Developer, hotelier eye One Miami
By Paola Iuspa
Downtown's One Miami project may be gaining momentum as one developer says he is weeks away from buying 3 acres of the 9-acre planned mixed-use project and a resort firm is eyeing the remaining land.
Although Miami One Centre, landowner and master developer of the parcels, has the city's approval to build a residential, hotel, office and retail project, efforts to sell the sites for development have been on and off since 1999. Miami One bought the 9 non-contiguous acres in 1998 to assemble the parcels that lie between the Hyatt Regency, Hotel Inter-Continental Miami and the Dupont for $38 million.
The Related Group of Florida, headed by Jorge Perez, now has a contract to buy the 3 acres between Biscayne Bay and the Miami River for about $20 million, said Larry DeGeorge, a principal with Miami One Centre.
Meanwhile, Lionstone Hotels & Resorts, owners of Dupont Plaza, is negotiating with New York developers to jointly buy the remaining parcels across the street from its building at 300 Biscayne Way, which includes a Ramada Hotel, said Martin Elortegui, Lionstone's project manager.
Mr. Perez would build 1 million square feet of residential and 100,000 square feet of office and retail. He tried to buy the site last year and had design approval from the city, but walked away from the deal.
His new design has more residential space and moves two towers 50 feet farther from the Inter-Continental, Mr. Perez said.
Barry R. Davidson, an attorney representing the hotel, said he welcomes the chance to meet with the developer.
"We are not against development," he said. "But it needs to be developed in harmony with the neighboring properties."
Lionstone is considering a proposal to join a conglomerate of developers and investors from New York who hope to secure waterfront views and access to the Miami River and Biscayne Bay, said Mr. Elortegui. Buying into the One Miami project and teaming with Lionstone, owners of the riverside Dupont, would accomplish both goals.
The New York investors and developers seem to be focused on developing a waterfront property in downtown Miami, Mr. Elortegui, whose firm bought the Dupont less than a year ago, said.
"They want us to be a partner so we can bring our waterfront property into their project," Mr. Elortegui said, referring to Lionstone's Dupont Plaza. "The uncertain future of the Dupont has kept many developers away from buying those parcels. They did not know if we were going to tear it down and build towers that would block their project's bay view."
Since Lionstone bought the property, the fate of the Dupont may seem more stable.
Mr. Elortegui said negotiations with the New York group is in its early stages and his company would be interested in joining if it "is a good deal."
"We are just listening now," he said.
Dupont Plaza, which until recently included office space and residential units plus a 44-year-old hotel operated by the Ramada Inn chain, is undergoing a $70 million redevelopment. The renovations, announced last spring, call for converting four floors of the 11-story office building into the Travel & Trade Center of the Americas, Mr. Elortegui said. The center hopes to become a hub for consulates, binational chambers of commerce and trade shows.
The residential portion was vacated last summer and is being transformed into a Residence Inn with 178 extended-stay rooms and management by Marriott. It is scheduled to open in the spring.
Although the Ramada Inn would continue operating for now, Lionstone is negotiating with a European chain to run a 320-room hotel with an emphasis on entertainment.
In the meantime, Dupont's owners seem to be gathering information about realigning Biscayne Way immediately north of the Brickell Bridge to provide better access to their property and the area. David Rosemond, spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation, said officers from the Dupont approached the department about a month ago to add a north-to-eastbound lane off the three-lane bridge. At the bridge's end, only two lanes currently turn into Biscayne Way.
Mr. Rosemond said the department would be willing to study a written proposal, still to be submitted, that calls for the Dupont owners to donate the land needed for a new lane. He said the state has no money to buy the right of way.