Miami approves major lease for Beckham soccer stadium mixed-use development
Voters approved referendum in November 2018
The city of Miami commission chambers erupted into cheers and applause after elected officials approved the long-awaited lease of city-owned land for a Major League Soccer stadium-anchored mixed-use development planned by David Beckham and his partners.
Miami city commissioners voted 4 to 1 to approve the controversial no-bid deal with Miami Freedom Park and Inter Miami CF during a special commission meeting on Thursday.
The partnership that will develop the city-owned Melreese golf course at 1802 Northwest 37th Avenue is led by brothers and Miami businessmen Jorge and Jose Mas and includes soccer superstar Beckham and Los Angeles-based Ares Management. Marcelo Claure and Masayoshi Son sold their ownership interest to Beckham and the Mas brothers last year. Jorge Mas, Inter Miami’s managing owner, is chair of Coral Gables-based infrastructure engineering and construction firm MasTec.
The 73-acre Melreese plan has been in the works for over four years, and was delayed in its presentation to the commission, but it’s been even longer since Beckham first sought to bring an MLS team to Miami. The development also calls for an office complex, retail space, hotel and 58-acre park with public soccer fields. Melreese is just east of Miami International Airport.
In November 2018, residents approved a referendum that authorized the city to negotiate and execute the 99-year lease with the soccer group. The Inter Miami team has been playing at the temporary home it built over the old Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.
Russell, commission chair Christine King, and commissioners Joe Carollo and Alex Díaz de la Portilla voted in favor of the amended lease. Commissioner Manolo Reyes voted against it.
After a public comment period, commissioners and Miami Freedom Park’s partners discussed compromises that could be made to push the deal through. The city will have two new “clean” appraisals completed, since the appraisal that was used was completed prior to the pandemic and before the city’s real estate market experienced a huge boom. The average of the two appraisals would be used to determine the final price. The clean appraisals would not take into consideration the cost of environmental remediation required to clean up the golf course site.
The annual base rent also went up to $4.3 million from about $3.6 million, and rent would increase during construction, according to the Miami Herald.
At one point, Carollo suggested building a larger stadium that could also accommodate the University of Miami’s football team, while King pushed for hiring ex-convicts. Russell also sought to distribute $20 million in park funds fairly to different districts.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and the commissioners celebrated with the Mas brothers outside of City Hall after the vote Thursday. But it wasn’t clear a vote would occur until more than four hours into the meeting.
An outburst from commissioner Ken Russell prompted a recess just as commissioners were about to vote . Addressing his fellow commissioners, Russell referenced personal attacks they have made against him. Russell was the tie-breaking vote, as it required four of five commissioners to approve.
“You spoke earlier about congeniality on this dais. There is no congeniality on this dais. You spoke about trust on this dais. There is no trust on this dais. There is transaction. There is power. There is ego,” Russell said, shortly before King called for a recess. “I’m here despite the fight, despite the negative, because I believe this project has a chance to be good for this city. But I won’t let it go until I believe it is correct.”