SkyRise seeks city, federal high fives
Written by John Charles Robbins on May 7, 2014
Developer Jeff Berkowitz’ dream to build an iconic observation tower hugged by downtown Miami and Biscayne Bay could begin to materialize with a shovelful of dirt within a month.
And Mr. Berkowitz called it. In early February, when he was getting the backing of Miami-Dade County commissioners, he told Miami Today he was hoping for a May groundbreaking.
A proposal before the Miami City Commission today (5/8) would authorize foundation work to begin on SkyRise Miami.
A main catalyst for the move is to get construction started before height approval from the Federal Aviation Administration expires in June, according to documents filed with the city.
In the meantime, Mr. Berkowitz has continued working with investors and late last week learned the state Legislature had allocated $2 million for infrastructure to support the project.
SkyRise Miami is to stretch 1,000 feet skyward and be home to an assortment of fun and adventure, including an observation deck, a nightclub and a bungee jump-like platform.
The planned glass and steel tower looks like a capital “R” as it slopes back toward the area of the Hard Rock Cafe. The tower is to be built on land that today is the parking lot for Hard Rock.
Mr. Berkowitz plans to sublease about 2 acres from Bayside Marketplace, which leases that section of waterfront land from the city.
The question of whether to allow that use on city property is expected to be put to a vote of city residents. A planned referendum is mentioned in the resolution before the commission.
The resolution would authorize the city manager to execute an agreement among the city, Bayside Marketplace LLC and SkyRise Miami LLC.
The agreement would allow SkyRise to apply for permits on the current Bayside prime leased premises “to commence limited work on the foundation; however, no vertical construction shall be allowed until an amendment to the Bayside lease is approved by the Miami City Commission and the city’s electorate by way of a public referendum.”
The referendum could be held Aug. 26 or Nov. 4, the resolution says.
The resolution also spells out that SkyRise must commence foundation work prior to June 12 in order to preserve the Federal Aviation Authority approval.
Infrastructure to support the tower will be paid for in part by state funds, barring a veto.
During budget talks, the state Senate wasn’t as enamored as the House about helping build a 1,000-foot-high amusement center to dominate Miami’s skyline. But that didn’t keep SkyRise Miami, backed by some powerful lobbyists, from getting into the budget.
As part of the economic-development road fund, $2 million would go to public transportation improvements so people can get to the planned tower.
Lawmakers included language in the budget that says the money is contingent upon Mr. Berkowitz showing that $400 million in private-sector funding will go to the project. He has estimated the project cost at $430 million.
The House wanted $10 million for the project, which Miami-Dade County commissioners have said would be a “public asset” that could create $1.3 billion annually in economic benefit by attracting more than 3 million visitors a year.
That area of the city’s waterfront is bubbling with construction as a science museum takes shape, next to an improving and greening Museum Park, and talk continues to percolate about Parcel B’s evolution into another public park just east of American Airlines Arena.
Just a little to the southeast, PortMiami’s new tunnels are nearly complete, and David Beckham is coveting the southwest corner of the port for a Major League Soccer stadium.
And while that proposal has met with plenty of resistance, this week Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez floated the idea of filling in the large boat slip just north of American Airlines Arena for a site for the soccer stadium.
In a May 5 letter to one of Mr. Beckham’s representatives, Mr. Gimenez wrote: “Combining this area, and filling in the FEC Slip, will also expand the amount of publicly accessible waterfront open space, turning this underutilized land into a shared public space that will benefit both our residents and visitors, and join the ranks of great urban parks.”
-The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.