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Front Page » Top Stories » Plans For Melreese Redevelopment On Commission Agenda

Plans For Melreese Redevelopment On Commission Agenda

Written by on April 14, 2005

By Yeleny Suarez
Plans for a developer to build and run a four-star hotel on the Melreese Golf Course near Miami International Airport is to go before the Miami City Commission today (4/14).

"Assuming they approve it, the [request for proposals] would be issued in early May," said Lori Billberry, assistant director of Miami’s economic development department.

Minutes from downtown Miami, the 135-acre city-owned course at 1802 NW 37th Ave. will also require a clubhouse, pro shop and amenities.

City Manager Joe Arriola said officials would require that the hotel operate at a four-star level and have fewer than 349 rooms.

Beyond that, the request for proposals would give the winner a broad range of development options including entertainment, educational, cultural, time-share, retail, restaurant, recreation, office space and parking uses.

The city’s park department manages the course, which opened in 1951.

The course became subject of a lawsuit a year ago when operator Bunkers of Miami said the city failed to properly supervise a renovation. The city said Bunkers broke its agreement by not building a clubhouse, a claim that resulted in $850,000 payment from Miami to Bunkers, though the city admitted no wrongdoing and retained Bunkers principal Charles Delucca, long-time pro at the course, to manage the property. The settlement set Mr. Delucca’s salary at $110,000 a year until December 2007.

Officials said the settlement would have no effect on a new investor, because the city, not the buyer, would continue to pay Mr. Delucca.

The city commission voted in July to develop the course using a united development project process, for which review procedures and selection processes are established in city charter and code. The commission would appoint a review committee with recommendations of Mr. Arriola and select an accounting firm to evaluate proposals.

Mr. Arriola, who will choose the review committee, said he is in the process of contacting potential members to study proposals and decide on the future plans for the Melreese complex. Mario Artecona, executive director of the Miami Business Forum, confirmed he was approached to be part of this group.

"There will be three city officials and four outsiders," Mr. Arriola said. Others on the list to be approached soon, he said, include Coral Gables City Manager David Brown; Richard A. Berkowitz, managing director at accounting firm Berkowitz Dick Pollack & Brant; and Jack Williams, outgoing president of Royal Caribbean cruise lines.

One potential developer is Miami Arena owner Glenn Straub, who recently closed on a northern Monroe County property and plans to merge three facilities that include the arena, Melreese and another complex in Miami twice as large as these facilities, which he would not disclose.

"We are still interested," Mr. Straub said. "This will give us the ability to absorb a regional management position. You need $25 million to $35 million of a minimum annual income, and the arena alone does not bring that in."

The successful developer would have a maximum 50-year initial term and two 10-year renewal terms. The developer would handle all leasing, maintenance and management. An 18-hole golf course that must include at a minimum a pro shop, clubhouse, casual dining and golf-cart rental, and a hotel with rental meeting facilities, a multipurpose restaurant, a business center and a fitness center are among required uses.

Work within the capital improvement projects office and community meetings that the city commission required prior to issuing a request for proposals delayed the redevelopment proposal, which was due to go out to potential developers last November, Ms. Billberry said.

"The Melreese project was delayed as we were working with the city’s capital improvement projects office to coordinate a joint community meeting regarding all the improvements proposed at Grapeland Park and this project," Ms. Billberry said. "The community meeting was held last month with little comment on the Melreese project, and creation of jobs was favored by the community."

Interested developers must make $50,000 refundable deposits. Another $50,000 non-refundable deposit will be required from the developer who is selected for exclusive negotiations with the city.