Affordable Housing Project in Hollywood Gets Green Light

HTG's Matthew Rieger with rendering of University Station (Housing Trust Group, Getty)

HTG’s Matthew Rieger with rendering of University Station (Housing Trust Group, Getty)

Hollywood gave conditional approval to a design and site plan for University Station, an eight-story, affordable rental development by Housing Trust Group.

The Hollywood City Commission conditioned its approval on a pledge by Coconut Grove-based HTG to restore the curvy architectural style that the developer originally proposed for University Station. The commission also approved a $2.4 million city loan to HTG to help finance the project.

The two-building complex in downtown Hollywood would have 216 apartments with below-market rents, all reserved for tenants who collect less than the area median income. The apartments will have one or two bedrooms, and 141 of them will be for people collecting 60 percent of AMI, the rest to those with as little as 22 percent and as much as 80 percent of AMI.

Project amenities will include a swimming pool, gym, community kitchen, lounge area, and children’s playroom. A pedestrian bridge would connect the buildings on the second floor.

Yet, commissioners called the latest design too boxy. “It looks like a glorified college dorm,” commissioner Adam Gruber said. Mayor Josh Levy said “rounded elements” in earlier conceptual renderings were missing from the latest renderings of University Station.

Commissioners said they anticipated a grander architectural statement because University Station would rise on a downtown site the city promotes as a commuter train station. The development site is across North 21st Avenue from the Florida East Coast railroad.

“I was expecting more of a ‘wow’ factor … When somebody takes the train here, we don’t want them to see bland,” said commissioner Kevin Biederman.

The city-owned development site along North 21st Avenue, between Fillmore Street and Polk Street, is now occupied by a parking lot, a municipal shuffleboard facility, and Barry University College of Nursing and Health Sciences. Barry’s nursing school would occupy at least 11,000 square feet of new ground-floor space at University Station. HTG also plans to build 4,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor.

Housing Trust Group, led by CEO Matthew Rieger, will make a one-time capitalized lease payment of $3.86 million to lease the city-owned Hollywood Station development site, according to city of Hollywood spokesperson Joann Hussey.

In 2016, the city issued a formal request for proposals to develop the 2.5-acre site along the FEC railroad, but got no responses. HTG then made an unsolicited bid to lease and develop the site, which triggered another RFP process, and HTG emerged as the winning bidder in 2020.

The city successfully urged HTG to build a bigger parking garage than initially planned at University Station to enhance the property’s appeal for a train station, said Raelin Storey, director of Hollywood’s office of marketing, communications, and economic development. University Station’s garage is designed with 587 parking spaces, far more than a 300-space minimum the city requires. Included in the total are 254 public parking spaces. The development also will have 30 handicap spaces, four more than required.

A study by the Florida Department of Transportation recommended Hollywood as one of six possible station stops on the east side of Broward County for commuter train service on the FEC railroad, potentially from Tri-Rail. It runs trains on tracks farther west with suburban stops in Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties.

“Because of the Broward commuter rail discussion, we’ve been told we need to have 370 [parking] spaces in the vicinity if we want to get a [train] station in Hollywood,” Storey said at the commission meeting. The city committed $5 million to HTG to encourage construction of public parking spaces, which was not part of the company’s original plan, she said. The total cost of the parking garage will be $18 million, Rodrigo Vargas, SVP of development at HTG, told the city commission.

Housing Trust Group plans to finance the University Station development with Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, allocated by the Florida Housing Finance Corporation, and other sources of funding, Vargas said. The city of Hollywood would charge an annual interest rate of 1.5 percent on the unpaid balance of its $2.4 million loan to HTG, which would have a term of 17 years.

HTG previously built an affordable housing development in Hollywood called Hudson Village. The eight-story, 96-unit project is at 1901 South Federal Highway.

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