American Dream Mall waits on Canadian developer
Plans for the American Dream Mall have stayed in neutral since the megamall planned for the northwestern end of the county won approval from county reviewing agencies in July. County officials now wait for Canadian developer Triple Five to take the next step and submit a site plan.
Triple Five first eyed Miami for what would become the largest mall in the US over three years ago. The project would cost $4 billion, span more than 5 million square feet and have room for dining, retail, and entertainment – including a Cirque du Soleil theater, outdoor rollercoasters and water park. It spans between Florida’s Turnpike Extension, Interstate 75 and Miami Gardens Drive.
The approval last summer guarantees entitlements to the developer such as development rights under an agreement the county commission approved. The development agreement provides a laundry list of roadway improvements the developer is responsible for, the timing of the facilities that the developer must create, and a plan for environmental protection and storm water management.
“It also specifies the next steps they need to take, emergency services they need to provide; they are providing some transit improvement,” said Nathan Kogon, assistant director for Miami-Dade County Development Services. “That’s approved along with this master plan, which is this bubble diagram which basically shows the outline of the mall, some of the open space requirement and the roads and infrastructure that surrounds the property.”
Site plan approval is the next step the developer must check off. A multitude of county departments will then inspect the site plan approval – showing the building layout, floor plans, landscape, and roadway networks – for technicalities.
The site plan must be as detailed as possible.
“For example,” Mr. Kogon said, “as part of the landscape plan, they are going to show every single tree, type of tree, [and] the size of the tree on the property. That is how detailed it is. [In addition] every parking space, every floor plan, every level, every inch measured to their property line is depicted. It is a very detailed plan.”
The process can take four to six months between submission, edits and revisions.
“How our process works for site plan is an applicant submits for a site plan, we have a 21-day review period. By the time they submit, we process, get the comments back from all the different divisions, it takes about a month. We do an additional review in one month but we will have significant comments,” Mr. Kogon said. “There is always significant comments with these planned reviews. If they want to move it fast, it depends on the quality of the submittal.”
The quality of a site plan can help developers secure fewer comments and move faster through the site plan chapter.
There are a few rookie mistakes they can avoid, according to Mr. Kogon. He said, “If they need 1,000 trees and they provide 800, then obviously we catch them and that is a comment. If the trees are placed in an area where it is impeding a turning movement for a car, we are going to comment. There is just a lot of little things like that.”
He added that the developer needs to include labels for every type of space.
“We need to know if the space is going to be used for retail or entertainment because the development agreement says you are going to have X amount of square feet of each of those uses,” Mr. Kogon said.
Other steps remain before the developer can seize building permits.
“The next step would be to submit their plat,” Mr. Kogon said. “The process divides the designated area and sums it up in legal descriptions for the clerk of courts. It proves the project contains the necessary sewer lines, roadways, and water management systems. The developer has to obtain a preliminary plat before receiving the building permits. They can then start construction with the preliminary approval but not open doors until receiving the final plat.”
Other departments wait for Triple Five to further progress before starting on their responsibilities.
The Water and Sewer Department is on the sidelines waiting to connect the coming American Dream Mall sewer system to a 24-inch sewer line that will run from I-75 to the existing system and run to Northwest 170th Street and 97th Avenue.
“It is where the lines that will be constructed by the developers in that area will be extended to make the connection,” said Water and Sewer Department Deputy Director Douglas Yoder.
Mr. Yoder’s team needs to time the expansion just right before installing the new sewer system.
“On the one hand, we don’t necessarily want to invest money on extending the sewer or water system and then have no customers who are ready to use them,” Mr. Yoder said. “On the other, you don’t want to be in a situation where the development is being forestalled as a result of not having access to the water and sewer system. From a planning perspective, we try to gauge the likelihood that the area is going to have new users and make sure that happens when regional infrastructure is available so that those plans can go forward.”
The megamall’s connection fee will ring up to $7,059,900 and, Mr. Yoder says, the developer will pick up the tab: “Any time anybody connects to our system there is a connection charge that has been established by ordinance by which, depending on how much flow they are projected to have, they pay so much in gallons of flow.”
County Commissioner for the area Jose “Pepe” Diaz, meanwhile, proposed and helped pass legislation to ensure the American Dream Mall checks off every promise developers made. “I wanted to make sure that the mall is going to be everything that it’s set to be, that it creates the amount of jobs and stores,” he said.
Area residents remain divided on the project, Commissioner Diaz says. “There are people that want the future entertainment center because of jobs for our community and tourism and everything it could bring.”
Some, however, remain concerned regarding pending issues, including traffic.
But, Commissioner Diaz says, the majority of his constituents want the American Dream Mall, yearning to see the range of entertainment options and the possibilities they may bring.