Developer gets zoning changes to build entertainment complex
By Risa Polansky
In a vote of confidence for the budding entertainment district and to give a boost to Miami's production infrastructure, commissioners last week approved land-use and zoning changes for the property on which Max Miami is planned.
The 31-story, mixed-use powerhouse of recording studios, condos and hotel rooms planned for 1600 NE First Ave. is to be an epicenter catering to the production industry, said developer and film producer Jordi Verite.
Rather than traipse all over Miami-Dade County to complete a project — housing staff in Miami Beach hotels and doing post-production work in cities such as Hialeah — a crew could do everything from recording to sleeping in Max Miami, Mr. Verite said.
Commissioner Tomás Regalado, a media-industry veteran, encouraged fellow commissioners to support the project.
"We do not have the capacity, the facilities in our area to take care of this industry," he said. "To me, the concept of building production facilities with places for people to live makes sense. I think that being Miami, one of the centers for productions for music and videos, you guys can fill those hotel rooms and those residences."
The building is to house 70,000 square feet of state-of-the-art video and audio studios, 150,000 square feet of pre- and post-production facilities and office space, a 163-room hotel and 28 high-end condominiums.
Other features include a three-story shopping galleria, a ground-level jazz plaza, pool terraces for hotel guests and a restaurant mezzanine.
The project is to be built in accordance with green-building standards — hopefully certified with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design second-highest rating, gold, but "obviously we'll have at least silver," said Max Miami architect Dean Lewis.
Miami-Dade County reaped more than $135 million in production revenues last year, Mr. Lewis said, so "the business is there — what they're looking for is a facility such as ours."
Several industry players — many who cited work experience spanning the globe — appeared before the commission to agree.
They echoed Mr. Verite's point that Miami needs a hub to attract productions and make life easier for those who come here to record.
Max Miami is designed to "generate the new center of media arts, entertainment and production in Miami," Mr. Lewis said, and to "revitalize the underdeveloped urban pocket of Miami, creating a renaissance of media arts and entertainment industry business."
However, budget cuts as a result of recent statewide property-tax reform measures could slow the local industry's progress: Miami-Dade County's proposed budget for the next fiscal year slices 40% of its Office of Film and Entertainment's operating budget and 60% of its marketing budget.
The office is considering charging permitting fees to compensate.
Max Miami also faces another hurdle. Commissioners still need to grant final approval to a major use special permit, which could happen as early as September.