Having been part of the revival in south beach, Florida in the late 1980's and early 1990's I'm seeing things in Hollywood Beach Florida that are reminiscent of that time and place; blighted areas, local tourist traffic, structures in need of repair and "the arrival of new owners, builders, hotels, patrons and guests"; all of which make for an interesting comparison, from here to there, now to then.
I can't help but sense the same optimism, cynicism in the air accompanied by changes to tourist mix and the flow of booking patterns. I had lived through this once before a long time ago!
At the Avalon, Majestic, Penguin and National Hotels on South Beach we painted old art deco furniture, left the rooms sparse and called it "minimalistic design"… and tourists came in droves. They couldn't get enough of it! Fast forward 25 years and South Beach has matured and is now referred to as one of the top tourist destinations in the world. I certainly am not saying that Hollywood Beach has the same type of appeal that south beach does; nor will or should it. But Hollywood Beach certainly does have their own laid back charm and appeal that makes it a unique destination in their own right.
Upon the completion of Margaritaville this past year, Hollywood Beach, saw a slight uptick in reservations, busy weekends, higher occupancies and higher daily rates. In south beach, when comparing our initial "rebirth year" to those immediately preceding it, you could say that it could best be described as a quantum leap! With the way things are unfolding on Hollywood Beach one could project that 2017 and 2018 will be those quantum leap years.
On Ocean Drive our front porch/curbside restaurants began to thrive. We introduced live music for our patrons to enjoy as they dined. We placed a model, a food display and a menu board on the side walk to entice those strolling down the heavily trafficked sidewalk to join us for lunch or dinner. Walking down the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk is more casual affair and while I don't see the models of SOBE (!), I do note that the foot traffic is heavy and that waitresses are calling out to potential patrons from the café's and both they and the bars are busier than I ever remembered!
In South Beach in our initial winter we saw a substantial increase in occupancy and rate; with the occupancy topping out at 75% annually. Not bad, compared to the year prior, where the hotels were running annually in the low to mid 60% range annually. (Jumping ahead to today, you will frequently find occupancies in the mid to high 80% range!) Summers in south beach then were "ghost town like" and that can be seen here in Hollywood Beach today.
The Historic Perspective of Hollywood Beach
It is interesting to note that Hollywood Beach has historically been a difficult destination to market and one could say "with a bit of an identity problem". With Fort Lauderdale immediately to the north and taking the lion's share of attention and Miami Beach to the south, it has been difficult to market Hollywood Beach. While on the west coast of the USA Hollywood CA thrived, Hollywood FL did not. If anything, Hollywood Beach's "claim to fame" was that it was described as a "blue collar" destination. No frills, easy and casual. If that was indeed true, then some might say that the addition of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville was a good fit to that local genre.
Margaritaville arrived this past year and joined the Marriott Beach Resort (to the north) as the only other respectable large resort on the beach. To the south sat and sits the old behemoth "castle" known as Hollywood Beach Resort. This magnificent structure, with its rich history should in its own right be the southern pearl of Hollywood Beach. Yet for decades it has been a challenged property that has always had incredible potential.
As one drives down Hollywood Blvd., past the tall palm trees situated on each side of the road, this amazing structure comes into view. It serves as both the gateway to Hollywood Beach and a well-known landmark that one can never forget. It is both appealing and majestic.
Like the Versace Mansion located on Ocean Drive, it too was in dilapidated condition then. It became one of the anchor properties on Ocean Drive once renovated and likewise everyone on Hollywood Beach believes that a remedy will ultimately come to the Hollywood Beach Resort. That said, this properties restoration, relaunch and repositioning will be key to completing the Hollywood Beach landscape. With three large thriving properties along the Broadwalk, each with its own brand and appeal, Hollywood Beach will be well on its way.
Other comparisons and similarities to the revival of south beach.
Hotels on Ocean Drive in South Beach, and those that sit on the Broadwalk in Hollywood Beach, both sit immediately across from sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean; each provides an international assortment of café's and eateries. South Beach has become much more sophisticated over the years but believe me, we started out very simply back then. Much the same as in south beach, the broadwalk café's and bars provide live music and the atmosphere in both locations while different, is vibrant and fun.
Perhaps one of the biggest differences in comparing the rise of South Beach and what is occurring in Hollywood Beach is the introduction of the large anchor hotel properties in each of the areas and the role they each play(ed). In South Beach it was, Loews Resort and in Hollywood Beach it is Margaritaville Resort. Loew's was added to an established maturing market, while Margaritaville is helping to define the Hollywood Beach market. Loew's was built to provide their guests with privacy, while Margaritaville has in many ways opened its doors to be "the main event and attraction on the beach". If surrounding hotels embrace this, they can provide an add-on benefit to what they provide to their guests. Live entertainment each night in the Margaritaville band shell, adjacent to the property and on the ocean, provides an open outdoor music venue with a variety of performers from 7pm to 9pm Wednesdays to Sundays. What's more, the band shell is an easy walk from anywhere on the island and creates instant energy to all locations within a quarter mile of it.
Lumus Park is located in South Beach and is situated between the row of hotels on Ocean Drive and the beach. This area is primarily used for skating, cycling and ball playing. Hollywood Beach has, what is referred to as, a Broadwalk. This is a wide path, with a section devoted exclusively to jogging, bicycles, roller blades, and other exercise related vehicles. There is no shortage of bicycle rental availability in either location and like South Beach, Hollywood Beach has well defined bicycle lanes on public roads.
From volley ball tournaments to triathlons, concerts to organized sightseeing tours, like south beach the city of Hollywood has a multitude of well attended events.
Hotels, Motels, Inns & Hostels
The island consists of a number of small (some historic) hotels, motels and inns. Although they don't offer the same appeal from a historic perspective as that of their art deco counterparts in South Beach, a number have been renovated and are quite charming.
"Casa Pellegrino Hotel" is one of those small charming luxury properties. In the same immediate area, the Dolphin Hotel has recently drawn renderings for an upscale property that should break ground soon. Another property worthy of mention, and that is both sizable and nearing completion, is "the Melia Costa Hollywood Beach Resort". This is a formidable luxury condo-resort.
Needless to say, combining acreage or building on existing vacant parcels (a number are available) would allow for larger projects.
As is the case on south beach, parking and traffic is a problem. While several smaller roads allow limited travel, Ocean Drive on Hollywood Beach is the main thoroughfare that is fed by 3 roads onto the island. The expansion of the Fort Lauderdale airport is worthy of mention as new international flights are on the rise and more area traffic is anticipated. The cruise industry is also a good feeder to this area and the port of Fort Lauderdale is only miles away.
The early and mid-1980's, saw the beginning of acquisitions that lead to the rebirth of South Beach. This occurred in the late 1980's. That initial "changing of the guard" saw some exceptional buying opportunities. While it may be getting later in the Hollywood Beach "changing of the guard" there are still a number of properties available for sale and at reasonable prices. Beauty, of course is in the eye of the beholder! I'm not a realtor, just an observer.
The vibe of Hollywood Beach is a reality and there are nights that I walk down the Broadwalk and something will cause me to flash back to those early south beach days. This small "sleepy beach front town", appears to have many of the ingredients that South Beach once did that could make it thrive!
Richard B Evans
President of Revenue Report Card LLC
(954) 290 - 3567