What’s Next for Downtown Miami’s Omni Waterfront Development?
Malaysian real estate and gambling mega-developer, Genting, has Downtown Miami-watchers on pins and needles, waiting to see their next move in the luxury condo market. The Omni Center, purchased by Genting along with the adjacent old Miami Herald site, was slated to become Phase I of the new Omni project in order to include a large casino. The gambling component in the mixed-use designation contributed to delayed building approvals.
Genting’s 2011 proposal for Resorts World Miami included four hotels and 1,000 units in two residential towers, all atop an eight-story podium structure with artificially created beaches and a lagoon. The project’s sheer size generated enough pushback from the local community to sideline it, with a little help from the faltering economy.
Now, Genting appears to be making progress on a new approach to its premium waterfront property. The pared-down plan outlined in 2013 would include condo towers, plus a reduced 500 hotel rooms, with shops and restaurants housed at ground level. The new strategy indicates their intent to avoid the protracted battles inherent in a zoning approval (needed for larger developments). By contrast, the simpler building permit for their current proposal is called “essentially guaranteed” by the Miami Herald.1
If they decide to move forward, the next choice may be launching construction of the three luxury condo towers on six acres of the old Miami Herald property. The area is poised for continued improvements, like the new Perez Art Museum that’s been recently opened nearby, and a county museum of science under construction. The FAA has already given its blessing to the three 60-story towers at a maximum of 642 feet high. A company spokesman described some key attractions of the towers, including “…views of Biscayne Bay, great waterfront dining…” along with a promised mix of upscale retail brands.1
It’s Up in the Air
Meanwhile, back on the casino front, change seemed to be in the offing at the Tallahassee state legislature early in 2014, when the state House Speaker hinted that the climate for approving casino resorts was about to become more flexible. Genting indicated they would activate a secondary gambling permit belonging to the Gulfstream Park Racetrack, adding 2,000 slots in a parlor at the Omni property.
At the same time, Genting faced new challenges from a competitor for casino zoning rights in Downtown. Representatives of the Las Vegas Sands gambling chain (owned by conservative sponsor Sheldon Adelson), propose installing a major casino with a new convention center in their Miami World Center, near Genting’s waterfront property. While the likelihood of approval for a single large casino may have improved, the chances for two approvals within close range of each other seem less favorable, especially given increased local resistance to the casino concept.1
As things stand, the developer of the long-awaited Resorts World Miami seems poised at a fork in the road—one way leads to the casino development and a possible protracted approval process; the other way leads to luxury condo multi-tower development with simpler approvals. The Miami real estate market can’t wait to see what happens next. Bets anyone?
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