City County Agree To Preserve Parcel Near American Airlines Arena
By Susan Stabley
Plans for 4.5 acres of land east of American Airlines Arena are changing again, with Miami city commissioners agreeing to partner with Miami-Dade County to preserve the parcel once proposed for retail, then residential-mixed, use.
The Heat Group, arena owner and 30-year tenant, told county commissioners earlier this year that it was willing to back out of its plans for the parcel following a request from the county, which owns the land.
“The agreement completes the transaction that the county approved earlier this year,” said Richard Weiss, Heat Group attorney. “The Heat was happy to be part of this modification, which we believe is in the best interests of the community.”
Last week’s agreement between the city and county still needs to be signed by Rouse Co., which owns and operates Bayside Marketplace and was a player in a series of land deals struck years ago to assemble the land for the arena. The undeveloped property was tied into a complicated set of agreements including promises to build a sky bridge that most agree would be a waste of money.
A proposal to build a bridge over the roadway used by trucks to the Port of Miami came after Rouse, owner of Bayside Marketplace, gave up land it had been leasing from the city, which in turn sold it to the county to assemble land for the arena. In exchange, the Heat Group committed to financing most of the construction of an overhead pedestrian bridge between the arena and the shops and restaurants at Bayside.
The Heat Group and Rouse still are working out a deal for reserved parking at Bayside for some Miami Heat season-ticket holders. Under the current proposal, the Heat Group would operate a store at the marketplace and Rouse would get discounted advertising in the arena.
Under the deal approved by Miami commissioners Thursday, the county will give the city about $2.5 million minus expenses from past site work in return for terminating the deal to build the sky bridge.
About $1.5 million will be committed to shore up an adjacent seawall.
The agreement needs to be signed by Dec. 29 and would need to be reviewed by the county attorney, according to a county spokeswoman, but no further action would be needed by the county if the triparty agreement with the city and Rouse has no changes from what county commissioners approved.
City Manager Joe Arriola has said that Miami wants the land used as an active attraction, not just open park space that could become a haven for the homeless.
The 4.5 acres on Biscayne Bay is referred to by county and city officials as ‘Parcel B.’ The park-zoned strip was left vacant after the arena opened in 2000, last proposed as a site for a 20-story, 235-unit apartment tower with some retail but originally considered for significantly more that 70,000 square feet of retail plus a marina.
Conservation group Urban Environment League of Greater Miami has pressured local officials to preserve the parcel, also known as Maritime Park, one of the last remaining bits of green space in downtown Miami.