developer  ‘Take’ someone’s property?   We can’t be sure that this power will be utilized sparingly and with reason. Not when there is a lot of money involved.
  4. Better use of Public Money. I can think of several more ways of using the City’s time and our money in the pursuit of making Coral Springs a better place to live, work and raise a family.  There are areas that are truly “blighted” in Coral Springs and in tremendous need of this type of redevelopment.   A “Rich Man’s Los Mizner Park is not one of them.
  5. Picking up The Pieces: A failed project like this one would only make the city look bad and force all of our citizens to pick up the pieces. The interesting point at the last City Commission meeting was the experts saying that the results of a project like this will take 7-10 years to really see if it works. By that time it is too late.
  6. Competition:  The fact that only one developer bid on the project should send up the red flag.  The entire process should have been thrown out once it was discovered that other developers were not interested.  However, this particular developer is well known in Coral Springs and can be perceived by some to have received preferential treatment in the past. Amera is one developer that was able to have a variance from the city sign laws and have multi-colored signs on their buildings on University Drive. They are also being given the go ahead to change easement requirements for the new Walgreen’s that they will be building up the street. Located on the City of Coral Springs Website you will find a link that gives you information on a property that Amera owns known as  The Walk. (http://www.coralsprings.org/business/the_walk.htm).  The City of Coral Springs has nothing at all to do with ‘The Walk’.  It is not part of the Downtown Coral Springs project. Yet, they promote it’s grand opening.  No other privately owned development has been given the same opportunity as to be promoted by the City of Coral Springs. Private business has no place in the City of Coral Spring’s website, but rather should be best left to the Chamber of Commerce.  It can be perceived that the city does bend over backwards to help this particular developer.

So why not have only this one bidder? It is because people can question the integrity of a deal that has only one bidder and a strong interest in the area. Any apparent special treatment by the City of Coral Springs towards another developer is another reason why competition is important and when only one bid was received it should have been thrown out.

Rubber Stamp

How can a project like this take place so quickly? It is because there is no opposition within the City Commissioners as they all voted 5-0 in favor of it. Not one commissioner asked the question do we really need this? Not one. This is nothing new as most issues brought before the city commission continue to get passed 5-0 without any opposition or major discussion. The only issues that I can remember that had some debate dealt with smoking in public parks and with roadside monuments. A meeting without debate is no meeting at all.

Someone will obviously ask the question as to why am I so opposed to this project. After all wouldn’t it be good for Coral Springs? . It was the very same debate that I had recently with a good friend of mine who suggested that Los Mizner will put us on the map. I think we are already on the map, the last time I looked. Our community has already started  to undergo the very same changes that other communities have gone through.  Our Community has the lowest crime rate in Florida, and is one of the safest places to live. Let’s keep it that way.

comments? email  losmizner@coralsprings.com

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Your Comments:

Don’t Do It! I am someone relocating to south Florida this coming summer, considered Coral Springs, and stumbled upon this article. maybe I should look for another place to live!!!!!!!!! I can seriously see this project failing. The town where I live now, in Ct. had a similar type of Deal, It has now been twenty years, three or four bankrupt contractors, the city finally took the hit, and spent the money to finish the project, opened it last fall, and immediately sold the whole deal, at a huge loss to a private party, lets see how it does, I havent been there yet!!!!  -R.C.

Stop wasting my money on this white elephant. We don’t need it, don’t want it, and don’t want to pay for it when it goes bust. Who came up with this stupid idea? – Thomas M. Glasgow

Once again I am shocked and amazed although I shouldn’t I am. I had no idea what was going on I feel many do not. How can we stop this and get the word out. Let me know I am willing to help.   – Olga

Thank you for the details on the project that I am sure would never be printed in any other media. I find your web site very helpful in staying up on what is really happening in Coral Springs. Most residents do not realize how the city is being run, and that the overall best interest’s of the citizen’s is not always debated. Keep up the great work. Thanks again, –  Steve

I agree that we probably don’t need  any more shopping . they could make a project that would benefit more of  Coral Springs residents , such as parks and open areas  that  people would enjoy spending their time with families sometimes.  Living on a relaxing place with a cute , clean , open, green comfortable place. – patty

This project should be called  “lost-minds” . Declaring this corner a “blighted area” is an outright slap in the face to the citizens living in the areas that truly are the blighted sections in this city. I live in the sector 45, (Sample to Wiles, Woodside to Riverside) and along with my neighbors, we have been fighting the endless fight of cleaning up our area. For our commissioners to use valuable resources on a project like “lost-minds” is a waste of time and money. Give us the attention we need and deserve. Let’s clean up what is already here. Slumlords are making a huge profit in our area because the city has little to no involvement in what’s going on. These slumlords charge unreal amounts of rent, let their properties get run down, and then leave the mess behind. Does the city put a stop to this activity? NO! But hay, lets build a super mall. I thought this was our city, and you work for us. Where is our vote? Where is our voice?  People move here because we are a quiet community. Commissioners, if you want Las Olas and you want Mizner Park. MOVE!!!!!! — Jason

 

This project has always been Alan Polin’s baby & legacy.  The people in the Dells and Meadows worked with the city and a $50,000 city planning organization for a year to get some help with redesigning the Riverside Drive area – removing some buildings, building more parking & green space & recreation.  Numerous meetings and polls were taken.  Finally, the final presentation was given which was wonderful & received well by the residents.

 

Then the entire project was dropped, soundly, after plants were put in on Riverside Drive to “beautify” it.  The commissioners refuse to even discuss it any more.

 

At that time, this same “blighted” description was given as a source for money.  All the residents accepted that.

 

But all of a sudden – University & Sample are blighted – not the area where the residents BEGGED for help.

 

I presently have a home for sale (I’m a Realtor) on a street that can ONLY be accessed by 44 Court, east of Woodside.  It is listed BELOW the prices of other homes in the area.  99% of the buyers who see the home say they love the home, but they don’t want to live near 44 Court ( dense income property).  In fact, we got a contract on that same home this weekend.  But after a couple of days, the buyers backed out because “it is too close to 44 Court”.  If that doesn’t interpret into loss of property value, I don’t know what does. –  R.P.

 

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Howard Melamed

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