$60M Jungle Island deal to go before Miami commission

Proposed deal involves the buyer assuming $45M in owed payments

Nov.November 15, 2016 02:15 PM
A Macaw at Jungle Island (Credit: Chris Acuna)

A Macaw at Jungle Island (Credit: Chris Acuna)

Jungle Island’s proposed redevelopment could move a step forward on Thursday.

The Miami City Commission will consider approving a lease transfer to an Aventura-based real estate firm in a deal valued at $60 million.

Jungle Island owner Bern Levine plans to sell the theme park’s lease to ESJ Capital Partners, the Miami Herald first reported. ESJ, backed by European investors, has floated ideas like adding a hotel to the 18-acre site, pending voter approval, and short-term improvements like new dining and entertainment options to attract teenagers and young adults, a zip line and water features. And a hotel wouldn’t be considered immediately, according to the Herald.

Jungle Island has been long been plagued by debt. Levine bought the park, then in Pinecrest, in 1988 and opened the Watson Island location in 2003. Levine said he spent $16 million of his own money to move and reopen the park.

The $60 million deal would involve the buyer assuming $45 million in owed payments: the park’s $30 million in principal debt and interest to the city of Miami, Miami-Dade County and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a loan from a private lender, deferred rent and other obligations.

It would also give Levine and his partners $15 million, the newspaper reported. A third of that would be used to pay down debt, in addition to a transfer fee that would be at least $150,000.

The county and HUD would have to approve the deal. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and commissioner Ken Russell have supported the Jungle Island improvements. [Miami Herald] – Katherine Kallergis

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