Commissioners undecided on Inter Miami stadium complex

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In the days leading up to a crucial vote on a plan to turn a city-owned golf course into a huge shopping mall and football stadium for Inter Miami, it appears the commissioners aren’t quite ready to go yet. vote in favor of the agreement.

After months of delays, Miami commissioners are expected to at least discuss terms of the no-bid deal on Thursday for Miami Freedom Park, a billion-dollar real estate development that could replace the Melreese golf course with a shopping mall. , a hotel, an office park, a 25,000-seat stadium and a 22-hectare public park. Owners of Miami’s Major League Soccer franchise, including business moguls Jorge and Jose Mas and retired soccer player David Beckham, want to lease the land owned by the city for 99 years to build the project.

The plan, which has been on Mayor Francis Suarez’s agenda since his election in 2017, requires the approval of four of the five commissioners. Commissioner Manolo Reyes has repeatedly pledged to oppose the project since its inception in 2018. In recent days, the four remaining commissioners told the Miami Herald they were still reviewing the details or had no not yet made a decision.

“As Commissioner of District 5, the poorest neighborhood in the City of Miami, it is my responsibility to ensure that our residents and our neighborhoods benefit from all citywide projects,” said commission chair Christine King said Friday. “As of today, I have not decided how I will vote. However, I believe this project has the potential to provide 99 years of opportunity to all districts – I am looking specifically at how this project will benefit District 5.”

The commissioners could use Thursday’s meeting as a platform to air their issues with the deal and demand specific terms from Inter Miami owners. Commissioner Joe Carollo has in the past negotiated higher fees in public meetings with private companies that want to use city-owned land, such as Ultra Music Festival.

READ MORE: What the Proposed Inter Miami Stadium Deal Says About Team Name and Rent

On Monday, Carollo said he was still going through the hundreds of pages of legal documents that include three proposed lease agreements between the city and the owners of Inter Miami. He suggested Thursday’s meeting will be more about discussing the draft than directing a quick vote.

“Absolutely there will be a discussion about the terms,” ​​Carollo said. “At this time, I don’t believe we are close to a vote on this. This should not be construed as being against the project.

Each commissioner said they were generally in favor of a “good deal” for the city to redevelop Melreese and into a complex that would host Inter Miami’s home games, but none committed to backing the terms that have been made public for nearly five months.

“I’m still going through the details because at the end of the day the devil is in the details,” said commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla, whose district includes Melreese.

The agreement on the table remains unchanged

Commissioner Ken Russell said he would not vote to approve the lease unless it was good for Miami, while alluding to terms he negotiated with Mas and his partners in 2018 before a referendum asking voters if the city were to skip the normal bidding process and negotiate a century. – emphyteutic lease only with the brothers Mas and Beckham. The referendum passed with around 60% support.

At the time, Russell demanded that millions be set aside for Miami’s Baywalk and Riverwalk plans, and that Miami Freedom Park employees be paid a living wage.

“I put all of my criteria on the record four years ago when they were voted on,” Russell said.

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Architect’s rendering of Miami Freedom Park, the proposed stadium for the Inter Miami CF soccer team. ARQUITECTONICA/ARQUITECTONICAGEO/MANICA

Recent statements suggest Russell is no closer to a ‘yes’ vote.

Russell also said he wanted to see a reasonable plan to replace the park lands that will be reclassified to build the stadium, hotel and office park. At a recent commission meeting, Russell first expressed his dissatisfaction with the preliminary plan to replace approximately 20 acres of upzoned parkland with city-owned land on Virginia Key and in Allapattah, Edgewater. and Little Havana.

“I am absolutely unhappy with Freedom Park’s current stance on its no net loss policy,” Russell said. “I haven’t said it before, but I say this right now.”

Carollo also pointed out that his position is not a response to any of the recent pushbacks at Miami Freedom Park.

“It has nothing to do with the noise that some are trying to create,” he said. “No one will force me to vote for or against anything.”

The commissioner did not name names, but the most vocal critics of the deal over the past week have been documentary filmmaker Billy Corben and David Samson, the former Miami Marlins manager who brokered the deal. much-maligned deal to build a baseball field for the baseball team with a public financing scheme that left taxpayers on the hook for nearly $2 billion in loan repayments.

Corben produced a video where Samson lambastes Miami Freedom Park’s proposal, adding a dose of controversy to the debate the week before the vote. One aspect of the deal that has drawn criticism even before Samson’s video is the minimum rent Inter Miami would pay the city.

The city and Jorge Mas negotiated a rent floor in 2018, which was included in the referendum where voters allowed the city to negotiate the no-bid agreement. According to the proposed final agreements released in January, the minimum rent amount has not changed. Under the proposal, Inter Miami landlords would owe the city $3.57 million a year or 5% of the project’s gross revenue, whichever is greater, and rent increases would be capped at a maximum of 4% per year. year. Meanwhile, real estate prices and rental prices have skyrocketed in Miami since 2018.

Mas vehemently defended the rent floor, arguing that the figure is set above fair market value assessed in multiple appraisals, and that the privately funded plan would require team owners to pay $101 million. to improve Melreese’s contaminated land, including environmental remediation and other infrastructure. improvements.

In January, Díaz de la Portilla suggested that new property assessments might be needed to assess a fair market rent. On Monday, Suarez spokeswoman Soledad Cedro said there had been no changes to Miami Freedom Park’s proposal since Suarez announced the deal had been finalized in January.

“Everything is like before,” she said.

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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