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Front Page » Business & Finance » Theme park has fallback plan

Theme park has fallback plan

Written by on July 14, 2015
Theme park has fallback plan

Miami Wilds LLC remains enthusiastic about its proposed theme park to be built in the ZooMiami area and is evaluating the feasibility of a phased approach to expedite plans for the multi-million-dollar entertainment complex.
According to George Navarrete, deputy director of parks for Miami-Dade County, a Phase 1 development could include a water park, limited lodging and some retail; and Phase 2 would take place all within existing county property. That could later include development on neighboring US Coast Guard property, he said, that would include the theme park and significant retail.
“We always anticipated the Miami Wilds project would be developed in two phases, with Phase 2 following immediately behind Phase 1,” said Paul Lambert, project director for Miami Wilds LLC.
“What was unanticipated, I think we can safely say by nearly everyone in our group and county government, was that US Fish & Wildlife would require such an extended habitat survey and approval process associated with the Phase II site even though the Miami Wilds plan does not call for developing in any of the Pine Rockland Forest,” he said.
According to Mr. Navarrete, significant environmental surveying for evidence of listed endangered species has already taken place on county property. He said additional environmental surveys, following US Fish & Wildlife Service protocols, could begin on Coast Guard property as early as August and be completed by August 2016.
“These surveys will assist the service in determining permitting and mitigation requirements,” Mr. Navarrete said. “We will have a better sense of the timetable once the environmental surveys are completed and reviewed by the service.”
The federal habitat review has created uncertainty associated with timing and developable land parcel that would be included in any transfer of Coast Guard property to the county, Mr. Lambert said.
“As a result, we’ve had to rethink an approach to include a ready-to-develop Phase 1 program without being dependent upon Phase 2 coming to fruition,” he said “After going through heavy additional planning and review, we are convinced that the Phase I project stands on its own legs financially, has few if any of the federal approval complications and substantially more limited public funding needs compared to the larger Phase 2 effort, and will both feed and feed off of new energy created at the front gate of ZooMiami.”
The latest developments have been helpful for identifying the project character, said Jack Illes, creative partner for Miami Wilds LLC.
“I have been personally focused for the last four months on community engagement, and have had the opportunity to meet a number of the thought leaders involved in the scientific, environmental and business communities locally,” Mr. Illes said. “Those conversations – with a variety of local groups such as the National Park Service, Everglades Foundation, academics at FIU and FAU, local chamber and trade groups, and the local business community in the Redland – have helped us develop a better understanding of the opportunity at Miami Wilds.”
Mr. Illes said there’s is an exceptional opportunity for Miami Wilds LLC to create a unique destination that can serve as an environmental showcase, a focal point for the South Dade community, and as a gateway to the other attractions in South Dade.
“The unique character of the destinations and natural environment that surround us will serve to create the personality and character of the new attractions at Miami Wilds,” he said.
Specifically, Mr. Illes said, the Pine Rocklands forest affords Miami Wilds LLC the opportunity to broaden awareness among its visitors about the Everglades ecosystem and its importance to South Florida.
“We have proposed to set up a conservancy to restore, manage and protect the forest, and believe that we can create a showcase for environmental awareness and responsibility through our efforts,” he said. “The heritage museums now in place – the Gold Coast Railroad Museum and the South Florida Military Museum and Veterans Memorial – also serve as an opportunity to create a setting at Miami Wilds that further showcases the unique local history and culture of South Florida.”
A significant development at the zoo itself is the new entry and Everglades exhibit area, Mr. Illes said, which the developers see as both the centerpiece and foundation for the entire Miami Wilds project.
“Given our strategic location within the larger Everglades ecosystem, between two of the Everglades Park entrances,” Mr. Illes said, “we feel the new Zoo Everglades exhibit offers an exceptional platform to build on that will focus attention at Miami Wilds on the unique natural environment and local culture, and to attract new visitors to a destination appealing to locals and visitors alike.”
From the outset, Mr. Illes said, Miami Wilds has had three primary objectives: expand awareness and visitation to the zoo; create new opportunities, both jobs and education, for local residents in South Dade County; and protect and preserve the unique forest setting with the zoo and heritage museums now in place, all based on a commercially viable business plan that supports these objectives.

