State Paves Way For Commercial Development On Watson Island
By Susan Stabley
The state has waived its deed restriction on Watson Island, setting the stage for the development of a $426 million retail-hotel-marina.
The waiver was necessary because the manmade island was given to the City of Miami by the state in 1949 for public use. Lands given to the city by the state carry conditions that they be used for public benefit. But the Florida Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust, composed of the governor and his Cabinet, can waive restrictions barring commercial use, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The trust approved a waiver last week for the Watson Island development by Flagstone Property Group in exchange for a 15% share of the rent the city collects from the project. The city could collect rent of $1 million a year during the building phases and $2 million a year after the project is completed.
Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson was the sole dissenter on the trust. "He thought it needed a bit more legal analysis," said Terrence McElroy, a spokesman Mr. Bronson.
Flagstone plans to build Island Gardens on the northwestern tip of the 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.
The project has yet to receive approval from the Miami City Commission. Commissioners Thursday postponed a decision on a special permit that would have allowed groundbreaking. They did approve an expansion of the borders of an established Downtown Development of Regional Impact district to include the land where the development would be built.
Projects that could be large enough to have an impact on transportation, the environment and public services in the area must be analyzed by local, state and federal agencies.
Flagstone hopes to open its complex in late 2006, according to project director Joseph Herndon. Voters approved the project in 2001.