Miami Dade College’s downtown site: bidding may be slim

From left: Jorge Perez, Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Gary Nader and the Miami Dade College site
From left: Jorge Perez, Bernardo Fort-Brescia, Gary Nader and the Miami Dade College site

The Related Group is teaming up with Arquitectonica on a proposal for Miami Dade College’s Biscayne Boulevard mixed-use project, to compete with the unsolicited bid from a partnership of Gary Nader, Roberto Rocha and FR-EE Architects.

Yet other prospective bidders  including developer Chateau Group and design firms Oppenheim Architecture and R.J. Heisenbottle Arcthitects  are already falling out, The Real Deal has learned. They say the Jan. 19 deadline is too tight to pull together all the resources to create a quality proposal. And the odds of winning, they say, may not be stacked in their favor.

“It’s a very, very special project, which means a very specialized firm or group of people have to come together to be competitive with the Nader one,” said Kathia Dash, director of business development at Coral Gables-based R.J. Heisenbottle Architects. “They have a definite advantage,” she added, citing unlimited time to prepare their proposal.

The college is soliciting a developer to enter into a public/private partnership for a 2.6 acre parcel at 520 Biscayne Boulevard. The site is currently used as a surface parking area at the college’s Wolfson Campus. The proposals are to include a cultural center with a 1,600-seat performing arts theater, a conference center that can house 3,000 people, a museum measuring at least 100,000 square feet, and parking.

Arquitectonica founder Bernardo Fort-Brescia confirmed to TRD that his firm is partnering with Related on a planned proposal.

Dragados USA, which is active in public/private partnerships, is still analyzing the financial aspects of Miami Dade project before deciding to bid, said Senior Vice President Chris O’Neil.

Others, who were among more than 50 attendees at a pre-proposal meeting for the project earlier this month, say they are out.

“We don’t have enough time to prepare, and we are involved with our other developments,” Julio Ruffinelli, an architect with Chateau Group, told TRD. The firm is developing Fendi Chateau Residences, the Ritz-Carlton Residences, Sunny Isles Beach, and another mixed-use property in Sunny Isles that is coming up for approval on Thursday evening.

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Some are out for now, but hoping to get in later. “If we’re not partners with someone at this point, we will be on the sidelines to see if any of the developers need a construction manager down the road,” said Andrew Gotschall, who is involved in business development at Turner Construction Co.

Miami Dade College earlier this year received the unsolicited proposal for the Nader Latin American Art Museum from a group of partners that includes Miami art gallery owner Nader, Rocha, CEO of Sofran Group, FR-EE Architects and others, which prompted the college to put out its current “supplemental information package,” requesting bids.

In addition to the Latin American art museum, the 69-page proposal from Nader and partners includes a performing arts theater, sculpture garden and conference center, as well as two residential towers with 528 units, a condo-hotel with 144 units, a restaurant space and parking.

The group’s proposal will still be enhanced, and other partners may be added before the Jan. 19 deadline, William Riley Jr., an attorney with Gray Robinson who represents the group, told TRD.

It’s the second time in a decade that Miami Dade College has looked for development proposals for its key property. In 2007, the college put out an “Invitation to Negotiate” for the site, but ended up shelving the plan amid the real estate downturn, before choosing a winner. Proposers included a partnership between developer Gregg Covin and architect Chad Oppenheim, but no finalist or winner was selected, according to a college spokesman.

“We were all burned,” Carl Romer, vice president of operations at Oppenheim Architecture told TRD. “Our last go round was very costly for us as far as an investment, and the project was pulled, and kind of left everyone hanging in the air holding the bag.”

Now, the timing is too short to put together the necessary resources, including a professional renderings firm, zoning attorney and parking consultant, he said. “You really have to join with other groups to have a strong showing,” Romer said. “There are just too many factors right now that don’t seem to make it a level playing field for us.”