Miami voters to decide Knight Center redevelopment plan

This rendering shows the view looking east along the Miami River, with the design of a redeveloped Hyatt/Knight center complex on the left.

This rendering shows the view looking east along the Miami River, with the design of a redeveloped Hyatt/Knight center complex on the left.

The James L. Knight Center complex and downtown Hyatt Regency could be transformed into a large skyscraper complex that would add to Miami’s skyline and create a new riverside promenade, if voters approve the plan. private redevelopment of public waterfront lands.

The developers are hoping to secure a 99-year extension on an existing lease of city-owned land for the major redevelopment, called Miami Riverbridge, which would come with a $25 million contribution to the city for affordable housing. City of Miami voters are expected to approve the broad terms of the deal on Nov. 8. Under the city charter, voter approval is required for a long-term lease of public land on waterfront property, and any changes to existing leases as well. need voters to sign.

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Hyatt Hotels Corp. leased city-owned property near the mouth of the Miami River at 400 SE Second Ave. since 1979. Hyatt, Gencom and Arquitectonica proposed a $1.5 billion plan to build a three-tower structure that would include 615 hotel rooms, 1,500 market-priced apartments, 190,000 square feet of Class A meeting space and a public riverside promenade. The project would add approximately 480 feet of beautified space to the Miami Riverwalk.

The existing concrete block complex, completed in 1982, would be replaced by rounded, glassy facades. Two 61-story towers would include apartments, hotel rooms and extended-stay units. A third would rise over 1,000 feet with 860 residential apartments. A “skybridge” with a restaurant would connect two of the three towers, offering a view of the city from 700 feet above the ground.

The skyscrapers would rest on a pedestal spanning a large driveway that the architects said would ease traffic in the area. The meeting space would replace the 612-room hotel, convention space and 4,500-seat auditorium on the four-acre site. which usually hosts concerts and graduation ceremonies.

Under the current terms of the lease, Hyatt would have the option in 2027 to renew the lease for an additional 45 years. If the ballot passes, the lease would be extended for 99 years. Hyatt and Gencom have also pledged to give the city $25 million for affordable housing.

The Hyatt Regency and the James L. Knight Center in downtown Miami. Miami Herald file

The Downtown Neighbors Alliance, a resident association of condo dwellers, supports the project but has concerns about traffic flow and quality of life, according to group president James Torres. Developers meet with downtown residents this week.

Ernesto Cuesta, president of the Brickell Homeowners Association, said he supported the plan after his group received a presentation.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Cuesta said. “This is going to be huge for our community. This redevelopment is long overdue. »

The Downtown Development Authority and the Miami River Commission also expressed support for the plan.

Hyatt has spent years trying to redevelop the site under lease extensions. Previous proposals stalled in 2017 and 2018 when too few commissioners backed the question posed to voters. In July, commissioners voted 4-1 to hold the referendum on the current plan. Commissioner Joe Carollo was the only no to vote, citing traffic issues in the area.

Cuesta said he was satisfied with the plan to use a large circular multi-lane driveway, concealed by the base of the complex, to prevent long lines of cars from stretching out on congested downtown roads.

“This project will reconfigure arrivals and departures from this site,” Cuesta told the Miami Herald.

Voters who live within the city limits will see the following question on the ballot:

Should the Miami charter be amended authorizing the city to amend the Hyatt lease with HRM Owner LLC, including the Knight Center property, extending to 99 years, waiving the auction and requiring, at no cost to the city:

Riverside public green space;

New Hyatt hotel, additional parking, convention space and apartments;

Increase in annual rent to the city from $250,000 to a minimum of $2,500,000 or 2.5% of gross revenue, whichever is greater;

Minimum contribution of $25,000,000 to affordable housing;

Extended public river promenade?

Hyatt Downtown Miami_perspective5_02.05.2022.jpg
This rendering shows a design proposal for a revamped river walkway, part of plans to redevelop the current downtown Hyatt Regency and James L. Knight Center site with three towers, including a “supertall”. Architecture

This story was originally published October 11, 2022 4:40 p.m.

Joey Flechas covers government and public affairs for the City of Miami for the Herald, from votes at City Hall to neighborhood news. He won a Sunshine State Award for exposing a Miami Beach political candidate’s ties to an illegal campaign donation. He graduated from the University of Florida.

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