7 Responses to Theme park has fallback plan

  1. al sunshine

    July 15, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    Nice article, but I have NOT seen any actual documentation to know that the developers have actually scaled back this project. This could be a planted “trial balloon” in a Miami Newspaper that has continually FAILED to provide objective and fair coverage of this issue. The original article continues to rely on Developer and Miami Dade Sources without ANY environmental quotes or input on this project, sorta like “The Public Be Damned”. IF there is an environmental assessment of FEDERAL LAND, who approved it, who’s paying for it? Should our Tax Dollars be used to help Billionaire Developers from out of town continue to work on this project without ANY PUBLIC DISCUSSION, and Who’s doing the study? Will it be the same people Ram/UM used to find NO RARE PLANTS OR ANIMALS on the old UM South Campus? There’ reportedly a fundraiser for Mayor Gimeniz sponsored by the same Miami Law Firm that lobbied for UM and Ram on their project. Are they lobbying for “Miami Wilds” Now at the same time they’re raising money for the Mayor? Valid Questions for a Grand Jury, IMHO.

  2. Cully Waggoner

    July 15, 2015 at 11:14 pm

    Again Miami Today prints a story that is not much more than a developer press release.

    George Navarrete, deputy director of parks for Miami-Dade County may not be aware that the County has already installed water mains on the site for a possible theme park many years ago. He apparently does not understand that Phase 2 is NOT on County property

    “What was unanticipated, I think we can safely say by nearly everyone in our group and county government, was that US Fish & Wildlife would require such an extended habitat survey and approval process associated with the Phase II site even though the Miami Wilds plan does not call for developing in any of the Pine Rockland Forest,”

    Really? Let’s take another look.

    Miami Wilds main development area is 119 acres that is currently occupied by Southern Anchor and the U.S. Coast Guard. So if the County abides by what the voters voted for, like they SHOULD do, the County CANNOT build Miami Wilds as planned. There could be class action lawsuits if they don’t, the County tries to build Miami Wilds. The voters did not vote for the U.S. Coast Guard or Southern Anchor apartments to be moved at all. That’s a pretty big fact not to mention and it saddens me that no reporter in any of our local media has bothered to publish this fact.

    The fact is that Miami-Dade County, in particular District 9 Commissioner Dennis C. Moss has been trying to build some sort of waterpark, dinosaur theme park or other attraction on the Richmond Tract next to Zoo Miami since 1997 and the plans almost always falls apart at some point. Neptune’s Waterworks then The Dinosaur Open Air Museum Miami come to mind.

    The Referendum the voters voted for in 2006 was for a Miami Zoo Entertainment Area and clearly stated to develop an entertainment district “on Metro Zoo property on land that is not environmentally sensitive and is outside the animal attractions”. That is NOT the U.S. Coast Guard COMMSTA Miami/NMA site, NOR is it Southern Anchor. The legal description is CLEARLY the Hanger 3 area of the former Naval Air Station Richmond and the Zoo Parking Lot, which was the main landing pad for the former blimp base, no other land around the zoo can or should be developed.

    “The heritage museums now in place – the Gold Coast Railroad Museum and the South Florida Military Museum and Veterans Memorial – also serve as an opportunity to create a setting at Miami Wilds that further showcases the unique local history and culture of South Florida.” I can see where Miami Wilds might be a good thing for these two fine museums, but if the County is funding Miami Wilds, they need to fund improvements at these two site to complement Miami Wilds as well.

    Development over an existing Parking Lot or the Hanger 3 floor, both of which were concreted over in the early 1940’s is one thing, but tearing down Pine trees and Natural Forrest Community and paving over the existing oolitic limestone is another altogether. The voters did not vote for the U.S. Coast Guard or Southern Anchor apartments to be moved at all. It would be awesome if Miami-Dade County actually listened to the voters and built a scaled back Miami Wilds to conform to what the voters voted for once.

