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Front Page » Business & Finance » Miami Wilds water park near zoo flows toward county deal

Miami Wilds water park near zoo flows toward county deal

Written by on September 8, 2020
Miami Wilds water park near zoo flows toward county deal

A long-sought deal for a water park beside Zoo Miami is near, with terms between Miami-Dade and developers awaiting signatures.

A county commission committee Friday is to review a lease with Miami Wilds LLC, the team behind Miami Wilds park, hotel and retail spanning 27.5 acres near the zoo and two museums. If it advances, the lease is subject to a full commission final vote.

The county expects $120.7 million rent and parking income in the first 40 years of the lease, which has two 20-year renewal options. Miami Wilds, which must invest $99 million, plans “a combination of debt and equity,” a memo from county Cultural Affairs Director Michael Spring said.

Talks of developing the land into a park attraction date from a 2006 referendum in which voters OK’d theoretical plans. Proposals then came and went, including one featuring 20th Century Fox characters and another with dinosaurs.

County negotiations with Miami Wilds began more than six years ago but stalled amid concerns the park would harm Pine Rockland land housing endangered flora and fauna. In response, Miami Wilds reduced its size to stay within an existing paved area.

Miami Wilds lead coordinator Paul Lambert, managing principal at Lambert Advisory, told Miami Today he and his partners – lawyer Michael Diaz, hedge fund manager Eamon Smith and architects Emanuel Uche and Bernard Zyscovich – believe the current deal is fair for all.

“It checks all the boxes, addresses all the issues,” he said. “And it’s not like this project hasn’t gone through scrutiny.”

Construction should take “24 months after it begins in 2021, with a projected 2023 opening,” the project website says.

A water park is to feature “a lazy river attraction, wave pools, slides of all sizes, kiddie pools and a beach area for relaxing with shady landscapes.” A 200-room family lodge hotel is to be built in two $26 million phases. A “mercado” would offer restaurants and “an array of small unique retail shops [that] reflect the Miami Wilds and Zoo Miami outdoors theme.”

That combination of attractions and proximity to the zoo, Gold Coast Railroad Museum and Miami Military Museum will create “the type of place that parents and families will want to come back to more than once,” Mr. Zyscovich said in a promotional video.

Within five years of “substantial completion” or eight years after the lease begins, Miami Wilds must create 304 full-time-equivalent jobs paying more than $35,000 plus 99 more such jobs within five years of finishing the second phase of the family hotel or 11 years into its lease.

The project provides for $14 million-$15 million in improvements to the zoo parking area, including lighting, signage, security and drainage. Miami Wilds is to build at least 4,206 regular parking spaces, 90 bus spaces and Uber and Lyft accommodations.

It will come at a cost: for the first time, visitors will pay to park. Daily rates, Mr. Spring wrote, “shall never exceed $9 (in 2019 dollars) without prior written consent and approval by the county.” Miami-Dade expects a $1.53 million yearly cut of parking profits.

Miami Wilds may also decide to build a second luxury hotel on 39 more acres within a year of signing the lease. Mr. Lambert said group tourism from Europe will factor into whether his team taps that option.

“We’ll know in the coming months,” he said. “But there is a real opportunity there given the nature of this park.”

12 Responses to Miami Wilds water park near zoo flows toward county deal

  1. Ali Diaz

    September 9, 2020 at 6:32 pm

    Wonderful project congratulations

  2. anon

    September 9, 2020 at 8:22 pm

    Its insane how the surface parking lot is bigger than the park. Do they need to pave so much land for parking or could they add least add garages?

  3. Relman R Diaz

    September 9, 2020 at 11:54 pm

    The question always comes back to the same situation: the destruction of the unique habitat of animals, insects, trees and foliage of the Miami Pine Rockland, with the blessing of the Miami-Dade Commission members.

    No consideration is given to the impact that will add congestion to the traffic increase in an already over populated community.

    We don’t need this development: let’s stop this project while there is time.


  4. Cully Waggoner

    September 10, 2020 at 12:34 am

    “The county expects $120.7 million rent and parking income in the first 40 years of the lease, which has two 20-year renewal options.”

    Did Six Flags Atlantis in Broward County last 40 years, no. Will Miami Wilds last 40 years, no of course not. How long did the Miami Arena last? Miami’s history last all of 5 minutes, so Miami Wilds is just the next White Elephant that Miami will produce and cost the tax payers money.

    Will Zoo Miami or The Gold Coast Railroad Museum now charge for parking? Neither has charged for parking for 40 years, so how many Miami Wilds guests will park for free in those parking lots?

    Paul Lambert is just the next scam artist out to make a quick buck at Miami-Dade County expense. His name will be added to a long list of developers that destroyed Miami-Dade County’s environment and globally imperiled Pine Rocklands all in the name of greed.

