Miami back to preparing Orange Bowl site just weeks after favorable court ruling
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Just two weeks after a court ruling gave a green light to plans for a new Marlins Stadium, Miami is wasting no time preparing the land for construction.
Since the Orange Bowl demolition, the city has spent months cleaning up the land, conducting environmental tests and preparing the site for the new ballpark.
Jones Lang LaSalle Americas Inc. has conducted most of that work, helping the city with the redevelopment of the Orange Bowl and financial plans for the site, City Manager Pete Hernandez said.
But their services come at a price.
Last week, the city commission agreed to pay Jones Lang LaSalle $500,000 more for its planning and financial analysis services of the site at 1600 NW Seventh St.
In July, the city awarded $200,000 to the company for it planning and financial analysis services, totaling $700,000 in payments.
Jones Lang LaSalle's involvement in the site goes back to when the city intended to renovate the stadium for the University of Miami's Hurricanes.
But when the college football team decided to move to Dolphin Stadium rather than keep playing in a restored Orange Bowl, the city turned its attention to the Florida Marlins.
Now Jones Lang LaSalle is participating in most aspects of the project plans, city officials say.
"They (the firm) provide necessary skills and staffing in order to properly manage a project of this magnitude," said City Manager Pete Hernandez, who said the stadium and the required auxiliary work exceed $600 million in costs. "I need them in order to protect the interest of the city."
Mr. Hernandez said the city needs the company's assistance to complete architectural work on the parking garages and the mixed-use special permit (MUSP) application, which requires commission approval.
"My highest pressing priority is the MUSP," he said.
The firm's knowledge and resources are to also help the city in fine-tuning several agreements among the Marlins, Miami-Dade County and the city. These include operational, constructional and management agreements, Mr. Hernandez said.
For example, agreements need to be reached on how the public safety departments of the city and county will work together, he said. With opportunities for extra pay at stake, city and county police personnel are each pressing for their agencies to provide security within the stadium and grounds.
Mr. Hernandez has supported a county proposal to let county law enforcement handle stadium site security while city police provide security in the vicinity of the ballpark, in the parking garage and in the retail area expected to be part of the stadium development.
City police officers objected to that plan and Mr. Hernandez and others tried to craft a compromise. But officials put that effort on hold in April after a citizen lawsuit challenged the stadium deal.
Phone calls to police and firefighter union leaders were not returned.
While the city and the county are now going forward with the stadium project, the lawsuit caused major delays in preparing for the stadium construction, Mr. Hernandez said.
The original timeline had the team breaking ground on the new ballpark by November, but Mr. Hernandez said that is no longer attainable. The city now hopes to get the site ready by early 2009.
"The principals have to come together now that we are past litigation and start to fine-tune all the details," Mr. Hernandez said.
He said as soon as he meets with the Marlins and county he plans to draft a report for the commissioners on the project's status.
Commission Chairman Joe Sanchez said although the project has faced big challenges in its infancy, it's time to move on.
"This administration needs to be sure we move forward with this project."