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Front Page » Opinion » Miami, hold firm against development in our ‘Central Park’

Miami, hold firm against development in our ‘Central Park’

Written by on January 8, 2019
Miami, hold firm against development in our ‘Central Park’

Very soon Miami commissioners may be handed a deal between city administrators and developers of a massive mixed-use complex that, along with a soccer stadium, would replace the city’s only golf course. If history is a guide, commissioners will nitpick details, demand a pittance for affordable housing and maybe something extra for their districts, then sign off on the deal.
But rather than worry about details of a land lease with the local Mas brothers and soccer legend David Beckham, commissioners should take two steps back and view the plan for what it is: a sweetheart handoff of a vast swath of open city park land for 99 years to persons who should never be allowed to set foot on the site for development.
City voters on Nov. 6 permitted negotiations between the city and the developers who sought the site unasked and without competitive bids, but voters didn’t approve a deal. Only bare outlines were available. Site uses were estimates only, as were financial details, method and cost of cleaning up pollution under the golf course (it was built over a dump) and hundreds of details that would appear in final agreements. Absent too was federal clearance to develop under a flight path of adjacent Miami International Airport.
It is those points that city officials must now be resolving with the developers. Those officials must be seeking the best business deal for the city. But they don’t make final decisions, like the final terms or whether there should be a deal in the first place.
Those policy decisions come down to the five Miami city commissioners. They will undoubtedly ask about terms like the skimpy $1.13 a year rent per foot and jockey for pet concerns, ranging from eking out a bit more revenue for city coffers to jobs for their districts.
But rather than tweak the contract, what the commissioners should be examining is whether the city should give up its patrimony whenever a developer asks for public lands – especially lands that are not only in use 365 days a year but constitute the only such amenity this globally famed city has, a golf course.
How many major US cities have no golf in their boundaries? We can’t find one. Make this deal and Miami will become the first – not an enviable first, either, in what is supposed to be a visitors’ paradise.
If you look at old promotions, you’ll find ads touting Miami’s 70-degree winters and golf every day. Having 70-degree winters and a soccer stadium within an office and shopping hub where games are played occasionally doesn’t cut it.
Plus, that stadium isn’t intended for public play. That’s why the developers are after county parkland to take over where their soccer team can practice and run camps for youth – for a fee that they will collect.
Two city commissioners voted against a November referendum. If the two hold firm, it’s game over for the developers, who will need four of five votes to proceed. Those no votes came from Willy Gort and Manolo Reyes, who deserve all the support Miamians can give them so that they don’t buckle under to development in city parkland.
We understand those commissioners who say the city is desperate for income. It’s true. But if that is the reason for a deal, competitive bids for the site would bring far more revenue.
We also understand and agree with those who want pro soccer in Miami. But it doesn’t take our only city golf course to get soccer. It’s the best deal for developers, but the worst for the public.
The developers will paint the November vote as a mandate to make a deal, but it was no such thing. The vote permitted negotiations. It was not a requirement that the city commission then rubberstamp the negotiations.
We noted last week that Miami developers for many decades have been creative in erecting office buildings, retail sites, and hotels, all of which are the keystones of this development deal. What has been lagging, we noted, is governments providing infrastructure that our growing city needs.
In this case, we already have the vital government-crafted infrastructure – a 131-acre open site that is increasingly surrounded by development. We will never again find an open space that large within city limits, and we must retain it.
Manhattan has all the development density in the world, but it retains its 840-acre Central Park wide open. Miami too should hang firmly onto its 131-acre green space.

11 Responses to Miami, hold firm against development in our ‘Central Park’

  1. Oscar

    January 9, 2019 at 1:55 am

    This site is perfect for the Soccer Stadium.
    It is close to a Metrorail/ Tri Rail Station providing access for fans in
    Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.
    It is also centrally located, and very close to major expressways.

  2. Elvis Cruz

    January 9, 2019 at 2:48 am

    Excellent editorial, Michael Lewis. If only we could clone you and elect the progeny to the Miami City Commission.

  3. DC Copeland

    January 9, 2019 at 10:21 am

    Let them build it at Marlins Park where it should be. The only thing that stopped Beckham and company before was one lone property owner holding out for more money. Now that Mas is on board, they can afford that site (but, of course, now ALL the property owners will have increased their demand for their land). And so it goes…

  4. Steve Wright

    January 9, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    Miami Today’s Michael Lewis is 100% on the money.
    It would be a crime to give away precious parkland to billionaire developers.

  5. Peter R. Ehrlich, Jr.

    January 9, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    Michael Lewis is perfectly accurate yet again. City officials should not allow speculators to demolish the Melreese Golf Course. The golf course site is owned by taxpayers. Mr. Lewis also recommended against City and County officials forcing the taxpayers to pay over $3 Billion, including debt service, to the Marlins Stadium and Garages. That “deal” allowed then owner Jeff Loria to keep 100% of all revenues. City officials should respect all our public parks, not find excuses to cover them in concrete.

  6. Johnny Winton

    January 9, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    This deal is absolutely a giveaway to developers. However, it would not have been possible without the encouragement of a very weak Mayor and his greedy city manager. Francis Suarez and Emilio Gonzalez will go down in history as the two most egregious examples of failure to protect public green space in the City of Miami history. A special criticism must be leveled at the City’s so called, Mr. Green, Commissioner Ken Russell. It is an absolute disgrace that the supposed champion for green space is giving away the largest public green space in the history of the City of Miami. This deal is a complete sell-out and a disgrace. Hats off to Commissioners Reyes and Gort for standing against this terrible deal and standing for the great citizens of Miami.

    • Michael March

      January 15, 2019 at 11:02 am

      I agree, three cheers for Reyes and Gort! I am not a golfer or soccer player, but we should not eliminate our only facility for one sport in favor of the other, even if soccer is most likely more of a popular sport in this population.

      I fear many voters who would excitedly vote for the new soccer stadium may not even be fully aware there is already a viable golf course operating there on the same location. If left in the hands of Miami voters, I am afraid it would come down to which sport is more popular, and the soccer would win, in spite of all the good Melreese does for our community.

  7. Anonymous

    January 10, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Very interesting. So about 60% of those who voted, voted to allow further negotiations, yet, it would require 80% of the commissioners to approve any final deal and so far there are only 60% of them seemingly on board to do so in a direct reflection of the percentage of voters who approved the city to negotiatiate. 40% of those voters voted no, and there seems to be an equal amount of commissioners who could vote no as well. It will be interesting to see if the final vote ends up reflecting the voters as well.

  8. Carlos Kautsky

    January 10, 2019 at 10:36 pm

    Mr. Lewis is right to argue that we should take great care with uncommon resources which we can’t recover once squandered. Miami continues to grow, and productive or salutary ideas for this terrain will not cease to abound.

  9. José Sopla

    January 12, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    Given the chance, I would vote against a soccer stadium on public land or publicly subsidized in any way.

  10. Bart

    January 14, 2019 at 8:16 pm

    It should go back t o the miami river site in over town