No stopping resort plans for Watson Island, builder says
By Risa Polansky
Neither the planned Port of Miami Tunnel nor the ongoing real estate slump is to derail plans for a $600 million hotel, retail and mega-yacht complex on Watson Island's waterfront, the developer says.
After last month adding as a partner ING Clarion Partners, a real estate investment firm, Flagstone Property Group is to start development as soon as this fall on its long-planned Island Gardens project, said Mehmet Bayraktar, chairman & CEO, and projects to finish in fall 2010.
He said early last year the project would break ground that fall and attributes the year-long holdup to "housekeeping items" but no specific, significant snag.
"I guess we were too ambitious and excited" in hoping for a 2007 start, Mr. Bayraktar said.
Developers are moving full-speed ahead now, he said, as the state, Miami-Dade County and City of Miami plan to do the same with their newly approved port tunnel project.
The tunnel, which cleared its final hurdle last month in receiving a commitment from the city to fund $88 million of the $1 billion price tag, is to connect Watson Island to the Port of Miami, diverting port-related trucks through a tunnel system onto Interstate 395.
It's set for a 2012 completion.
Developers have prepared for coinciding construction periods, Mr. Bayraktar said.
The city was upfront from Island Gardens' 2001 inception that the tunnel might be coming, he said. "We planned everything accordingly."
Once built, "the tunnel entrance is right on the causeway, on the side, so it doesn't affect anything on our side," he said. And because "Watson Island is a huge site…there's plenty of space for everything else."
The developer launched sales of its timeshare units last month.