If the first public hearing for American Dream Miami is an indicator of what’s to come, the developer of the largest proposed mall and theme park project in North America is in for a long battle.
After slogging through nearly seven hours of testimony from representatives for developer Triple Five Group, its competitors, municipal officials, tourism boosters and residents, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted 11-1 to approve a comprehensive master plan amendment, changing the designation for the 194.5-acre development site sandwiched between Interstate 75 and the Florida Turnpike from “industrial office” to “business office.”
Now the project heads to state regulatory agencies for further analysis before coming back to the county commission for final approval.
Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, an Arnstein & Lehr law firm partner representing Triple Five, told county commissioners American Dream Miami would generate a significant economic boost to the county once completed.
“We are here before you because this is about jobs and economic development,” Diaz de la Portilla said. “We are not a run-of-the-mill mall. We are an entertainment destination with a retail component.”
Triple Five, whose principals developed and own the Mall of America in Minnesota, is looking to build 6.2 million square feet of shopping and entertainment space, including several amusement parks, along with 2,000 hotel rooms. The project could cost an estimated $4 billion, generate 32,000 in construction jobs and over 14,000 full-time equivalent jobs and $237 million in annual hotel bed taxes, Triple Five executives say.
The commission chamber was overflowing with people, mostly American Dream Miami supporters, so that some attendees had to watch the proceedings on a television screen on the first floor of the Stephen P. Clark Center, the county’s headquarters in downtown Miami. About three dozen opponents spoke against the project.
Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez, whose city borders the American Dream Miami site to the south, was among the project’s supporters. “We are not going to get many opportunities like this,” Hernandez said. “We have a company here that is willing to come invest in our county. It is not only good for north Miami-Dade, but all of South Florida.”
However, opponents claimed American Dream Miami will create a traffic nightmare in an area already heavily congested by vehicles. The most recent report indicates the amusement park and mall would generate 70,838 new daily trips — 5,330 during afternoon rush hour — after its planned 2020 opening.
“Even after years of construction, these [roads] are considered some of the worst traffic areas in the country,” said Northwest Miami-Dade resident Derek Cintron. “70,000 car trips means 106 miles of extra lanes just to keep traffic as crappy as it is now. I urge you please, do not transmit this.”
Meanwhile, a political group called South Florida Taxpayers Alliance formed by Simon Property Group and Taubman, which already own and operate several malls in Miami-Dade, raised concerns that Triple Five may seek financial assistance from the county.
“They have never said vote no,” alliance attorney Alex Heckler told commissioners. “They just want a level playing field. They want no taxpayer dollars used for this project. We would like them to follow rules set for everyone.”