Retail, garage on Miami Herald land hinges on towers
By Jacquelyn Weiner
Grand dreams for a 10-acre Omni-area development are taking shape, but financing remains unclear.
Developer Mark Siffin is banking on two 200-foot LED towers to support his long-awaited City Square, which includes a retail complex, bayfront residential tower and 11-story garage between the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the Miami Herald building.
Changes allowing the development and media towers are up for vote at today's (7/22) Miami commission meeting.
Electronic-billboard towers are not allowed in the area under current standards.
Yet while zoning approval moves along, financing remains in the dark.
Asked Tuesday whether he has financing, Mr. Siffin would only say that the "media towers assure the financial success of the project," although the towers had yet to be approved.
Mr. Siffin also would not say whether he expects revenue generated by selling electronic displays on the towers — or from the garage serving the Arsht Center — to cover project costs.
He had no revenue projections for the garage or the media towers.
But if the towers win commission OK, Mr. Siffin said he is ready to close on his purchase of the City Square land, which is owned by Miami Herald parent company McClatchy.
Mr. Siffin would not comment on the land price or further on details of the sale. At one point McClatchy reported a $190 million contract for the land sale, not including the Herald building.
The project has been in the works since 2005, he said, and was initially approved in 2006.
The current version "dramatically lowers the scale."
Construction is to begin as soon as the sale is final, Mr. Siffin said.
Phase one of construction is to include a 1,600-space garage topped with 200-foot media towers across the street from the Arsht Center.
The project website compares its media tower concept to New York's Times Square, which also gave life to a blighted area.
Phase two is to be street-front retail "across the entirety of the two parking lots directly west of the Herald building."
Phase three is to be the bayfront residential tower. Mr. Siffin has said that would be in the building now owned and used by the Herald.
City Square is "kind of what everyone's looking for," he said, "the big missing hole."
The aim in building City Square, he said, is to create a safe, pedestrian-friendly complex in an area synonymous with blight.
It will also generate tax-increment funds for the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency, which works to revitalize some of the city's poorest areas.
Its proximity to the Arsht Center will give show goers more dining and activity before and after performances, he said.
Big-box retail aspirations have been ditched for restaurants, "small shops for people to be able to walk through," and a "couple of anchors to draw people to eat and spend time with children in the open-air plaza."
"It will make for a Lincoln Road type of walking experience," Mr. Siffin said.