Miami Innovation Tower plans nixed by city — again

Proposed Miami Innovation Tower
Proposed Miami Innovation Tower

Miami Innovation Tower is officially on life support.

Late Thursday, the Miami City Commission ratified an initial June vote adopting an ordinance that eliminates so-called “media towers” on the site proposed for the 633-foot high-rise featuring five large LED signs. The measure, championed by Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, deletes the term “media towers” from the city’s zoning code known as Miami 21.

However, an attorney for Michael Simkins, the Miami Beach-based developer of the innovation tower, told commissioners that his client plans to move forward with pending permit applications to build the project.

“We will continue to implement this development irrespective of what is done today,” said Tony Recio, a partner with Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman. “We look forward to having the permits fairly reviewed and evaluated.”

In a statement to The Real Deal, Simkins said he does not believe the new ordinance can be applied to his project.

“We are disappointed by the commission’s action,” Simkins said. “But we expect the city to comply with the law and respect our rights by honoring the sign permit applications and media tower approval by the CRA, and processing the sign applications in good faith.”

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City commissioners Frank Carrollo, Willy Gort and Marc Sarnoff again voted in favor of the ordinance despite an impassioned plea from Commissioner Keon Hardemon, who was the innovation tower’s main supporter because he believes the project will generate jobs and millions of dollars in revenue for Overtown.

“That one time things are moving forward in a community that has been stagnant for such a long time, we make sure we put the roadblock right in the middle of it,” Hardemon said. “This is a slap in the face of the Overtown community.”

Simkins has touted the tower as the anchor to a 10-acre technology district that will help revitalize one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Hardemon, who represents the district and who is chairman of the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Development Agency, backs the project because Simkins has agreed to pay the semi-autonomous city agency $5 million prior to construction, and $1 million, or 3 percent of gross sales generated by the project every year after completion.

Recio also said Simkins has committed to giving local preference to Overtown residents on construction jobs and for the operation of the innovation tower.

In June, prior to the city commission’s first vote, Simkins’ company Innovate applied for permits to embed the LED signs within the skin of the proposed tower’s twisting façade and along its pedestal.