Six-building mixed-use project to replace former Omni Mall
By Risa Polansky
The Omni area near downtown Miami could receive a 15-year-long facelift after Miami city commissioners gave the go-ahead last week to a six-building mixed-use development to replace the building that once housed the Omni Mall.
New York-based Argent Ventures, owner of the Omni Center since 2000, was approved to build on the 1 million-square-foot property at 1501-1701 Biscayne Blvd. some 4,208 multi-family residential units, 350,200 square feet for retail and 240,000 square feet of Class A office space. Plans call for leaving 2 acres for public use, including roadways, said Lucia Dougherty, the attorney representing Argent at last week's commission meeting.
And the developer has agreed to build green, Ms. Dougherty said, at the urging of commissioners.
"We will apply for the LEED silver standard," she said, cooperating with Mayor Manny Diaz's vision that all large city developments receive the medium-grade Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification.
She called the current Omni complex — 1 million square feet of unused retail, 400,000 square feet of hotel and 1 million square feet of parking — an "urban barrier. This is a very unsuccessful project as we know it, and it needs redevelopment."
Argent's $1 billion "city within a city" will be built in five phases over 15 years, beginning with the demolition of the mall's former anchor, JCPenney, said Sherri Gutierrez, vice president of local architecture firm Arquitectonica, designer of the project.
Residential tower construction will begin on the north side of the development, and the last phase of the project will be completion of road construction, which will begin either in the fourth phase or when the Radisson Hotel vacates the property, whichever comes first, she said.
The project will allow continued east/west access of Northeast 16th and 17th streets, she said, by creating a public access promenade lined with retail on both sides.
For the convenience of both residents and visiting shoppers, parking garages will be designated either retail or residential so "they do not co-mingle between uses," Ms. Gutierrez said.
And, Ms. Dougherty said, the developer can do construction "and continue to keep these other operating entities," the Radisson Hotel and Miami International University of Art and Design, through their current leases, 12 years for the school and a 15-year management agreement for the hotel.
The project proposal faced no opposition from the commission, although not following through in building the entire project is "a major concern of mine," Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said. "Market conditions can change, many things can change in 15 years."
However, he called the proposal a "truly extraordinary project. You are taking what is a pretty big eyesore and creating, although massive, what is a well-developed, thought out, I'll have to call it a "community,'" he said. "I call this the second Midtown."