Since last summer's launch of the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project, in which a talented crew of commissioned artists began painting walls along a three-block stretch of the city, downtown Hollywood has garnered a lot of buzz as a rising cultural district.
So far the mural project, led by the Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), has unveiled a new and fresh mural each month by a different artist during the city's artwalk, held on the third Saturday of every month.
As wall by wall is artfully transformed, both the public and media took notice, which resulted in attracting larger crowds to the area and sparking a controversial debate about what is visually pleasing.
The City of Hollywood and CRA got together in 2011 to discuss revitalization ideas. The shared vision was clear, both organizations wanted to turn the area into a place fitting for a creative class, an idea inspired by urbanism pioneer and author Richard Florida.
According to Manuel Pila, program manager of the Hollywood CRA, the idea was to create "a cool, hip art district."
While the murals infuse visual stimulation to the already existing historical and entertainment district that is fondly referred to as "Hollyweird" by locals, the city and CRA's first job was to tackle the question: How can we attract people downtown?
Free Parking, Fun Events
It all started with keeping the streets friendly, as well as accessible, by offering free parking in the evenings. The next step was a series of good events. With a 10-acre public space at the center of downtown and Young Circle, ArtsPark became the beacon. The city and CRA revitalized the space and built a new amphitheater in the spring of 2011. En Vogue performed a free concert there in June of that year, kicking off a concert series which slowly built momentum.
"You can't be a music district, if you don't have great music," says Pila.
Then came the partnership with the Rhythm Foundation to put on the series, Hollywood ArtsPark Experience, a lineup of international musical acts reflecting the cultural diversity of South Florida.
For example, a Colors of the Caribbean show with Trinidadian soca singer Kes last June drew a crowd of more than 6,000 people. And as a follow up on October 5, Italian Hit Week comes to Hollywood, one of only four American cities on the contemporary Italian music tour.
But fostering a music scene didn't stop with hosting shows at ArtsPark. To broaden the number of musical genres, the city passed an extended-hours ordinance in May 2012 allowing local businesses a chance offer live, late-night acts until 4:00 a.m.
Still, something was missing from Hollywood's new entertainment district. So the city polled residents and found that most wanted something they hadn't had since 1996, an art cinema. So after nearly three years, Cinema Paradiso plans to open its doors this fall.
While a cultural renaissance has taken shape in Hollywood, the city hasn't lost its historical charm.
And with a growing internationally-acclaimed music scene, a thriving contemporary art scene, a splattering of fresh street art and an arthouse cinema opening underway, Hollywood is arguably worth reconsidering as a nice place to live, work and visit.
Oh yeah, don't forget about the free parking.