Highways nightmare stalls massive American Dream Mall
Delays in the completion of freeway interchanges that will provide access to American Dream Miami, a mammoth entertainment and retail complex to rise in Northwest Miami-Dade, could push back the opening for about a year.
“Our development agreement stipulates that the interchanges have to be in place before we can open, so we are tied to that,” said Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a land-use attorney at Saul Ewing Arnstein and Lehr who represents Triple Five Group, the project’s developer.
“Our plan was to file in September for administrative site plan approval from the county,” he said – a step that must be completed before pulling permits and getting shovels in the ground. “We did secure the turnpike interchange, and we have been working with Florida Department of Transportation, the Florida division of the Federal Highway Administration and the county on the interchange off Interstate 75. That is the one piece that has been delayed, and it is blocking progress on the rest of the project.”
Once that hurdle is crossed, Mr. Diaz de la Portilla said, build-out is projected to take three and a half to four years.
The project, usually referred to as a mega-mall, is technically not a mall but a family entertainment destination, a distinction that required a change in zoning from industrial & office uses to business & office.
County commissioners voted in 2018 to rezone nearly 174 acres in unincorporated Northwest Miami-Dade to allow Triple Five to build several million square feet of retail space, a massive theme park and 2,000 hotel rooms on a vacant site between I-75 and Florida Turnpike’s Homestead Extension.
Triple Five Group – a Canadian conglomerate – is the developer of West Edmonton Mall in Canada, Mall of America in Minnesota and American Dream Meadowlands in the Greater New York area. Upon completion, American Dream Miami is projected to be the largest mall in the nation.
The original site plan listed retailers, restaurants and services as well as entertainment options that included the world’s tallest indoor ski park, a skating rink, indoor water park, aquarium, submarine rides, gardens, a multi-screen luxury theater complex, an arts center for live performances and more – a list that Mr. Diaz de la Portilla said may be adjusted once the post-pandemic “new normal” is established.
“We don’t know what this stuff is going to look like in a post-Covid world,” he said. “Right now we are evaluating the percentage of retail space versus the percentage of entertainment space, and shifting toward more entertainment.”
Also, Mr. Diaz de la Portilla said, the original concept of having everything under roof may be modified to include open-air space.
“We’re remaining flexible because there are so many imponderables,” he said. “Sometime in 2021– probably by spring – the picture should be a lot clearer. The interchange piece will be in place, and we will make some decisions.”