Miamidade County Push Aims To Get Megamall Zone Rolling
By Ashley Hopkins
After a year-and-a-half push, Miami-Dade Commission Chair Dennis Moss can rest easy: the commission has asked the county manager to study the feasibility of developing a mega-shopping district along State Road 836.
"We want to try to get this done because I believe it will have a positive impact for Miami-Dade County," Mr. Moss said.
He first asked in June 2009 that County Manager George Burgess look into the study in hopes of spurring private development of a Sawgrass-style mall for the Doral area, complete with retail, restaurants, housing and hotels.
When the issue hit the commission in July 2010, Mr. Burgess asked to hold off on a study due to tough economic times. Vice Chair Jose "Pepe" Diaz said the study would cost about $74,000.
Mr. Diaz said he’s reached out to Doral to see if city would contribute funds and is awaiting an answer.
"We wish we could do it without cost, but at least we’re trying to reach out," he said before the measure passed Dec. 9. "It’s a major economic engine that has been developed in that particular region in my district."
While the Department of Planning and Zoning could handle parts of the study, others could require specific mall expertise that might not exist in Miami-Dade government, a planning and zoning official told commissioners.
According to Marc LaFerrier, director of the Department of Planning and Zoning, to do the study the county would need to hire a consultant through the county’s Equitable Distribution Pool, a source of architects, landscape architects and engineering professionals that gives capital departments access to commissioning services for building projects on a rotational basis.
While supporting what the measure could mean for Miami-Dade, Commissioner Rebeca Sosa cited concern about how a mega-mall district would affect existing businesses. The location is host to a wealth of commercial properties, including Dolphin Mall and the Mall of the Americas. Ms. Sosa said she didn’t want to give the impression that the commission is trying to edge out established businesses.
"[We need] to make sure the big fish doesn’t come and eat the small one," she said.
Mr. Moss said if the project were to move forward, everyone could benefit.
"People who come to Miami — they come here to shop," he said, adding that the district would draw tourists to the area and create jobs.
"The whole idea is not to create an environment that is counterproductive to the community," he said. "The idea is to try to create something that is compatible to that area."
Mr. Diaz, who said he grew up around the Mall of the Americas, agreed the district could enhance area business.
"We’re not going to hurt any other area to try to improve another," he said. "It’s important that we enhance."
The mega-mall the district would emulate is 20-year-old Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, sixth largest mall in the US with 350 stores in 2.38 million square feet. It competes with the 27-year-old Aventura Mall, the fifth largest with 275 stores in 2.79 million square feet.
None of the largest 20 malls in the US has opened in this millennium.
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