The Real Deal Miami

Developers clear hurdle to build 12 million square feet in Miami

By Erik Bojnansky | October 24, 2008 11:48AM

The Miami City Commission moved forward with creating a zoning overlay district that will encourage at least 12 million square feet of new development in the blighted Park West neighborhood.

During its Oct. 23 meeting Miami commissioners unanimously approved the first reading of a rezoned overlay district designed to transform an area that’s now mostly vacant parking lots, warehouses and a homeless shelter. Under redevelopment plans, Miami Worldcenter would become a 24-hour mini-metropolis with new residential towers, convention meeting spaces, hotels, retail, restaurants, entertainment venues, parks and urban plazas.

Eighty percent of this nine-block overlay district—bounded by NE Second Avenue, North Miami Avenue, NE 11th Street and NE Sixth Street—is “controlled” by Miami Worldcenter LLC, which is headed by Palm Beach developers Art Falcone and Marc Roberts. Nitin Motwani, Miami Worldcenter LLC’s managing director, has declined to say how much his company plans to invest in the project but the Miami Herald has reported that Falcone and Roberts has already spent $100 million on the endeavor.

“By doing this in trying economic times this will restore faith in Miami that the city really needs,” said Nick Wigoda, Miami sales director for RPC Holdings, which is developing Paramount Bay in Edgewater.

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said the zoning district will give the proper incentive to invest in an area that hasn’t seen any new construction since 1965. “This area has missed four boom periods in the city of Miami,” he said.

The commission is scheduled to vote up or down the zoning district’s second reading on Nov. 13.

Also awaiting final approval is a development agreement that will make Miami Worldcenter LLC and the city of Miami partners in redeveloping Park West for 20 years. Under the proposed draft, the developers won’t be obligated to create any of the open space it promised until four million square feet worth of building permits are approved by the city.

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff was apprehensive about proposed language that could obligate the city of Miami to pay for Miami Worldcenter LLC’s legal bills, should the project be challenged in court.

Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez said the language can be tweaked prior to the development agreement’s final approval, also tentatively scheduled for Nov. 13.

“What is the saying? ‘A million-mile journey begins with the first step,'” said Worldcenter LLC attorney Neisen Kasdin. “This is one step in a very long process.”