Covin back in: Miami Dade College to negotiate with three proposers for downtown site

UPDATED April 19 4:35 p.m.: In a surprising move, Miami Dade College’s board of trustees voted Tuesday to negotiate with three — not two proposers for its prime downtown site, adding third-ranked Gregg Covin Development/Oppenheim Architecture to the mix, along with the Related Group and the Nader team.

The unanimous vote overruled the college’s evaluation committee’ decision last month to begin negotiations with the two topped ranking bidders, Related and Nader. It means the college will negotiate separately, simultaneously, with each of the three. The process will “probably take much more time,” Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padron told the board during the morning meeting.

Overall, the proposals’ ideas range from condo towers that would soar 75, 57 or 50 stories; a 39-story office tower; a 300-key or 100-key hotel, sculpture gardens, restaurants, a cultural center, museum and conference center, all at the college’s 520 Biscayne Boulevard site.

For months, the college has been soliciting a developer to enter into a public/private partnership for the 2.6-acre parcel, currently used as a surface parking area at the college’s Wolfson Campus. The proposals are geared 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.

Board members Marili L. Cancio and Armando J. Oliveira were among the most vocal in their preference to negotiate with three proposers. Before the vote, Cancio said she was “frustrated not to be more involved in the process,” due to rules governing public/private partnerships. “Personally, I would feel more comfortable negotiating with three,” she told board members.

Padron and Helen Aguirre Ferre, chairman of the board, as well as other board members, ended up agreeing. “In the end, I think that it will be to the maximum benefit of the college,” Padron said.

Board members also expressed concern about completing negotiations, and then having a real estate downturn derail the project.

Related Group had come out on top among the four bidders in the committee’s ranking last month, with 470 points; Nader+Museu | Limited Liability Limited Partnership’s proposal came in second with 440 points; Gregg Covin Development/Oppenheim Architecture’s bid earned 405 points; and Pi Art Tech and Trade Center at MDC, LLC ranked last with 330 points and was eliminated from the process. 

Evaluation committee members had decided that Covin and Oppenheim would stay in the game in the event that negotiations fell through with the top two bidders. 

Miami art gallery owner Nader responded to the board of trustees’ vote, saying he “personally thought” that the Covin/Oppenheim proposal should have been ranked second. “Any effort [the board makes] to better this unique opportunity they have, I applaud them, as long a they are transparent and truthful,” he told The Real Deal

Miami Dade College last year received an unsolicited proposal for the Nader Latin American Art Museum from a group of partners that included Nader, as well as and Roberto Rocha, CEO of Sofran Group, which prompted the college to put out bid packages. Proposals were due in January.

Nader has emphasized that his proposal differs from the others due to his museum. “Our proposal has nothing to do with the other proposals,” he told TRD. “It’s clear they are trying just to do business. There is no cultural component without art. This is our mission and we are going to fight for it.”

Lissette Calderon, president of Related International Strategic Projects said in a statement that Related is “confident” in the merits of its proposal. “Once we sign an agreement with MDC, there is no contingency that will stop us from completing the project,” she said. “Related’s 40+ years of experience and our financially viable plan already compelled MDC and its evaluation committee to give us the highest score.”

Covin and Oppenheim did not immediately return a call requesting comment.

Here are the three proposals:

The Related Group

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Related proposes a 75-story condominium tower as part of its plan, as well as a 39-story office tower, a 100-room hotel and private club. The cost for the public portion is estimated at $105 million.

Related Group’s entity, PRH Investments LLC, includes partners: architects Arquitectonica; construction firm Moriarty; architecture firm Rodriguez and Quiroga Architects Chartered; Fisher Dachs Associates, performing arts space designers; cost consultants Donnell Consultants Inc.; acoustic consultants Jaffe Holden; branding and design agency Lemon Yellow; and law firms Greenberg Traurig and Stearns Weaver.

The group proposes its project be named ACME (Art, Culture, Museum Education), to include:

  •  Cultural Center consisting of:
    • 3,020-seat facility “ACME Hall”
    • 33,750-square-feet of programmable multi-functional space
    • 45,000-square-foot museum facility
    • Sculpture Garden – 35,900-square-foot, public rooftop sculpture garden
  • Residential Tower – 75-story tower with 350 condos
  • Office Tower – 39-story tower with 500,000 leasable square feet
  • Art Hotel – 100-key boutique hotel
  • Restaurant – 9,000-square-foot restaurant
  • Collegiate Club – 10,000-square-foot private club with free memberships available to Miami Dade College faculty and academic leadership

Related’s estimated construction costs are $673.7 million, including the $105 million for public improvements. As part of the deal, Related is offering to pay Miami Dade College 10 percent of every dollar of revenue derived from condo sales in excess of $750 per square foot. The firm is projecting sales at $850 per square foot, for an additional $5.3 million of proceeds to the college.

Nader+Museu | Limited Liability Limited Partnership

Nader and his partners have expanded their original proposal. In addition to the Latin American Art Museum, sculpture garden and performing arts theater, the proposal now includes a restaurant with 16,016 square feet, a 26,000-square-foot culinary market, and two 50-story residential towers with 250 units, each.

Overall, the proposal includes a 400,000-square-foot Latin American Art Cultural Center to include:

  •      158,000 square feet of exhibition space
  •      A 1,600-seat performing arts theater with orchestra pit, flying tower and film editing capabilities
  •      A 3,000-person conference center  
  •      A 40,000-square-foot outdoor vertical monumental sculpture garden 
  •      390 parking spaces

The development would also feature:

  •      Two 50-story condominium towers each with 250 high-end luxury residential units 
  •      A 16,000-square foot upscale restaurant
  •      A 26,000-square-foot culinary market
  •      A 1,500 car structured parking garage for residents

Partners now include Nader; BrasilInvest Development Company; Gernero Revocable Family Trust; architects Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Assoc.; Roberto Rocha, president and CEO of Sofran Group; contract management firm Special District Services; urban development consulting firm Redevelopment Management Servcies; Jose Rene Infante, founder of Redland Market Village; developer George de Guardiola; Emilio Estefan’s Theater Design Associates; accountant Leonardo Gravier and the non-profit firm Neighbors and Neighbors Association. 

The partnership proposes to pay the college $40,000 per condo unit sold in the first tower and $60,000 per condo unit sold in the second tower — for a total of $25 million, guaranteed, Nader said. Another $15 million in cash will be provided for naming rights and $20 million at signing of the agreement, he said. The group will also donate $10 million in “museum quality pieces” to the college each year, for a total donation of $60 million, according to the proposal. The college will receive more than 1,000 pieces of art from 250 artists once the building is completed, Nader said. The cost of the public portion is estimated at $160 million.

Gregg Covin Development/Oppenheim Architecture

Covin and Chad Oppenheim’s proposal includes a 57-story tower, with condominiums and office space, as well as a 300-room hotel.

In all, the project would include: a Miami Dade College Cultural Center, with a 1,600-seat performing arts theatre; a 3,000-seat conference auditorium; a 100,000-square-foot museum; a 52,000-square-foot Cultural Center outdoor plaza; 75,000 square feet of covered outdoor balconies; 45,000 square feet of retail and restaurant; 300,000 square feet of office space; a 215,000-square-foot boutique hotel, a 40,000-square-foot athletic center and a 37,000-square-foot pool deck.

Construction costs are estimated at $150 million.

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 Covin and architect Oppenheim, but no finalist or winner was selected, according to a college spokesman.