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Front Page » Business & Finance » American Dream Miami battles land use, zoning issues

American Dream Miami battles land use, zoning issues

Written by on October 24, 2017
American Dream Miami battles land use, zoning issues

Triple Five Group, developer of the proposed $4 billion American Dream Miami “mega center” in Northwest Miami-Dade, hopes to get its entitlements squared away by the end of this year in order to complete the project in 2023, says Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a land-use attorney representing the project.

“We have a pending master plan application that we’ve been working on for the past couple of years,” Mr. Diaz de la Portilla says, “and we have to go through the land use and zoning process.”

Although the project is often referred to as a “mega-mall,” he says, it is in fact not a mall but a family entertainment destination, a distinction that requires a change in zoning from industrial & office uses to business & office.

Triple Five, Mr. Diaz de la Portilla says, hopes to present the master plan and zoning changes along with the development plan to the county commission by the end of this year. The commission’s last public hearing of 2017 is scheduled for Dec. 7.

Getting to this point has taken years of negotiations, says Edgar Jones, a veteran commercial broker who serves as consultant to the group.

Robert Gorlow, Triple Five’s senior executive on the project, says the process began in 2013, when the developers first talked with the Graham family, which owns a large parcel adjacent to the American Dream Miami site.

There followed a two-year process of assembling 194 acres for the site, he says, which is cobbled together from about 15 different parcels.

The largest, Mr. Diaz de la Portilla says, was comprised of 82 acres formerly owned by the state that was sold to the developers under Miami-Dade County’s economic development powers.

“Unlike a run-of-the-mill development project,” he says, “this is primarily an economic development project, which makes it unique.

“As part of that agreement, a restrictive covenant requires us to create a minimum of 75,000 permanent jobs. There’s a 35% work requirement to use community small business enterprises for architects and engineers, and also a 35% requirement for construction. So we have made a specific commitment to the public good and job creation.”

Under the auspices of the South Florida Regional Planning Council, Triple Five representatives have also attended at least eight meetings so far with stakeholders, Mr. Diaz de la Portilla says, “two meetings before we even filed the application and two after that, as well as other meetings primarily to work through transportation and road issues. The council found our master plan to be consistent with their regional plan.”

“We have been working with the county for a couple of years,” Mr. Jones says. Once the project won approval from the county Planning Advisory Board, he says, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted to send it to state reviewing agencies with a recommendation of approval.

“The reviewing agencies provided their comments,” Mr. Jones says, “which we responded to. So everybody – including police, fire, transit, zoning, the Department of Environmental Resources, public works and so on – has had a part in getting the master plan approved, and it is ready to go forward.”

Once the entitlements are approved, Mr. Diaz de la Portilla says, there are still a few more hoops to jump through before the first shovelful of earth is turned.

“There’s the administrative site plan review process, followed by the planning process,” he says, “and then we have to pull permits to actually start construction.”

Depending on demand, a second hotel may be built at a later date, Mr. Diaz de la Portilla says, but “basically everything will be built in one construction phase.”

That phase – covering about 7.2 million square feet – consists of a staggering number of discrete parts. “It includes a hotel, entertainment, retail, back-of-house operations and common areas,” Mr. Gorlow says.

In addition to a projected 450 retailers, restaurants and services, entertainment options announced so far include the world’s tallest indoor ski park, a skating rink, indoor water park, aquarium, submarine ride, gardens, a permanent Cirque du Soleil installation, a multi-screen luxury theater complex, an arts center for live performances and more.

Triple Five Group – a shopping mall owner and operator, hotel operator and real estate company based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada – is the developer of West Edmonton Mall in Canada, Mall of America in Minnesota and the upcoming American Dream Meadowlands in the Greater New York area, scheduled to open in about 18 months.

“We hope to open American Dream Miami in 2023,” Mr. Gorlow says, “contingent upon freeway interchanges opening at the same time as our doors open.”

4 Responses to American Dream Miami battles land use, zoning issues

  1. Derek Cintron

    October 26, 2017 at 3:55 am

    If anyone believes this nonsense about creating 75,000 permanent jobs, I’ve got some MC Hammer pants to sell you that will never go out of style… Want proof this claim is false? Just do the math: 75,000 permanent jobs divided by 450 vendors… I can assure you that now, in the dying days of malls and retail, no manager is going to be hiring anywhere near 166 employees.

    This IS a freaking megamall. They’re not calling it that anymore because of the inarguable downward trend in malls, but 450 separate retailers in one place is a huge, outdated retail concept called A MEGA-MALL. It’s a mall with some some waterslides, because I guess all the other people who’ve failed with waterslide parks in Dade and Broward County in the past didn’t know how to do it right? Maybe having one of the world’s premier coastlines just doesn’t provide enough watersports for South Florida’s residents or tourists?

    This project has “epic fail” written all over it, and obviously everyone is lying through their teeth to get it past the county commission. Pathetic. All this thing will do is create a traffic tsunami for a few years, and after every resident in South Florida has seen it once or twice, attendance will fall off and it will go the same way every megamall in America is going. But, since the zoning will be changed to accommodate it, there will be thousands of new residences in the surrounding area making traffic a permanent nightmare for northwest Dade even after the mall attendance dies off. No extra exits or road projects can mathematically ever get ahead of the exploding traffic in that area, and they know it; all the studies prove it.

    The county commission needs to decide if we’re going to be a city of the people, or a city run by sociopathic developers who don’t care how many hundreds of thousands of people they inconvenience while making a buck. Hopefully the facts won’t get eclipsed by the false promises associated with this thing.

    • Andy H, Miami, FL

      November 5, 2017 at 10:52 am

      I don’t like sounding impulsively negative or critical, but I think you’re right. I’d like to read Triple Five’s initial proposals for the project, specifically their short-and long-term transportation, environmental-impact, and consumer-participation projections for a massive retail center out in the middle of nowhere. I mean, what did they say and/or write to convince Miami-Dade County and their funders that this is a sound business idea, especially in the long term?

      Moreover, I’m very weary of the use of “jobs” numbers as an economic indicator. It’s a dramatically misleading and obsolete metric. It should be replaced by income (i.e. don’t tell me how many “jobs” people have, tell me how much money they’re bringing home). The last thing Miami-Dade County needs is 75,000 more poverty-creating/perpetuating, low-paying jobs that do not provide gainful income. As a condition of approval, the Miami-Dade County Commission should force Triple Five to stipulate that all of the full-time jobs at its “American Dream Miami” project will pay at least $50,000 a year, with full benefits (major medical, 401K, stock options, pension plans, et cetera), for a standard, 40-hour week.

  2. DC Copeland

    October 28, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Hear! Hear! Well said but I suspect it will fall on ears that don’t care, ears that belong to politicians only in it for the money. On the other hand, that piece of land would make a great headquarters for, providing real jobs while improving the community at the same time.

  3. Winslow

    December 3, 2017 at 10:55 am

    DC, you are absolutely correct. Amazon would have been a better fit in this area. As it is now, the traffic is unbearable. Trust me, I know first-hand because I live just off Miami Gardens and I75. It’s a nightmare in the morning and during afternoon rush hour, with no relief in sight. I’m going to hold on to my home for dear life and hope the value does not decrease. I know, in the back of my mind, what the reality will be but there’s nothing I can do right now. I’m just waiting to retire in a few short years so I can get outta Dodge. I’m not looking forward to the American Dream as the American dream I have been living will one day soon be shattered into a million pieces.