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Front Page » Government » Miami looks at what land can replace its Melreese golf course

Miami looks at what land can replace its Melreese golf course

Written by on February 18, 2020
Miami looks at what land can replace its Melreese golf course

A vote that could have torpedoed a lease to build a mega-project on Melreese Golf Course failed to gain enough Miami City Commission support, as debate provided a glimpse of ongoing negotiations with would-be developer Miami Freedom Park. 

Commissioner Manolo Reyes proposed amending Miami’s comprehensive neighborhood plan to require that a park at least as large replace converted parkland unless commissioners waive the rule unanimously. But his measure failed last week.

“This is a singularly focused issue for Miami Freedom Park,” Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla said to Mr. Reyes. “That’s what you’re doing, right?”

Mr. Reyes responded that it was true.

Miami Freedom Park LLC has been working on a lease with the city to transform the 131-acre city-owned golf course just east of Miami International Airport into a billion-dollar development that would include a 25,000-seat professional soccer stadium, a million square feet of office, retail and commercial space, as well as a 58-acre new park to be contributed to the city. 

Mr. Reyes has consistently criticized the deal, offering legislation with the potential to doom it. He railed against what he called a disrespect toward the city’s policy that bars net loss of parkland; his legislation would also have disallowed aggregating parks smaller than 40,000 square feet, which is smaller than an acre, toward park replacement. 

“Either we accept it or we erase it and stop being liars and hypocrites that we are telling the public out there that we are protecting our parks,” Mr. Reyes said. 

Mr. Díaz de la Portilla called the legislation a “poison pill.” With the park in his district, he said he hadn’t decided whether he would vote in favor of leasing the golf course to the developers, saying he was holding out for a “really, really good deal” for the city. 

He said that while he would have voted against adding to the ballot the referendum that allowed the city to begin no-bid negotiations with Miami Freedom Park, he stated that a majority of city voters favored the deal.

Iris Escarra, a Greenberg Traurig lawyer who represents Miami Freedom Park, said the developer must replace about 20 acres of parkland of the 73 acres in the lease deal. She said developers are working with the city to find sites for parks in areas where none exist, as well as city-owned land that could be improved to be parkland and sites owned by other jurisdiction.

“We understand we’re under a lot of scrutiny,” she said. “We’ve been very careful in trying to find as big and chunky as possible.”

Commissioner Joe Carollo, while voting for Mr. Reyes’ measure on first reading, acknowledged that passage would kill the deal and said he could change his vote the second time around. He also mentioned he was waiting for golf course land appraisals, which he believed would be higher than the total the developer offered, and said he would like more parkland in his district, which has the least of any commission district. 

In 2018, 60% of city voters agreed to waive competitive bidding and allow the city to negotiate the ground lease and deal with Miami Freedom Park. City commissioners are expected to vote in coming months on that agreement, which requires a supermajority of four votes to pass.

5 Responses to Miami looks at what land can replace its Melreese golf course

  1. Julio

    February 20, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    Respect the Voters and what they have Voted on. MIAMI FREEDOM PARK is a huge Business, Community Development, Youth Inspiring and Sporting Events opportunity. It is a Win Win Win situation.
    The Golf course will never be as lucrative or Inspiring as a MIAMI FREEDOM PARK will be.

    • Sean

      February 21, 2020 at 2:45 am

      The city spent millions of dollars renovating that golf course. The only reason to go ahead with a new project is to further line the pockets of developers. The residents should learn to play golf and enjoy the park; They might not have cultural ties to golf but it has a rich tradition here.

  2. Nelson Colon

    February 23, 2020 at 10:25 am

    There is a green space on the north end of Hialeah Middle School, Lejune Road & East 65 St. Offer this property to keep it from being developed into apartments, as was the case recently.

  3. Luis A Gonzalez

    February 26, 2020 at 2:49 pm

    Yes, the new park reduces green space to 20 acres, but this will be park space that will benefit more constituents than what’s already there. Golf is and always has been an exclusive sport. It is absurd to me hearing people defending this golf course as green park space like any other. A park is a place where anyone can wander in and connect with nature. Finally, Miami is a city of soccer fanatics… not golf fanatics.

  4. Pacer

    March 19, 2020 at 10:17 pm

    To those complaining that golf is an elite activity I would say that attending any pro sport contest is no less an elite activity. Think basketball is a game of the people–have you checked out the price of Heat tickets? A 3-4 hour round at Melreese costs less than a decent Marlins ticket for crying out loud. The only reason MLS is hunting that site is because they think they’ll get a sweetheart deal from the taxpayers. Now, the government COULD help by condemning a few blocks of slum in Overtown–close to downtown and public transit–and letting the soccer team pay fair compensation for the land it needs without displacing any open space. Maybe require the project to include some affordable housing units to replace any that are lost in the process. Or let the MLS franchise buy into Marlins park and pay to reconfigure it as an all-weather home for soccer as well as baseball. Speaking of Marlins Park we should all not forget how THAT public/private investment was promised to be a huge development anchor just like MLS is being plugged today. Let’s not get duped again fellow Miamians. The assertion that asking the team to replace the open space they would fill was a “poison pill” is an admission of how precious open space is to Miami and why Melreese should not be developed in this manner.