Zoo Miami could get massive development neighbors
By Ashley Hopkins
County-owned ZooMiami might soon encompass other attractions, banquet halls and conference centers, hotels, amusement centers or restaurants if developers buy into solicitations for partners to fund growth that would yield income for the county.
Following the 2½-year drive by Commissioner Dennis Moss to spur an entertainment district at the zoo, Miami-Dade is seeking interest in a two-stage solicitation for the project at the 740-acre zoo, where only 327 acres are now developed.
Last month the county commission asked Mayor Carlos Gimenez to negotiate a deal with developers "whose proposals provide the greatest financial benefit to the county."
The county is now pushing a two-stage solicitation to negotiate for lease and development of the entertainment area. The county has released an informal expression of interest, inviting developers to propose approaches, and plans an informational session on the project at the zoo, 12400 SW 152nd St.
Based on responses, the county is to advertise a formal invitation to negotiate with developers whose proposals give the county the highest financial impact. Permissible developments include attractions, amusements, lodging, restaurants, retail shops, banquet halls and conference centers.
"We envision the development of a world-class entertainment destination with premier attractions, services and venues that will not only stimulate economic vitality and the growing needs of our thriving southwestern Miami-Dade County, but increase tourist visitation to the area, facilitating a more balanced and sustainable financial outlook or the entire county," Mr. Moss said. "We encourage all major developers to take advantage of this lucrative business opportunity and bring their best and brightest ideas to us."
While the project's fiscal impact is "difficult to quantify," county documents state, the project should aid the economy via construction, job creation, rent revenues, and sales and property taxes. Private investment and state Enterprise Zone incentives would fund the deal.
While tough economic times stalled the project, the county moved to reexamine an entertainment district after Dania Beach's iconic wooden rollercoaster Hurricane ground to halt last April. In July the commission asked the mayor to investigate moving the coaster to the zoo.
According to county documents, in order to "critique the failure of the solicitation" for development at the state's largest zoological park, the county did market research with developers, designers, financers and operators to "improve a second solicitation for the Zoo Miami entertainment area."
Research indicated the county should look at ways to reduce restrictions of a request for proposals "without eliminating competitive bidding."
The county's informational session for prospective developers is at the Dr. Wild's World facility at ZooMiami on April 19.
ZooMiami opened in 1980 as Miami Metrozoo. The name was changed in 2010 on its 30th anniversary. The zoo now houses more than 100 exhibits and more than 2,000 animals.
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