  3. marc

    July 16, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    Keep up the good work guys.


    July 16, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    I am sick and tired of my wife and kids making me drive 4 hours to see Mickey. If i can satisfy them locally i am a happy man. Furtemore, all family members come from Brazil and spends tens of thousands of dollars in orlando. I live in miami, they land in miami but we have to go to orlando to see the park. if a park is built in miami i can stay in miami and the tourist will spend their money in miami. forget a tree and the animals. Human progress and the future can not be paused because of critters. They will migrate to the nearest forest, wherever that may be. However, this is a metropolis and Miami is on the verge of becoming of the best cities in the world. Let this happen and lets prosper!

  5. Eugene

    July 22, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    I live in the area and I love the idea ……. Lots of others pine rock land in Larry & Penny park ,,, us army land an traler park

    Go Miami Wilds

  6. Cully Waggoner

    July 23, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    I’m shaking my head at some of the comments made. Perhaps people need to look a little closer at what is at stake here.

    First off I am not against development, what I am against is the needless destruction of the last remaining 2% of endangered Pine Rockland outside of the Everglades. I would welcome Miami Wilds to be built on non-environmentally sensitive land, of which there is plenty in Miami-Dade County.

    I feel bad that some of us (myself included) have to drive 4 hours to Orlando just to have fun at Disney World or Universal Studios, but that is just the way it is for now. Miami does have and has had theme parks before but they were never on the scale of Disney or Universal because there is so much more to do in Miami that they just never seem to draw the big crowds.

    Most people that live near Zoo Miami do not want Miami Wilds or Coral Reef Commons being built, if for only one reason, TRAFFIC. According to FDOT Online 2014, Coral Reef Drive, SW 152 Street handles 59,500 cars per day between SW 117th Ave and SW 137 Ave. There are 179,000 cars per day on the Florida Turnpike Extension (HEFT) just north of the Coral Reef Exit with 21,500 getting off there. There is no way to widen SW 152 Street and the road cannot handle the load it has now, let alone the added burden of 20,000 to 30,000 more cars per day would add if Miami Wilds and Coral Reef Commons were built.

    I understand that some people are just not environmentally sensitive and do not care what gets paved over and do not care or understand that is not the “critters” who live on these Pine Rocklands fault. Its mankind and the greed of a few who are the problems here. The developers of Miami Wilds and Coral Reef Commons will ask for, and expect to get, a tax incentive from Miami-Dade County to build. In the case of Miami Wilds, they are asking for $130 Million Dollars.

    $130 Million is a lot of money and it begs to question what County services will suffer due to cut backs to cover that amount. To get a Theme Park we don’t need, are we going to put up with less Police or Fire to respond. Perhaps it would be our Parks or our Public Schools that will suffer. Will our water bills go up to cover any loss in budget Water and Sewer would have because we had to give money to multibillion dollar corporations to build an abomination that wiped out the last of endangered Pine Rockland.

    The media does a lousy job of explaining the facts, even when they are only an easy Google Search away. It’s more than just the loss of the Pine Rocklands and possible extinction of the over a dozen endangered species that live there at stake. It’s OUR quality of life that is at stake. It’s our reduced County services at stake and it’s the lower property values at stake because nobody wants to sit on their back patio and listen to the screams from the rollercoasters and water slides all day and night.

    Save It, Don’t Pave It!

    Cully Waggoner
    Board Member at Large
    Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition, Inc.

  7. Donn homestead

    July 27, 2015 at 12:43 am

    I am all for it. Traffic will be a thing of the past with uber and new technologies. We overcome obstacles, if we can’t widen the road we will build a tram that’ll take you there.

    The Homestead area is prone and primed to be the Orlando of the south. So much land to build many parks on the scale of disney and universal studios.