This year, the city will finally begin remaking the Broadwalk, the oceanside promenade now bordered by mom-and-pop motels, small apartment buildings, casual restaurants and souvenir shops. They hope to re-create the Mediterranean village it resembled in the 1920s.
A low, lighted wall to keep sand off the Broadwalk will be built. Utility lines will be buried underground, drainage improved, historic lightposts installed and the unattractive east-west dead ends will be turned into pocket parks.
Work will begin at the end of the month and could take three years to complete.
"The beach is why people come to Hollywood," said Audrey Joynt, past president of the Hollywood Beach Business Association. "We do have the most beautiful beach in Broward. We just don't have it polished yet."
Considered one of the last old-time beaches in South Florida, Hollywood attracts families as well as French-Canadian and European visitors with its village atmosphere.
At least 10 construction projects are under way or proposed, and many small property owners are fixing up their buildings.
"It seems like everybody is making renovations on the beach," said Realtor Dan Kennedy, who says he has bought and sold 14 properties on Hollywood Beach. "I think we're going to turn into our own version of South Beach, not a high-rise South Beach, but a mom-and-pop kind of South Beach."
He transformed a condemned apartment building on the north end of the Broadwalk at Carolina Street into the eight-unit Australian-themed Walkabout Beach Resort, which opened in December 2002.
Across the street, the 10-story Howard Johnson Plaza Resort Hotel is slated for a major renovation and expansion. Nearby, construction recently began on the nine-story Villas of Positano condo and townhome development that is replacing an abandoned motel and a vacant bank building on State Road A1A, just south of Sheridan Street.
Charles E. Smith Residential is renovating the OceanCrest Beach apartments at the south end of the beach. The new owner of the Dolphin Motel on Pierce Street spent $200,000 renovating the 47-unit motel last year and wants to triple its size to include a spa, gym, restaurant and shopping arcade. And the struggling Oceanwalk Mall at the Hollywood Beach Hotel is opening a television, film and music museum.
In the past five years, Hollywood beach has had two high-rises built: the 17-story Renaissance on the Ocean on the north end and the 39-story Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa on the south end, which opened in 2002 as the first new beach hotel in a half-century.
Currently, the 38-story Ocean Palms luxury condo tower is under construction near the Diplomat.
Still, large-scale new development is no easy task here. Developers must assemble dozens of smaller properties to make them work. And that's why the six-acre, vacant Casino property at Johnson Street and the Broadwalk is so prized.
But it's also a glaring reminder of the beach's unfulfilled promise.
"There is no question that this is the best piece of land in Hollywood, but it's been a big disaster," said Lewis Manesiotis, 58, who runs Hollywood Beach Realty across from the site.
The city owns the property and in 1999 bulldozed the restaurants and small businesses on it to make room for something they hoped would transform the beach. But that hasn't happened yet.
Manesiotis spent summers as a kid at the lot when it was a municipal pool and recreation complex. He has bid four times in the past to put a project on the property and believes the site needs a major hotel and retail mixed-use component.