Best Practice Cities Founding Principal Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark Led Complex Process that Created Winning Public/Private Partnership that Met All Goals and Exceeded Expectations
CORAL GABLES, Fla.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A top 10 ranking in Conde Nast Traveler, AAA Four Diamond status and resilience through the pandemic have proven the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort to be one of the best public/private redevelopment projects in the nation.
Best Practice Cities (www.bestpracticecities.com) Founding principal Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, while serving as City Manager for Hollywood Florida, steered the project through uncharted and difficult waters. Her leadership created not only the #7 resort among all Florida resorts ranked by Conde Nast readers, but also an anchor for redevelopment and reinvestment that has kept hundreds of small businesses on Hollywood Beach alive even in unmatched challenges during COVID-19. The Margaritaville development created hundreds of jobs, a revenue stream for the city that will be worth hundreds of millions and an activity generator that has boosted tourism in the historic beach district between the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway.
“In 2009, the City of Hollywood was teetering on bankruptcy. City attempts to develop the parcel that became Margaritaville had failed three times. The result is a 99-year lease agreement that provides the City’s General Fund with a significant revenue stream, a 1,000-car parking garage for beach visitors, a catalyst for additional private sector investment and increased foot traffic for hundreds of small Hollywood Beach businesses,” said Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark.
Peter Bober, who served as Mayor of Hollywood during the successful redevelopment process, said Margaritaville revitalized a care-worn but storied property that dates back to the founding years of the city. The site once was home to Florida’s largest bathing pavilion, the Hollywood Beach Casino, that featured a shopping arcade and Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Margaritaville is the greatest thing to happen to Hollywood Beach since the 1920s,” Bober said. “It’s a textbook example of how a public/private partnership can actually happen with the public being completely engaged in the process. The finished product exceeded my wildest expectations.”
He said Margaritaville has transformed the beach and created the spinoff development and reinvestment that it promised. “But for the tenacity — within the context of a very difficult economy – of Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, myself and the developer, I don’t think this project would have come to fruition.”
Lon Tabatchnick, who developed Margaritaville in partnership with Starwood Capital, from concept to opening in 2015, said the project delivered everything promised, including a resort with a coveted Four Diamond rating. Margaritaville enhances the beach with free concerts at the historic bandshell at the edge of the resort and it achieves a goal of linking the ocean to the Intracoastal Waterway – with a water taxi stop at the resort’s 5 o’Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill on the intracoastal.
“The proof of success is all the redevelopment that occurred on Johnson Street and up and down the central broadwalk,” Tabatchnick said.
“When this effort started, no new hotels had been built for over a decade and it was the 2009 financial crisis,” he said. “When Margaritaville opened, people had confidence in investing capital. One of the key reasons for the RFP was to encourage other redevelopment and upgrades at the small properties.”
Debra Case — owner of Ocean Alley restaurant and bar — has served as president of the Hollywood Beach Association, a small business organization, and as a Hollywood City Commissioner. She said the beach had a lot of slum and blight before the Margaritaville project.
“Margaritaville opened and all of a sudden, people were here. Mom and pop shops have cleaned up, put in landscaping and tapped into CRA grants to upgrade,” said Case. “Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark pulled us up by the bootstraps. If she hadn’t gotten Margaritaville off the ground, we may not have an anchor here in the central beach.”
Swanson-Rivenbark praised Bober for his leadership and the Commission’s political courage to allow a professionally-run RFP process that addressed the public’s need for transparency.
“The true test of a public/private redevelopment is not a signed deal or completed construction – it is once it’s fully operational and you can ask the question: `did it capture the dreams, fulfill the goals and meet the expectations of the community?’,” she said. “For Margaritaville and Hollywood Beach, it’s a resounding `yes’.”
About Best Practice Cities
Founded out of a passion for public sector excellence, Best Practice Cities (www.bestpracticecities.com) is a strategic and innovative association of high-integrity, high-performing experts that help local governments reach and sustain operational and organizational success. It is led by Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, who served as City Manager for two dynamic full-service South Florida cities. In addition to designing successful strategic plans and operational alignments that are still followed today, she led economic development activities resulting in multimillion-dollar private sector investments, diversification of the economic base, enhanced quality of life and increased property values.
About Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort
Inspired by the lyrics and lifestyle of singer, songwriter and author Jimmy Buffett, this destination resort and entertainment complex is a gem on the legendary Hollywood Beach Broadwalk. The $175 million resort was the first Margaritaville to achieve the AAA Four Diamond rating. The 369-room 17-story oceanfront resort features coastal-luxe guestrooms with innovative amenities and eight diverse bar and restaurant concepts from casual to upscale catering to travelers and locals.
Best Practice Cities