Miami officials rework Melreese plan to re-open bidding
By Claudio Mendonça
Miami plans a new request for proposals to develop a hotel complex at its Melreese Golf Course after two of three potential bidders dropped out of consideration for the job.
Originally interested were Concalpro, a Doral company owned by a Venezuelan group; Miami Arena owner Glenn Straub; and local hotelier Sherwood "Woody" Weiser. Mr. Straub and Mr. Weiser backed out.
The most recent request for proposals called for a 348-room four-star hotel on Northwest 37th Avenue as well as a commercial, office and retail complex. A new recommendation would remove the four-star designation.
The city since 2004 has been seeking a developer for the site, east of Miami International Airport. Lori Bilberry, city director of economic development, said Tuesday that Concalpro was the only party interested in building the complex.
"City Manager (Joe Arriola) could have gone through with Concalpro, but he is recommending to re-issue the request for proposal to increase competition and get more bids," Ms. Bilberry said. "At this point, this is just a recommendation and the (city) commission will make a final decision."
The commission is to vote on the recommendation Jan.12.
The city states that the decision was made "due to the changing market conditions in Miami, particularly as it relates to construction costs.
"We are finding that a four-star hotel may not be economically viable," a statement said. "This concern was iterated by two registered respondents that did not bid and may be further evidenced by the fact that only one proposal was received.
"Therefore, at this time, the city manager will be recommending the commission to reject the one proposal received and to declare a new unified development project that will allow us to draft a new Request For Proposals that can address these market changes by allowing a proposed developer some greater flexibility."
Commissioner Angel Gonzalez will propose a three-star hotel instead of a four-star, said Frank Castañeda, his chief of staff. "The commissioner believes that there will be more bidders with a three-star facility," Mr. Castañeda said.
Mr. Straub, a West Palm Beach businessman, said he did not bid because the property is too close to the airport.
"The property is right on the takeoff/landing pattern, and no one guarantees that even with improvements that the hotel would receive a four-star rating," said Mr. Straub, who said he was interested in constructing a first-class resort and spa facility on the site, not a four-star hotel. Mr. Straub said improvements at Melreese would cost up to $100 million.
Leonardo Ambard, vice president of Concalpro, said he was caught by surprise by the city's response and Concalpro would file a protest this week.
"This is not fair, and we are preparing a protest," said Mr. Ambard, who said there is no public opposition to the project. "We were the only proponents. It is a great project which will increase the value of houses in the surrounding areas."