Museum would be first of five attractions on Watson Island
new Miami Children's Museum and the relocation of Parrot Jungle could
be the start of at least five tourism-related destinations on 86-acre
at least two of the projects a visitor center and a cruise
ship terminal remain proposals, although City of Miami officials
have been crafting development plans to make the island a cohesive
local attraction for more than two decades.
of today, executives at Parrot Jungle see a Watson Island address
that includes the Serpentarium, a 500-seat theater for reptile shows,
and a bird nursery, which would allow visitors to look at hatchlings
and young birds in various stages of development, said spokesman Eric
facility is expected to create 600 jobs within 10 years of its opening,
he said. The job creation could justify the use of county funds.
Jungle was started by an Austrian, Franz Scherr, who moved to the
US in 1911. He kept several parrots and rare birds on display at a
feed store he opened in Homestead after the Depression. He later opened
Parrot Jungle, which was passed along to his descendants in 1973.
The facility is now owned by aviculturist Bern Levine and his wife
years ago we were given a major use permit by the City of Miami,"
Mr. Eimstad said. "We have been working on this project for five
said there have been minor shifts in the design, none substantive.
The project should break ground this year and be finished in two years,
jungle, Mr. Eimstad said, will go on 16.2 acres and includes a 1,000-seat
project is $47 million $25 million financed through a federal
Housing & Urban Development loan through Miami-Dade County, he said.
About $12 million came through a traditional bank loan. The rest was
funded through corporate and individual donors.
addition, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau wants to
build a 45,000-square-foot headquarters and visitor center on the
Island, said William Talbert, president & CEO.
Florida Department of Transportation originally set aside the money
to reconstruct a regional heliport there then operated by Chalk's
proposed visitor center has been in the works for nearly a decade
but was halted when Chalk's went bankrupt and no longer carried with
it the state funds. Now the visitors' center is proposed to be built
and financed in conjunction with a reconstructed heliport.
built with an aviation facility, about 45% of the financing for the
$6 million visitor center was promised by the Florida Department of
Transportation, city records show. About 55% of funding was allocated
through the bureau's budget.
are ready to start," Mr. Talbert said. "We should have started
a long time ago."
32,000 square feet of the building will be used for the bureau's administrative
offices, he said.
is to begin by the end of September 2001 and will be finished by June
2003, he said.
at the Port of Miami also have wanted to add two cruise ship terminals
to Watson Island. Port officials said Tuesday they could not answer
questions about the status of the Watson Island cruise ship proposals.
port may have to compete with ideas for a mega-yacht facility, favored
by at least one city official.
Parente, chairman of the Miami Waterfront Advisory Board, said he
thinks a yacht facility would be a better addition to the island than
cruise ship terminals. He said a yacht marina would be more lucrative
for the city.
could do an incredible business because we have a premier location,"
he said. "Someone can dock their boat, go see the Heat play,
go to Joe's Stone Crab restaurant what a dream life!"
Miami Children's Museum, (305) 373-5439; Parrot Jungle, (305) 666-7834;
Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, (305) 539-3000; Port of
Miami, (305) 371-7678.