State paves way for Miami Heat Group, county to alter plans for arena's waterfront site
By Paola Iuspa
Miami-Dade County this week won state approval to develop a waterfront site east of American Airlines Arena without competitive bidding.
The measure allows the county to create an agreement with Basketball Properties arena manager and Miami Heat Group affiliate and clears the way for the partnership to build a mixed-use project on the 4.5 acres.
A 1999 agreement allowed Basketball Properties to build 70,000 square feet of retail on the site but state law required bidding for any other type of project on the county-owned land.
Legislators on Monday gave the county the option to sign a lease with Basketball Properties, allowing the arena manager to finance, design and build a residential-commercial project. The change becomes effective July 1, though the county needs to OK any new contract.
"The state is giving the county the option to convert a management agreement into a lease," said Basketball Properties attorney Richard Weiss. "This option would help us in getting financing for the mixed-use project." Codina Realty Service, he said, will be a partner in the venture.
The amendment was attached to an appropriations bill by Rep. Carlos Lacasa.
"As I understand it, the future of the arena depends on revenues from the development of that parcel," Rep. Lacasa said. "We all invested in the arena. We can't just forget about it."
Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, whose district includes part of downtown Miami, said he would prefer a park with some retail, as agreed in 1999.
"But, I am willing to listen to what they propose."
Basketball Properties has wanted to develop the site since 1999 when the deal was made to build the arena and is already paying fines for delays in launching a project.