Aventura officials concerned about Hallandale growth
By Claudio Mendonça
Aventura officials are concerned about how slot machines, a racetrack expansion and development in neighboring Hallandale Beach might affect their city.
Broward County voters in March approved the installation of slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities, including Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, a track that already is undergoing renovations to improve clubhouse seating and increase its appeal.
In addition, track owner Magna Entertainment Corp. and developer Forest City Enterprises are considering adding a casino. The Ohio developer is also planning The Village at Gulfstream Park, an 85-acre mixed-use project on South Federal Highway, which is also US 1.
The growth in Hallandale Beach has Aventura officials worried about the impact on their city's traffic and infrastructure.
"Gulfstream is posing a serious threat to the quality of life in Aventura," said City Commissioner Zev Auerbach.
Plans for the Forest City development call for 1,300 single-family homes - 250 in the first phase, said Will Voegele, the company's development director. The firm also hopes to build 1 million square feet of retail space, 300,000 square feet of office space, a theater and a hotel.
The project needs approval as a development of regional impact, but Mr. Voegele said he expects the first phase of the mixed-use project to be completed in about a year.
Even though a small part of the racetrack property is in Miami-Dade County, the entire area in the DRI request is in Broward.
Mr. Auerbach said one way to lessen the impact of the developments on Aventura is to diminish the density of the project and hire traffic engineers to offer solutions. Another option, he said, would be to add exits to Interstate 95.
Aventura owns a small piece of property on the western corner of Biscayne Boulevard and 213th Street that could be used as access to West Dixie Highway and the interstate.
A third option would be to add buses and routes to the city's transportation system, an idea opposed by Aventura officials.
"What is not in the best interest in our city is to add buses and bus stops," said Mr. Auerbach, who said he supports organized development. "I am in favor of the redevelopment of Gulfstream, but not at the expense of quality of life in Aventura."
Aventura officials have hired attorney John Shubin of Shubin & Bass to monitor the progress of the projects in Broward.
Mr. Shubin said he is working with Gulfstream Park owners and the South Florida Regional Planning Council and hopes to have the racetrack plans modified. The Village at Gulfstream Park project is awaiting DRI rulings from the state, Broward County and the City of Hallandale Beach.
"We have been engaged in dialogues with Gulfstream in an attempt to better evaluate the impact on the City of Aventura," said Mr. Shubin.
"Gulfstream Park, the way it is being projected, is not good for Aventura," said City Commissioner Bob Diamond. "We are trying to be a good neighbor, but this development would cause a deleterious impact in our area."
Aventura Mayor Susan Gottlieb said she is awaiting more information before taking a stance on the projects.
"Slot machines will bring a big deal of traffic, but before making a comment, I want to wait and see what happens to Gulfstream," she said.
Though approved by voters, Broward pari-mutuels have been awaiting installation of slot machines until receiving regulations from state legislators. Earlier this week, a Broward judge ruled that gaming operators must go ahead with installation of the machines to recognize the voters' March decision.