Then the City of Miami teamed up with the Miami World Center Group, which began accumulating property in 2004. Immediately after the property was purchased by the group, the City upzoned the area nearly 250%, vastly increasing the value of the World Center holdings. In 2008, City resources were diverted to developing a “Special Miami World Center Zoning District”, with an unspecified cost to taxpayers. In 2009, the Overtown CRA contracted a $1.2 million regional impact study, normally paid for by the developers themselves. In the June 2009, the City of Miami issued a conflict of interest waiver to allow the CEO of the World Center to sit on the Board of the Downtown Development Authority while continuing to do business with the City.
So what now? Faced with financing and legal problems, lobbyists for the World Center Group are going after public money to bail them out. A “public / private partnership” for a billion dollar convention center in Park West is being pushed by the DDA, whose Board contains lobbyists and supporters of World Center. This is despite Mayor Regalado’s vow to put any new mega-projects to a public referendum, the Miami Beach Convention Center’s planned $55 M in renovations, and numerous studies showing lack of demand for such a project. If a convention center is built (albeit extremely unlikely), there would suddenly be demand for thousands of hotel rooms in the area, potentially resurrecting the Miami World Center project from the grave.
So if it sounds like history repeating itself, it is. Why do City officials continue to follow the same failed strategies as in the past? Why not think outside the box in this era of change? Instead of mega-projects, why not beautify the area “one block at time” as the new Mayor has suggested. Put a public park on the old arena site, focus on a commuter rail into Downtown, lobby for a supermarket to serve the 20,000 residents north of the river. A clean, pedestrian friendly neighborhood will encourage investment and vastly improve the quality of life for the 5,000 or so new residents of Park West. This is a proven model used around the country, including South Beach and we should use it. Our New Mayor ran on a platform of listening to concerns of constituents and NO MORE mega-projects. Unfortunately there are still those in the City who are not listening.
According to this recent press release, the Miami City Commission has approved the Miami World Center, an ambitious nine block, 25-acre redevelopment project slated for the Park West neighborhood, just north of Downtown. The glitzy pictures streaming on the project’s website promise a very sleek, but pedestrian-oriented district that, if nothing else, will transform this part of the city.
I am quite familiar with this area as I bicycle through it on my way to work, and again on the way home. At present, the underutilized surface parking lots and vacant buildings only seem to add to the area’s blighted image. And given that the project is being built using the principles of Miami 21, it seems that its mixture of uses, pedestrian orientation, and public spaces will become a living example of how large scale development should be undertaken. That being said, the architecture looks like more of the same, but I guess in that way it is in keeping with Miami’s current aesthetic.
Adjacent to the Metromover, and within walking distance of the Metrorail the project’s transit friendliness is evident and will give residents and visitors opportunities to move without driving.
I don’t know how liquid the development team is at this point, but given current market conditions, they will have to overcome much to get this mega-project built and occupied with residents, tenants and businesses.
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