Property owner plans six-tower project at Omni Mall site
By Deserae del Campo
Argent Ventures plans a six-tower project with 5,766 residences to replace its 1 million-square-foot Omni Mall on Biscayne Boulevard, a project a city review says could become a "city within a city."
The owners want the $1 billion Omni Development to include 192,170 square feet of retail, city planning records show.
"This project is in the pre-preliminary stages," said Chloe Keidaish, architect with Arquitectonica, who declined further comment. Calls to Argent were not returned.
Miami's Planning and Zoning Department reviewed pre-application plans in March and found that the package "is not sufficiently developed and does not include enough detail to be fully reviewed at this time."
Argent, a real estate investment company, bought the failed Omni Mall in November 2000 for $33 million.
Its plans would break the site bounded by Northeast 17th Terrace, Biscayne Boulevard, North Bayshore Drive and Northeast 15th Street into three sections. Northeast 17th Street would cut between the first and second parcels and Northeast 16th Street would divide the second and third.
Two high-rise towers, one 62 stories, one 58, would rise at 1701 Biscayne Blvd., as would two-story structures that would include lofts and one-, two and three-bedroom town homes.
The section at 1601 Biscayne would have two towers, 64 and 62 stories, and town homes. The site at 1501 Biscayne would have two towers, 66 and 61 stories, and town homes.
The city's design-review committee said the design "presents a great opportunity, through sheer size and location, to become a great urban space. The proposal for six towers within this project indicates that it could become a 'city within a city.'"
The committee did not approve 6,154 proposed parking spaces, saying it is "concerned by the bulk of the parking garage and its impact on the pedestrian experience."
"The city envisions the Entertainment District as an area of mixed-use, walkability and ultimately shared or reduced parking," the committee reported. "In light of this vision, consider reducing parking to the minimum required for this site."
Bigger is not always better, said Michael Cannon, managing director of Integra Realty Resources. "The site is not conducive for condo housing," he said, "but for emerging retail that will better-serve the community."
Omni Mall, vacant except for the Miami International University of Art & Design, 25 years ago was a luxury mall fostering revitalization in the surrounding area to the point that the city tried to limit growth.
Developer Tibor Hollo assembled land for the mall in the early 1970s at $7 to $8 per square foot in a crime-ridden area. The $67 million mall opened in 1976 with anchors Jordan Marsh and JC Penney department stores and luxury-clothing and auto dealers.
Eventually, tenants drifted down the scale as the Omni and its movie theaters became a neighborhood leisure site instead of a luxury mart. No retail tenants remain today.