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Sun Times Feature Story

441 Corridor Comes Alive Once Again

• With The Addition Of The New Walmart Supercenter, Hallandale Beach Is Among The Best In Broward County

By Larry Blustein

   HOLLYWOOD - For years, it had been an eyesore - something that residents and visitors could never understand.

   The entrance into the City of Hollywood on a street that thousands of motorists passed every day - going to and from a community that has always been one of the centerpieces of Broward County.

   As you ride along Hollywood Blvd., approaching 441 - in either direction - the old Hollywood Fashion Center - which had long been one of the vital pieces of properties that defined this community - had sat and eroded to the point where many had learned to ignore it.

   Even businesses in the area had taken the property and wiped it out of their mind, believing the more that they focused on this "Millennium Mall" facility that remained boarded up - the more angry they would get.

   While the City of Hollywood could do very little with the property that didn't belong to them, they made every attempt to help get someone to sell and purchase in hopes that things would change.

   After nearly 20 years of struggling to make something positive happen to this 441 corridor, the light at the end of the tunnel began to shine brightly. There was indeed something to be positive for the city and those businesses who had remained optimistic in the face of a reality that nothing was being done.

   This 40-acre property, which had once been home to Burdines, JCPenney, Jordan Marsh and so many other popular stores, had finally been leveled and cleared to make room for a 180,000 square-foot Wal-Mart SuperCenter that would include a full-service shop with groceries and a pharmacy that would also be home to restaurants and businesses that would finally attract a flow of people into the community.

   "This is a huge thing for businesses like mine that has been here for 10 years with the promise that this would happen," Mike Roth explained. "Things during the summer are always slow, but for us, attracting anyone to come here has been almost impossible, any time of the year."

   Roth had resorted to mail order for his business that sits along Hollywood Blvd. Closing had been an option, but landlords had been creative with many tenants, trying to keep them and lowered the rents.

   "It got to the point where you really wanted to blame someone," Roth said. "But there was really nobody to blame, so you either complained or left. We opted to stay, believing that sooner or later, things would change."

   The City of Hollywood has always planned for the future of the 441 corridor, cleaning many areas up in hopes that this large property would be transformed into something. The Wal-Mart was the ideal proposal by many as far back as 4 years ago. The idea of having a national chain that would attract people to the location would indeed showcase the other businesses and the community which had done so much in sprucing up heavily-traveled 441.

   The reason that the Fashion Center closed was the population was growing toward the west - and the Pembroke Lakes Mall, along with the Aventura Mall, had large anchor stores leaving and bringing in less people. 

   Bruce Godwin has been a resident of Hollywood for 22 years. He recalls the days of the Fashion Center when he lived in North Miami-Dade County. It was a destination that kept Hollywood in the spotlight. He also knows what has happened to the area in the wake of the facility closing and numerous plans for the location falling by the wayside.

   "Look at how many businesses closed up because of the lack of visitors coming into the area," he said. "It's really not fair to those people who poured their money and sweat into staying afloat. But now, things look like they are a lot more optimistic."

   Dania Beach-based Dacar Management received approval from the Hollywood Planning & Zoning Board in November of last year to build the Walmart.

   Dacar acquired the land in 2009 and looks forward to opening the store sometime in 2015, which will not only help area businesses begin to thrive but add as many as 300 jobs at a time when unemployment is still very high.