Hyatt, Gencom score Miami commission approval for James L. Knight Center referendum
Proposal to redevelop city-owned site into a three-tower mixed-use project will be on November ballot
Hyatt avoided a third strike at possible redevelopment of the James L. Knight Center site in downtown Miami. The Miami City Commission by a 4-1 margin on Thursday approved a voter referendum for the November election that calls for a dramatic makeover of the city-owned property on the Miami River at 400 Southeast Second Avenue.
The ballot question would ask residents to greenlight transforming the James L. Knight Center and the attached Hyatt Regency Miami hotel into a three-tower development called Miami Riverbridge. Designed by Arquitectonica, the project entails 1,500 apartments, a new 615-key Hyatt hotel with 264 service-branded apartments, and a 190,000-square-foot convention space.
Chicago-based Hyatt, led by CEO Mark Hoplamazian, is teaming up with Miami-based hospitality developer Gencom, led by founder and principal Karim Alibhai, to develop Miami Riverbridge. It will include two 61-story buildings and a 1,049-foot tower, making it one of the tallest buildings in the Southeast U.S., according to a press release.
The towers would sit atop a podium that will house the larger convention space, 20,000 square feet of co-working space, 12,000 square feet for retail and food and beverage spaces, and 1,100 parking spaces. A skybridge with a restaurant and lounge would connect the three towers 700 feet above ground level.
The referendum will also ask voters to give Hyatt a 99-year extension on a current lease that is up for a 45-year renewal in 2027. Hyatt has leased the 4.1-acre property from the city of Miami since 1979. The existing Hyatt Regency Miami, a 23-story hotel that has 615 rooms, and the 28,000-square-foot convention center were completed in 1982, records show.
The joint venture agreed to pay the city 2.5 percent of the project’s gross revenues or annual rent of $2.5 million, whichever is greater. Hyatt currently pays the city $250,000 a year.
The project’s public benefits include a $25 million donation to the city from the developers for affordable housing, expanding the riverfront promenade by 480 feet and adding more than 50,000 square feet of outdoor public space, the release states.
On two occasions in 2017 and 2018, Miami city commissioners voted against placing previous redevelopment proposals submitted by Hyatt on the ballot.