Miami and Miami Beach in Struggle for Watson Island Plan

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on July 17, 2013

DominoEffectJorge Perez and Stephen Ross want to expand a long-stalled shopping and hotel project on publicly owned Watson Island, and a decision by the Miami commissioners just might let them do that, even as question arise over whether city officials gave the well-known developers the inside track on the project. And Miami Beach officials, along with a civic and neighborhood groups are mounting an opposition to the expansion.

The critics of the project are focused on a perceived shortsighted ingress and egress of one road on and off the island. The proposed expansion plans include a shopping mall about the size of South Miami’s Shops at Sunset Mall, a 700-room hotel and a 100,000-square-foot conference center. The causeway leading to the island is already the main link to South Beach. Beach residents and officials think the causeway will be gnarled in traffic.

Another issue is no one outside Miami City Hall was aware of the Perez and Ross plan until last month when the Miami commissioners tentatively endorsed the project. Even the meeting’s agenda gave no indication of the new proposal. “It’s all being done in the dark,’’ said Lyle Stern, a Miami Beach commercial property owner and broker who organized the civic coalition. “There has been no due diligence, no public input, no urban studies.’’

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