American Dream Miami battles land use, zoning issues
Written by Marilyn Bowden on October 24, 2017
Triple Five Group, developer of the proposed $4 billion American Dream Miami “mega center” in Northwest Miami-Dade, hopes to get its entitlements squared away by the end of this year in order to complete the project in 2023, says Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a land-use attorney representing the project.
“We have a pending master plan application that we’ve been working on for the past couple of years,” Mr. Diaz de la Portilla says, “and we have to go through the land use and zoning process.”
Although the project is often referred to as a “mega-mall,” he says, it is in fact not a mall but a family entertainment destination, a distinction that requires a change in zoning from industrial & office uses to business & office.
Triple Five, Mr. Diaz de la Portilla says, hopes to present the master plan and zoning changes along with the development plan to the county commission by the end of this year. The commission’s last public hearing of 2017 is scheduled for Dec. 7.
Getting to this point has taken years of negotiations, says Edgar Jones, a veteran commercial broker who serves as consultant to the group.
Robert Gorlow, Triple Five’s senior executive on the project, says the process began in 2013, when the developers first talked with the Graham family, which owns a large parcel adjacent to the American Dream Miami site.
There followed a two-year process of assembling 194 acres for the site, he says, which is cobbled together from about 15 different parcels.
The largest, Mr. Diaz de la Portilla says, was comprised of 82 acres formerly owned by the state that was sold to the developers under Miami-Dade County’s economic development powers.
“Unlike a run-of-the-mill development project,” he says, “this is primarily an economic development project, which makes it unique.
“As part of that agreement, a restrictive covenant requires us to create a minimum of 75,000 permanent jobs. There’s a 35% work requirement to use community small business enterprises for architects and engineers, and also a 35% requirement for construction. So we have made a specific commitment to the public good and job creation.”
Under the auspices of the South Florida Regional Planning Council, Triple Five representatives have also attended at least eight meetings so far with stakeholders, Mr. Diaz de la Portilla says, “two meetings before we even filed the application and two after that, as well as other meetings primarily to work through transportation and road issues. The council found our master plan to be consistent with their regional plan.”
“We have been working with the county for a couple of years,” Mr. Jones says. Once the project won approval from the county Planning Advisory Board, he says, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted to send it to state reviewing agencies with a recommendation of approval.
“The reviewing agencies provided their comments,” Mr. Jones says, “which we responded to. So everybody – including police, fire, transit, zoning, the Department of Environmental Resources, public works and so on – has had a part in getting the master plan approved, and it is ready to go forward.”
Once the entitlements are approved, Mr. Diaz de la Portilla says, there are still a few more hoops to jump through before the first shovelful of earth is turned.
“There’s the administrative site plan review process, followed by the planning process,” he says, “and then we have to pull permits to actually start construction.”
Depending on demand, a second hotel may be built at a later date, Mr. Diaz de la Portilla says, but “basically everything will be built in one construction phase.”
That phase – covering about 7.2 million square feet – consists of a staggering number of discrete parts. “It includes a hotel, entertainment, retail, back-of-house operations and common areas,” Mr. Gorlow says.
In addition to a projected 450 retailers, restaurants and services, entertainment options announced so far include the world’s tallest indoor ski park, a skating rink, indoor water park, aquarium, submarine ride, gardens, a permanent Cirque du Soleil installation, a multi-screen luxury theater complex, an arts center for live performances and more.
Triple Five Group – a shopping mall owner and operator, hotel operator and real estate company based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada – is the developer of West Edmonton Mall in Canada, Mall of America in Minnesota and the upcoming American Dream Meadowlands in the Greater New York area, scheduled to open in about 18 months.
“We hope to open American Dream Miami in 2023,” Mr. Gorlow says, “contingent upon freeway interchanges opening at the same time as our doors open.”