Miami Worldcenter could have up to 25 bars without needing city approval

Commissioners to vote on development agreement during Thursday’s meeting

Sep.September 11, 2014 09:45 AM

Miami Worldcenter’s developers want to build up to 25 bars and nightclubs throughout the 17-acre project without having to seek City of Miami approvals for each one, The Real Deal has learned.

The venues would join restaurants that serve alcohol, according to a proposed development agreement with the city. The agreement is up for first reading before the City Commission Thursday afternoon. Commissioners will also vote on new zoning rules that would allow the developers to begin construction.

Brad Knoefler, a downtown nightclub owner, claims the city would be abdicating its role regulating liquor businesses under the agreement.

“Alcohol establishments in particular can have a major impact on the surrounding community,” Knoefler told TRD. “Eliminating the controls designed to protect the neighborhood and give residents a voice is not in the public interest.”

The Worldcenter developers hope to transform a blighted neighborhood by building 3,000 residential units, a convention center with a hotel and 750,000 square feet of retail anchored by Macy’s and Bloomingdales.

According to the proposed agreement, the developers would be allowed to operate up to five bars and nightclubs per block. The total number is capped at 25.

The Worldcenter site is part of the Park West district, which only allows 11 liquor establishments, including Knoefler’s Grand Central lounge.

A Miami Worldcenter spokesperson provided TRD with a statement from managing principal Nitin Motwani that touts the project’s potential to “revitalize” the Park West neighborhood.

“The Special District the city has proposed is substantially similar, if not identical, to that of plans that have been approved for Brickell City Centre, River Landing and the Design District,” Motwani said. “While it’s premature to speculate about future tenants, we will ensure our operators complement existing businesses.”

Knoefler, who sold the building that houses Grand Central to Miami Worldcenter for $4.6 million in 2012, and the developers have been at odds for several years.

As president of the Omni Parkwest Redevelopment Association, Knoefler consistently voices his concerns about the city allegedly showing favoritism to Miami Worldcenter. In June, the redevelopment association and Grand Central’s owner filed a petition in Miami-Dade Circuit Court’s appellate division that sought to void the City Commission’s decision to shut off portions of Northeast Seventh, Eighth and Ninth streets, according to court records. The developers requested the street closures to accommodate the project

But Knoefler insists he is not trying to stop Miami Worldcenter.

“I want this thing to happen,” he said. “But why does the developer need a blank check for 25 liquor licenses?”

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