    “Miami Wilds reduced its size to stay within an existing paved area.” No, Miami Wilds was reduced in size because 20th Century Fox and Sony, the two largest backers of the project pulled out, but don’t let the facts get in the way of another land grab by a developer that could care less about the destruction of natural habitat that they cause.

    “Within five years of “substantial completion” or eight years after the lease begins, Miami Wilds must create 304 full-time-equivalent jobs paying more than $35,000 plus 99 more such jobs within five years of finishing the second phase of the family hotel or 11 years into its lease.”

    “A “mercado” would offer restaurants and “an array of small unique retail shops [that] reflect the Miami Wilds and Zoo Miami outdoors theme.”” Sounds like International Drive in Orlando to me with tacky themed restaurants and t-shirt shops all in a row.

    So, entry level staff at Miami Wilds will be making at least $16.83 or more an hour? The two museums and Zoo Miami don’t pay that much to their staff and I’m reasonably certain maids and pool boys at nearby hotels don’t make that much either. Florida’s minimum wage is $8.56 per hour so, Who is kidding who with these numbers?

    Miami Wilds follows on the heels of Coral Reef Commons as the latest debacle of corporate greed raping Miami-Dade County of our natural resources while Carpetbagger developers make millions of dollars at Miami-Dade Taxpayer expense. It’s time to say enough is enough and stop this once and for all.

    Cully Waggoner
    Vice President, Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition

    #SaveItDontPaveIt #MiamiWilds #CoralReefCommons #OurCounty #Miami

  5. Gerwyn Flax

    September 10, 2020 at 9:20 pm

    Don’t let the facts get in the way of another land grab? As the article states this project has been vetted to death. I say let the voters decide. It is high time that Miami completes a project that promises significant employment for its citizens, despite the NIMBY naysayers. At least it’s not a Melreese park. A genuine attraction/employment driver is something that is sorely missing, besides a decrepit airport and a space-limited seaport. By the way, I have visited Orlando’s International Drive on several visits and can attest to it’s sucess as far as visitors are concerned. Those tacky themed restaurants had lines of guests outside. Please stop standing in the way of progress.

    • Cully Waggoner

      September 11, 2020 at 4:01 pm

      Mr. Flax

      With all due respect, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you have not been following this project or the effort to save the last major piece of Pine Rocklands, that are unique and only found in South Dade, for the last 5 years like I have. I doubt you’ve followed it for more than 5 minutes based on your comments.

      304 full time jobs is hardly significant employment, especially since most of them will be far below the $35k average the developer is touting. More dead-end entry-level jobs is not the answer to the County’s problem. The “more jobs” promotion that Commissioner Moss keeps pushing is a misleading narrative at best. Moss was tasked with getting a “theme/water park next to MetroZoo (now ZooMiami) way back in 1997.

      Every attempt to put in something be it Neptune’s Wonderland, Schlitterbahn Waterparks & Resorts or that German based Dinosaur Land theme park have all come and gone. Miami Wilds is hopefully the next one to fail.

      No, this project has not been vetted to death. I spoke with one of the Commissioner today who’s staff forwarded him my comments to the article in The Miami Herald and he said that he looked over a lot of the documents and what he found was far different than what has been put out publicly. The County ‘rubber stamped” the Coral Reef Commons project with only the Aviation Department having any issues with it. Those issues still exist, but have magically vanished as far as the County seems concerned.

      Have you even been to the site? I’m guessing since you live in Pembroke Pines, you have not been to the site, except for maybe Zoo Miami perhaps. Well, I have, I’ve spent many weekends on the site over the last 5 years and explored all over the Richmond Pine Rocklands. I’ve even been allowed to explore, with Zoo escorts, parts of the property off limits to the public where the hotel and parking are planned. I’ve seen and photographed rare and endangered animals on the site. Animals that will die and become extinct if and when Miami Wilds ever got developed.

      It was December 7th, 2017 when Coral Reef Commons bulldozed almost all of their 138 acres in one day, before environmentalists like myself stopped them, sued them and took them to Court. That day the ecosystem changed and the animals lost their habitat and a lot most likely died under the tracks of the bulldozers. More of the same will happen when Miami Wilds is greenlighted.

      Lastly, I’m curious why somebody like yourself that lives in Pembroke Pines cares about a water park in South Miami-Dade County? Miami does not need a “genuine attraction”, Miami IS THE GENUINE ATTRACTION already! The beaches, the Atlantic Ocean, the nightclubs, the arts district, the theatres, the museums. More people will not come here due to another small tacky water park, like Miami Wilds.

      Pembroke Pines Wilds does not have the same ring to it, but it sounds better to me, so since you want it, you should get it. Deal?

