Hotel, conference center in master plan for Park West
By Risa Polansky
A hotel and conference center could be in the cards for Park West should the City of Miami eventually adopt and implement the Downtown Development Authority and Zyscovich, Inc.'s proposed Downtown Master Plan, unveiled in its entirety last week.
Listed as a "strategic priority" in the plan is to "conduct a full feasibility study for a conference center and hotel in the Park West sub-district to increase the facilities available for business-oriented travel."
Park West, adjacent to downtown's central business district to the north, "is ideally located as a future expansion area for office and hotel development," the plan's executive summary states. "The area could accommodate construction of a new Miami Conference Center facility and conference hotel, tying the area west of Biscayne to the waterfront and park along a new public open space as well as providing street level retail, dining and entertainment uses compatible with a conference center."
The plan proposes using community redevelopment agency dollars to fund the projects.
"This is a great opportunity for CRA money," Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said. "If you don't create an engine in that part of the city, that part of the city will die."
Dana Nottingham, executive director of the development authority, referred to Park West as the "hole in the donut" of a rapidly developing downtown, but said it has the potential to "become a pretty signature address" should the plan be executed.
However, authority board member Neisen Kasdin said he has "great reservations about a conference center" in the Park West area.
While he supports more conference space downtown, as Miami Beach hotel prices often prove cost prohibitive for businesses looking to hold conferences there, he said, a new conference center should be more accessible to existing downtown hotels.
To succeed, a hotel in Park West would need to have at least 1,000 rooms, he said.
Mr. Kasdin represents Hyatt Equities in its dealings with the City of Miami to renovate the Hyatt Downtown at the Knight Center to include more conference space.
But the plan shows Park West as a prime area for development, as it is surrounded by Government Center, the nightclub district and the attractions on Biscayne Boulevard.
New large hotels and conference centers have proven successful in areas of Denver and Phoenix, Mr. Kasdin conceded, but were built with the support of hundreds of millions of public dollars, he said.
The potential use of community redevelopment dollars is key here, said plann$ing consultant Bernard Zyscovich.
Taxes on properties in a redevelopment agency's district are capped, and as property values rise, the increment above the cap is collected to fund the agency, which in turn makes improvements to the needy area.
"CRA money can pay for it, which doesn't happen in downtown," Mr. Zyscovich said. "It's a legitimate use of CRA dollars."
Commissioner Sarnoff agreed, saying the project could "provide employment in an area that is absolutely blighted."
He charged authority board members to "start thinking a little bit westward ho" in terms of economic development.
Plans for Park West also call for high-density residential and office development, as well as utilizing existing railroad alignment to create a park.
Redeveloping properties adjacent to the FEC right of way would create an urban park mall including open space, shaded areas and fountains, adding up to 4.4 acres of green space to the city, the plan shows.
The idea is to create a mixed-use urban neighborhood.
Other highlights of the downtown master plan — designed to enhance both the physical and economic landscapes of downtown — include reducing traffic, offering more access to the waterfront, increasing parkland and attracting new businesses.
It calls for a narrowing of Biscayne Boulevard and redevelopment of the Interstate 95 Dupont Plaza ramp among other projects.
In an address to the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce's New World Center Committee last week, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz said many downtown revitalization plans are too expansive, try to cover too much area and anticipate too many projects.
He would prefer first, he said, a redesign of Northeast First Street, Flagler Street and Southeast First Street.