Third time’s a charm? Hyatt and Gencom unveil new plan for hotel, apartments on James Knight Miami River site

Previous proposals in 2017 and 2018 did not make it to referendum

Miami /
May.May 10, 2022 04:30 PM
renderings of the proposed three-tower development on the site of an existing Hyatt and the James L. Knight Center on the Miami River at 400 Southeast Second Avenue, Miami (Arquitectonica, Gencom, LinkedIn)

renderings of the proposed three-tower development on the site of an existing Hyatt and the James L. Knight Center on the Miami River at 400 Southeast Second Avenue, Miami (Arquitectonica, Gencom, LinkedIn)

Hyatt Hotels’ stalled plan to redevelop its downtown Miami River site and adjacent James L. Knight Center is back.

Hyatt and Coconut Grove-based Gencom are partnering on a new proposal for three towers with a 615-key hotel and more than 1,500 apartments, and are seeking an extension of Hyatt’s ground lease for the city-owned property, according to the developers’ news release. Event and meeting space would replace and expand by 50 percent the Knight Center, which for four decades has hosted university graduations, conferences and trade shows.

The duo made their latest pitch to a subcommittee of the Miami River Commission, a board charged with reviewing proposals along and near the riverfront, on Tuesday. The Miami City Commission is expected to vote this summer on putting the project and lease extension before voters on a November referendum.

The proposal marks the third time Hyatt has tried to redevelop the 4.1-acre site at 400 Southeast Second Avenue. The recent plan, tweaked from previous proposals, is for Arquitectonica-designed curving buildings with floor-to-ceiling windows, adding to downtown’s growing canyon of modern skyscrapers. One of the towers would be among South Florida’s tallest at 1,049 feet, a spokesperson for the developers said.

The development would replace the existing light-beige complex that harkens back to 1980s Miami architecture. The Hyatt and Knight Center were completed in 1982.

The new project would have two 61-story buildings with a flagship Hyatt Regency hotel; 682 apartments; 264 serviced apartments; and over 100,000 square feet of meeting space, according to the release. A skybridge would link the towers and include a restaurant and lounge perched 700 feet above the city. The third, 1,049-foot tower would have 860 units.

A podium with 190,000 square feet of event and meeting space would sit beneath the complex and include 12,000 square feet of retail, as well as food and beverage space; 1,100 parking spaces; and 20,000 square feet of co-working space, the release says.

The project is billed as a marquee development for its design, aiming to allow ease for pedestrian, vehicular, biking and possibly ferry connectivity.

It would expand the riverfront promenade by 480 feet and add over 50,000 square feet of outdoor public space. An overpass would allow for easy access to the Metromover Knight Center stop nearby.

Within the development, bicyclists would have four areas to leave their bikes and a large drop-off and pick-up area for cars. Hyatt and Gencom are considering a ferry dock, according to the release.

If voters approve the referendum, construction would start in 2025.

Chicago-based Hyatt, led by CEO Mark Hoplamazian, leased the property from the city of Miami in 1979, and has the right to a 45-year renewal in 2027. Hyatt is asking for a 99-year extension instead.

The hotel company’s previous redevelopment proposals came in 2017 and then in 2018, which the city commission declined to put on the ballot.

Gencom is a hotel and residential real estate developer and owner, with a portfolio valued at over $3 billion, according to the release. It has projects in Costa Rica, Bermuda, Pennsylvania and Colorado, with a South Florida portfolio that includes The Ritz-Carlton hotels in Key Biscayne and Coconut Grove, according to its website. Karim Alibhai founded Gencom in 1987.





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