  6. M. B.

    September 12, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    Wow, I wasn’t aware of this blatant corruption going on with this landmark. Time to do some reading. Miami residents, especially the community around the property, need to know these details. #pembrokepineswild

  7. Gerwyn Flax

    September 12, 2020 at 6:32 pm

    Since you have chosen to point out that I live in Pembroke Pines, I will follow up your pettiness and arrogance simply by pointing out that I own property in both Dade and Broward counties and do business in both. I am in Miami on a daily basis.
    304 jobs indeed may not be as significant as we would like it to be, however it would be 304 jobs unavailable before, especially in light of Covid 19. You might have studied the area more than I have, but it means little to those who might benefit from the employment, or those tourists who just might enjoy something other than contaminated beaches, the Atlantic Ocean? (That is a stetch) since the Atlantic is visible to everyone on the US southeast coast. I think you forgot to mention the grimy crime-ridden South Beach.There is little of anything worth seeing here that would persuade cruise ship passengers to remain in Miami after cruising the beautiful Caribbean, endowed with the world’s best beaches. Maybe the developers should make a pitch for Melreese golf course instead, and leave your precious natural habitat of bugs alone. Either way, let the voters decide.

    • Cully Waggoner

      September 13, 2020 at 11:49 am

      Mr. Flax

      I was not being petty when I pointed out that you live in Pembroke Pines. I was pointing out that you don’t live anywhere near the proposed site, don’t appear to have a vested interest in it and will not have to deal with the increased traffic gridlock, the noise and light pollution, the lower quality of living and most likely plummeting home values that it will bring.

      In 2006 the voters approved the MetroZoo Entertainment Area

      “Provided thar revenues will be used to expand MetroZoo facilities and educational and conservation programs, shall the County be allowed tp contract develop and operate an entertainment district, to include commercial uses and structures such as water park rides and attractions, related retail concessions, food and beverage establishments, a hotel, an a family entertainment center, on MetroZoo property on land that is not environmentally sensitive and is outside the animal attractions”

      64% Yes, 36% No was the vote. So, the voters said yes to a vague idea of a water park and the County planned to build a Universal Studios size theme park. One thing that is overlooked in that resolution is the fact that ALL 2,100 acres that was NAS Richmond and now includes Zoo Miami and everything around it in about 4 square miles IS globally imperiled, environmentally sensitive endangered Pine Rockland. The Zoo even has signs pointing this fact out in the parking lot and an exhibit about Pine Rockland in the Zoo. The same parking lot they want to build Miami Wilds on. Legally, by the County’s own resolution, they cannot build Miami Wilds

      Miami Wilds Is NOT Walt Disney World or Universal Studios, although that was the original plan. Thankfully, the original plans for Miami Wilds were scaled down, way down from an “Universal Studios” type of theme park, to a small water park. Miami Wilds will never be a major attraction. It will get decent attendance the first few years, but like EVERYTHING else in Miami the newness of it will wear out and attendance will gradually fall and that 120 million the County expects to make over 40 years will never fully materialize. Water parks by their very nature do not last very long. Do you remember Six Flags Atlantis in Broward County? Opened in 1979 and closed in 1992. 13 years for a water park much larger and better located than Miami Wilds is. Miami Wilds won’t last 10 years, if that.

      The fact that Miami-Dade County is approving a new water park when there are SEVEN of them in South Florida already. Rapids Water Park, Paradise Cove Water Park, Grapeland Water Park, Castaway Island Water Park, McDonald Water Park, Bucky Dent Water Park and Coconut Cove Water Park. In addition, many of the County parks and even Zoo Miami have some water park features including Larry and Penny Thompson Park directly south of the Zoo, which has had its water slides closed for years.

      Not to mention that Miami-Dade County is still under water restrictions, so Miami Wilds can use as much water as they want, but I will get a fine if they catch me washing my truck in my yard. All of the above is part if the stupidity that is Miami-Dade County.

      Have a nice day.

  8. Estefania

    September 15, 2020 at 1:25 pm

    There’s way to much land being used on parking, reduce the amount of parking stop and/or create a parking garage instead. Hopefully this water park will have sustainable practices, like no single use plastic and leed certified building.

  9. Armando Urbisci

    September 24, 2020 at 11:02 am

    GREAT PROYECT, I very much agree with the improvements and constructions to improve the quality of life and needs of human beings, the world population is growing and more RECREATION is NECESSARY, also houses, hotels, hospitals and schools and all kinds of construction need to be built .

  10. Anonymous

    October 21, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    Miami dade county is full of tricks.. starting with commissioner Moss himself. Not only does the county not give employees full time positions but they have them working 40+ hours a week all while being part time workers. Part time workers which will be the majority of the employees hired at Miami Wild will only be allowed to work 25-29 hours per week at less than $16 per hour. This is just a way for Moss to end his career with not only a large project under his name right at the end of his retirement.