Hyatt, Gencom advance three-tower project planned for Knight Center site

Next, Miami City Commission to vote on putting the proposal to a referendum

(left) Hyatt Hotels' Mark Hoplamazian and Gencom's Karim Alibhai (right) with Miami Riverbridge (LinkedIn, Gencom, Arquitectonica)
(left) Hyatt Hotels' Mark Hoplamazian and Gencom's Karim Alibhai (right) with Miami Riverbridge (LinkedIn, Gencom, Arquitectonica)

Developers’ nearly $2 billion plan to build a hotel and multifamily towers on the Miami River site of the James L. Knight Center and Hyatt complex in downtown Miami is gaining ground.

The Miami River Commission unanimously voted on Monday to move forward the proposal by Hyatt Hotels and Gencom to the next step. The board, which is charged with reviewing projects near the riverbank, is recommending that the Miami City Commission put the project and necessary lease extension for the 4.1-acre city-owned site to a referendum.

If approved, Miami voters would cast ballots on the item on Nov. 8.

Chicago-based Hyatt and Coconut Grove-based Gencom want to develop the three-tower Miami RiverBridge that would expand the riverwalk and the Knight Center’s meeting space, and offer outdoor public space. Altogether, the development team is planning a $1.7 billion investment for a total of 3.3 million square feet of real estate.

The Arquitectonica-designed project at 400 Southeast Second Avenue would have more than 1,500 multifamily units, a 615-key flagship Hyatt Regency hotel and 264 Hyatt-branded serviced apartments, according to a presentation before the river commission.

The tallest tower – at 95 stories and just shy of the 1,049-foot height limit set by the Federal Aviation Administration – will be multifamily, Phil Keb, executive vice president of development at Gencom, told The Real Deal. The other two 61-story towers will include the remainder of the apartments, the hotel and the serviced apartments.

The serviced units will be fully furnished and leased for at least 30 days, which Keb said is ideal for Miami transplants who need a temporary home before they find a permanent one.

A podium would have 190,000 square feet of event and meeting space, or 46 percent more than the Knight Center’s current 130,000 square feet, according to project plans. Miami RiverBridge also would have 1,100 new parking spots, co-working space and retail, including an “iconic” food and beverage concept perched 700 feet above the city on a SkyBridge connecting two of the towers.

The project also would have a 50-foot setback from the north riverbank, and would preserve an archaeological site as open space. The development team said Miami RiverBridge will have heightened multimodal transportation connectivity, as it aims to provide ease of vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian access. The site connects to the Metromover Knight Center stop.

The development, with renderings showing expansive balconies and floor-to-ceiling glass walls in parts of the buildings, would be a stark contrast to the current, light beige boxy design of the Knight Center, which is reminiscent of 1980s Miami architecture. The center and the existing Hyatt were built in 1982.

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

This isn’t the first time Hyatt is trying to redevelop the site. It offered a previous proposal in 2017 and then again in 2018, which the city declined to put on the ballot.

A date for the commission to vote on the latest proposal has not yet been scheduled, although the vote has to be taken before July to meet the deadline to place the project on the November ballot.

If approved, the development team would work on planning and design from the end of this year to early 2024, when construction would start, Keb told the river commission. Part of the project would be completed in 2027, and the remainder in 2028.

In May, Hyatt and Gencom made a pitch for their latest proposal in front of a Miami River Commission subcommittee.

Gencom, founded in 1987 by Karim Alibhai, is a hotel and residential real estate developer and owner, according to its website.

The Miami River still is home to marine-industry related businesses, but has seen new construction in recent years, with developers betting on demand from the nearby Health and Civic Center districts.

In one of the biggest projects, Andy Hellinger and Coralee Penabad’s Urban X Group completed the mixed-use River Landing Shops & Residences in 2020 at 1480 Northwest North River Drive. The project includes apartments, offices and retail.

MV Real Estate Holdings and Driftwood Capital want to redevelop the Wharf Miami at 114 Southwest North River Drive with a Dream Hotel-anchored mixed-use project. Voters are to cast ballots on the proposal on Aug. 23.

The area also has caught the eye of social media star Grant Cardone who, through his Cardone Capital, paid more than $100 million in March for the first phase of the Waterline Miami River at 1001 Northwest 7th Street. Cardone rebranded the eight-story, 346-unit apartment complex as 10X Miami River, a nod to his 10X business growth platform.

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