Miami River Commission gives thumbs-up to Knight Center and Hyatt redevelopment proposal

Miami City Commission will decide Thursday on putting proposal to voters in August

Rendering of Hyatt Regency redevelopment proposal
Rendering of Hyatt Regency redevelopment proposal

A proposal to replace the James L. Knight Convention Center and the adjacent Hyatt Regency Miami with a three-tower mixed-use project gained support from a key quasi-public agency, leading the way toward a public referendum.

The Miami River Commission on Monday voted unanimously to recommend approval of the redevelopment project, which is being spearheaded by an affiliate of Hyatt Hotels Corp. that operates the Regency. On Thursday, the Miami City Commission is to vote on placing a referendum on the Aug. 28 ballot to extend and expand a ground lease Hyatt Equities has with the city. If approved by voters, Hyatt would add the city-owned Knight Center’s 4.1-acre site and have its lease extended for 99 years.

Tim Gomez, a lobbyist with Floridian Partners representing Hyatt, said if voters approve the new lease, Hyatt would build the project in three phases, beginning with the pedestal and a new hotel. Two residential towers would be built in the final two phases. The three buildings would have a total of 2,250 units even though Miami 21 allows for the development of up to 4,200 units. “The count is well below what we can do per acre,” he said. “Hyatt and the city have gone the extra mile to also create a family and pedestrian friendly stretch as part of the redevelopment.”

During a presentation, project architect Kobi Karp displayed renderings that show the entrance to the Hyatt and James L. Knight property would be shifted off Brickell Avenue to improve traffic flow in a very congested area of downtown Miami. The project would also feature a 500-foot public plaza and riverwalk that would connect to the Riverwalk Metromover Station and Fort Dallas Park.

“We want to make it into a town square, green space,” Karp said. “We will create a destination that allows us to become part of the neighborhood.”

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Following Karp’s presentation, Miami River Commission Chairman Horacio Stuart Aguirre complimented Hyatt’s team for the design of the three towers and its pedestal. “Unlike some of the unforgivable things on Brickell, you are doing some imaginative things,” he said.

Hyatt would demolish the Knight Center to make way for the three towers. The company first approached city officials about extending its lease and including the Knight Center in 2017. The company withdrew its request until after the city’s November election.

The city and Hyatt signed a lease agreement in 1979 and three years later the company built the 612-room hotel at 300 Southeast Second Avenue. The Knight Center, which has a 4,800-seat auditorium and a 28,000-square-foot exhibition hall, also opened in 1982.

In exchange for extending the lease and adding the Knight Center, Hyatt is offering to pay the city $500,000 in the second and third years of the new deal. In the fourth year, Hyatt would pay the greater of $2 million or an amount determined by a revenue-sharing formula. The first year would be rent free.