$1.5 billion Hyatt project faces November ballot

Posted on 19 August 2022 by Miami Today News

If approved by voters in the City of Miami, the new Hyatt Hotel and convention center downtown is expected to rise in a five-year timeframe and provide 4,500 construction jobs.

Those are the calculations from HRM Owner LLC, the partnership formed by Hyatt Hotels Corp. and Gencom to revive the riverfront in Miami.

The privately funded redevelopment, to be called Miami RiverBridge, is expected to cost at least $1.5 billion and bring with it a mixed-use project that would include a new high-end Hyatt hotel, convention and meeting spaces, multi-family housing, and commercial and retail components.

City voters will decide the fate of the new deal between the city and the private developers at the ballot box Nov. 8.

The city commission in July voted 4 to 1 in approving two resolutions related to the new Hyatt hotel proposal and extended lease, and the ballot wording. Commissioner Joe Carollo voted no.

After the successful votes, the Hyatt and Gencom partnership released a statement about the city’s positive action and offered more details about what the Miami RiverBridge project will mean to the region.

The partnership promises a reimagined upscale Hyatt Regency hotel with 615 hotel rooms and premium meeting space, more than 1,500 residential apartments, and open-air public space along the Miami River.

“Miami RiverBridge will improve access to and from the Hyatt Regency Miami site, activate the Miami Riverfront, and meet growing demand for housing, hotel rooms, and meeting space in our urban core,” said the partnership.

“The city commission’s decision to place Miami RiverBridge on the Nov. 8, 2022, ballot means Miami voters will have a chance to shape the future of this important site, and we are eager to share our vision with the community in the coming months.

“This vote will come down to either maintaining the status quo of Hyatt Regency Miami – or transforming Miami with a privately funded development that will create thousands of jobs, new public green space, better walkability for pedestrians, and a $25 million contribution for affordable housing in the city of Miami,” the statement reads.

Hyatt and Gencom itemized anticipated benefits from the planned redevelopment including:

■Miami RiverBridge will include 50,000 square feet of new outdoor public space, including the completion of a 480-foot-long section of the Riverwalk.

■Better access in and out of Miami’s urban core will improve the pedestrian experience while easing traffic and congestion on surrounding streets.

■A contribution of $25 million will support affordable housing within the City of Miami.

■Miami RiverBridge will contribute more than $1.5 billion in city taxes, fees and ground rent that can be invested in infrastructure improvements, resiliency measures, and quality of life enhancements.

■The project’s construction will create 4,500 jobs, while the number of permanent jobs post-construction will more than double from 350 currently to about 900.

■190,000 square feet of Class A meeting and events space will appeal to companies and organizations planning major conferences and events.

■615 brand-new hotel rooms and 264 branded serviced apartments at the flagship Hyatt Regency Miami will keep pace with the city’s thriving tourism market.

■1,500 market rate apartments catering to Miami residents will meet rising demand for housing in the urban core.

The City of Miami owns the 4.2-acre riverfront site on Second Avenue, adjacent to the Brickell Avenue Bridge, which is home to the aging and dated James L. Knight Convention Center and its private partner next door, the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

For years city officials have considered plans designed to improve vehicular traffic flow in the area and an improved pedestrian experience including better public access to the river. Those plans were not pursued.

At its July 28 meeting, Commissioner Carollo asked a representative of the partnership how long it would take to build the project.

Phil Keb, an executive with Gencom, said if the project is approved by voters in November, they will get to work on negotiating the final ground lease, complete design work and cost estimates, and look to arrange financing by the end of 2023 or the first quarter of 2024.

“When do you anticipate it will be fully built?” Mr. Carollo asked.

“The first two towers would be delivered in the third quarter of 2028, and the third tower delivered in the third quarter of 2029,” answered Mr. Keb.

The redevelopment of the riverfront site could also lead to improvements to the city’s Fort Dallas Park, just one property to the south.

The city owns the property at 60-64 SE Fourth St., which is home to the historic Flagler Worker’s House. The 1897 Royal Palm Cottage is the last known building in Miami directly associated with railroad magnate and developer Henry M. Flagler.

The park has been closed and fenced off for many years, as city plans to fix up the house and redevelop the property have gone nowhere. The property is known to attract trash and the homeless.

The Miami River Commission has been pressing the city to do what it can to restore the famous house and fix and reopen the park.

At the July 28 meeting, Brett Bibeau, river commission managing director, read a resolution adopted by the commission into the record.

He said the river commission unanimously adopted the resolution recommending the city commission send the Hyatt project to referendum in November, allowing for an extended lease and redevelopment of the property, “featuring the public riverwalk, while utilizing the project park impact fee as the potential funding source to reimburse the expedited improvements and the reopening of the nearby Fort Dallas Park, along with restoring its historically designated Flagler Worker’s House.”

The city charter requires that the sale or lease of waterfront property owned by the city must be approved by voters.

With a couple of late tweaks made July 28, the ballot proposal now asks city voters:

“Shall Miami’s Charter be amended authorizing city to amend existing riverfront Hyatt lease with HRM Owner LLC, including adjacent Knight Center property, extending to 99 years, waiving bidding, and requiring, at no cost to city:

■Public riverfront greenspace;

■New Hyatt Hotel, additional parking, convention space, and apartments;

■Increased annual rent to city from $250,000 to minimum $2,500,000 or 2.5% of gross revenues, whichever greater;

■Minimum $25 million affordable housing contribution;

■Expanded public riverwalk?”