Miami voters approve James L. Knight Center redevelopment

Posted on 9 November 2022 by The Real Deal

For the second time this year, Miami voters overwhelmingly backed a redevelopment project on city-owned land.

On Tuesday, Hyatt and Gencom handily won a referendum for the joint venture’s proposal to replace the James L. Knight Center and adjacent 615-room hotel in downtown Miami with a mixed-use project that the developers claim could generate $1.5 billion in new revenue for the city. The measure passed by a 28-point margin, with 64 percent of voters in favor of the redevelopment.

Chicago-based Hyatt and Miami-based Gencom are planning Miami Riverbridge, a three-tower project with 1,500 apartments, a new 615-key Hyatt hotel with 264 service-branded apartments, a 190,000-square-foot convention space and 12,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space. The development would also have 50,000 square feet of outdoor public green space facing the Miami River.

Designed by Arquitectonica, Miami Riverbridge would have two 61-story towers and a single 80-story building. Construction would begin in 2025.

The developers will get a 99-year lease extension for the 4-acre site at 400 Southeast Second Avenue. The joint venture agreed to pay the city 2.5 percent of the project’s gross revenues or annual rent of $2.5 million, whichever is greater.

In a statement, Hyatt and Gencom said the election results proved Miami residents have embraced their proposal. Over the life of the lease extension, the new project “is expected to create as much as $1.5 billion in city taxes fees and ground rent,” the joint venture said. The developers are also contributing $25 million to fund affordable housing in Miami.

Between August and last week, the developers spent nearly $1.2 million campaigning for the James L. Knight Center redevelopment project, according to finance reports for the political action committee Hyatt and Gencom formed.

As part of the campaign, the committee paid $160,000 in consulting fees to a firm owned by Humberto Hernandez, a former Miami city commissioner who was indicted for voter fraud and mortgage fraud in two separate cases in the late 1990s, campaign finance records show. Hernandez’s involvement in the campaign was first reported by the Miami Herald.

Hyatt and Gencom’s victory continues a trend of Miami residents being very receptive to massive commercial developments on city-owned land. In the August primary, voters greenlit a Dream Hotel-anchored mixed-use project on the Miami River proposed by Miami-based MV Real Estate Holdings and Coral Gables-based Driftwood Capital.

In 2018, about 60 percent of city voters approved Miami Freedom Park, the Major League Soccer stadium-anchored mixed-use project on the site of Melreese Golf Course near Miami International Airport. Miami businessman Jorge Mas and international soccer star David Beckham are the project’s lead partners.