By the end of this year, the bayfront site where The Miami Herald now stands will be reduced to vacant land ready for redevelopment.
The demolition of the Herald headquarters is the first step in the Genting Group’s plans to turn the site into a luxury hotel with up to 500 rooms and several hundred luxury condos edged by a pedestrian bay walk, said Bill Thompson, senior vice president of development for Resorts World Miami.
With casino gambling on the back burner, Genting is ready to make a commitment to Miami and move ahead with a scaled-down development plan that will start to take shape immediately after the Herald moves out in May.
“We’ve decided to go with a phased approach,” said Thompson, whose career included more than a decade as an executive with the Related Group. “That seems to be more conducive with what’s acceptable in Miami. You start out with the waterfront property and that improves the value across everything else. Then you stay fluid based on what’s happening in the marketplace.”
By the end of this year, Genting expects to sign an operating agreement with a luxury hotelier of at least four-star caliber, Thompson said. In 2014, marketing is likely to begin on the sale of two buildings of luxury condominiums, each with several hundred units.
The preliminary plans are far more modest than the grandiose $3.8 billion project the Malaysian conglomerate originally unveiled in 2011. The original design would have included a curvilinear design, 5,200 hotel rooms and the world’s largest casino.But efforts to change Florida law to allow resort casinos have been unsuccessful, and for now, Genting only plans to utilize less than half of the 13.9-acre site it purchased nearly two years ago for $236 million from Herald parent McClatchy Co.
Current development will be limited to the bayfront site where the Herald building now stands and the redevelopment of the historic Boulevard Shops on Biscayne Boulevard. Preliminary designs for the 5-acre Herald site call for a pedestal with three towers on top. Each condo tower will have several hundred units and a hotel will include up to 500 rooms. All elements will follow the Miami 21 zoning code, Thompson said.
“We’re not asking for anything that is not allowed,” he said. “We’re not asking for any variances or waivers. We’re not closing streets.”
Critics of the original proposal complained it was too big for the neighborhood and blocked views of Biscayne Bay. To avoid similar issues, the new plan call for two view corridors cut through the base of the structure that will allow waterfront visibility and view corridors on either side.
To help activate the waterfront, Genting is pledging to build a 50-foot wide promenade in a tiered design with three or four restaurants overlooking Biscayne Bay. Pedestrians will be able to connect from the Genting project under the Interstate-395 overpass to the new Museum Park via a boardwalk that Genting plans to build out into the bay.
To link the project with Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the surrounding neighborhood, Genting plans a heavily landscaped park on the south side of the project along Interstate-395. Along the northern edge will be another landscaped walkway with small retail shops.
Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado said Genting has not presented any official plans to the city. But the developer has met with city planning and zoning staff to discuss the vision, which also includes a marina to accommodate large-size boats as part of the project, Regalado said. The marina would require state approval.