Miami commissioners approve hotel, retail-entertainment complex to revitalize struggling Jungle Island
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Seeking to inject economic vitality into its struggling animal theme park, Jungle Island plans to add a themed hotel and retail-entertainment complex.
Miami commissioners agreed Thursday to amend the city's lease on the 18-acre Watson Island theme park to allow the project.
The owners of Jungle Island, formerly Parrot Jungle, say they're in talks with developers who've done special theme-related projects. "What we hope to do is keep improving the attraction and bringing more tourists to Miami," said Ronald Krongold, Jungle Island co-owner with Bernard Levine.
Jungle Island moved from Pinecrest to Watson Island five years ago in search of bay front and bigger profits but has faced financial struggles.
In 2004, Jungle Island stopped paying on the $28 million loan the county secured to help fund relocation. The Miami City Commission later took responsibility for 80% of the debt.
Miami CFO Larry Spring told commissioners the new deal could help the city pay off the loan earlier.
Any capital improvements to the park should generate new revenue for the city, said Lori Billberry, public facilities director.
The lease amendment the commission OK'ed specifies the city will get rent equal to 1% of revenues from the hotel and other additions.
The final project would require building and zoning and city commission approval.
Mr. Krongold said he may demolish the parking garage to build the tropical-themed hotel with retail and entertainment venues.
The hotel and its amenities are envisioned to complement Jungle Island the same way such properties have enhanced such major theme parks as Disney World and Universal Studios, he said. "We want something first class."