Watson Island Project To Go Before Governor Miami Commissioners
By Susan Stabley
A $426 million retail-hotel-marina project planned for Watson Island will go before Gov. Jeb Bush and his Cabinet and the Miami City Commission in separate actions today (6/24).
Flagstone Property Group plans to build Island Gardens on the northwestern tip of the manmade island that connects mainland Miami to Miami Beach via MacArthur Causeway. The project includes two hotels with 500 rooms and 105 fractional units, 50 marina slips, 232,774 square feet of retail and restaurant space and a 4,000-square-foot maritime gallery.
At issue before state officials – the governor, Attorney General Charlie Crist, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson – is a deed restriction to allow the commercial venture on the public property.
The Department of Environmental Protection has recommended that the waiver be approved, according to spokeswoman Kathalyn Gaither.
Miami commissioners, meanwhile, will consider approving special permits to break ground on the project. Flagstone hopes to open in late 2006, according to Island Gardens project director Joseph Herndon.
Also on the city agenda is a proposal for the project to be part of an established downtown development of regional impact district. Projects large enough to be considered a development of regional impact must have local, state and federal analysis on potential impact to transportation, the environment and public services.
Miami Beach officials raised concerns that a traffic study is incomplete and wants the state and the City of Miami to put off approvals until another analysis is completed.
Miami Beach Assistant City Manager Christina Cuervo, Economic Development Director Kevin Crowder and Public Works Director Fred Beckman spoke to Cabinet aides in Tallahassee last week about Island Gardens. Beach officials say they want a more thorough study that would analyze all north, south, east and west roads in Miami Beach. They say the current study incorrectly classifies MacArthur Causeway as a freeway instead of a two-way arterial.
"The city is not out to fight the development," Mr. Crowder said Monday. "We want to ensure that the traffic impacts are completely addressed."
Miami Beach officials had reports from a pair of consultants citing discrepancies. Mr. Herndon said five other consultants concurred with the traffic analysis.
"MacArthur Causeway, while classed as an arterial, functions somewhere between an arterial and a freeway due to the absence of driveways that impede arterial traffic," Mr. Herndon wrote Tuesday in an e-mail to Miami Today. "Miami Beach has its own traffic-compliance problems, which are evident to all. The number of new condominiums, hotels and retail complexes on the Beach continue unabated, including those at the ‘choke-point’ of MacArthur (Fifth Street) and Alton Road. We can only assume that these projects have met the Beach’s criteria for traffic impact."
He said Miami-Dade County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization should be the venue for discussions of regional traffic issues.