The architects behind the sleek, tropical design showcased in preliminary renderings: Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates, of Coral Gables.
“This is a crowning achievement for me,” Perez said.
Perez said he would need another six to nine months to finalize commitments from retailers and work out some details. By June 2014, the developers will be ready to break ground on the marina and the retail area, he said.
Construction would likely be finished by 2017, he added.
In negotiating the new construction timeline, city officials raised the monthly rent from $62,500 to $83,333 from September until construction is complete, director of public facilities Henry Torre said.
The city is also negotiating a new contract with the developers outlining how much money Miami would receive once the development is up and running. The new terms are expected to reflect a higher percentage of retail rental payments and sales.
Torre cast the project as a smart investment that could bring $200 million to Miami city coffers over the next 75 years. “We have a very exciting opportunity here, one that I think we should take advantage of,” he told commissioners. “Rest assured, we will look to maximize revenues to the city of Miami.”
Perez said the city would make more money over time now that Related is involved, because there would be more retail space, and a portion of the rent payments to the city would be based on sales.
Spence-Jones gave another reason to support the expanded project: It would create 4,000 new jobs, at least 40 percent of which would be set aside for Miami residents, according to an economic impact study she quoted.
Still, Carollo, who has been critical of other waterfront deals, said the city didn’t have to budge on the timetable, and ought to negotiate a better payoff for the city in light of the new development plans. “We have a long history of our most-precious lands being leased and the city not obtaining fair market value,” he said.
Frank Rollason, a former assistant city manager, agreed.
“They have come back to the well three or four times asking for extensions,” he said. “To me, it’s time for the city to cut its losses and put the thing out for bid for somebody else to develop.”
But City Manager Johnny Martinez said the city didn’t consider rebidding the project because the additions proposed by Related are confined to the project’s original footprint and don’t require any zoning changes.
“Now that they are bringing in their power partner, we see this as an opportunity to improve on our existing deal,” Martinez added.
Flagstone isn’t the only Watson Island development project to fall behind schedule.
Last year, Miami granted New Jersey-based Linden Airport Services a new 30-year lease so the company could build a heliport on Watson Island. Linden won the original contract a decade ago, but construction had been held up as the scope of the project kept changing.
Carollo rebuked the commission for not rebidding the project last year, and for setting the rent for the first two years at $2,200 a month or a percentage of gross revenues, which he thought was too low.
The nearby aviary attraction known as Jungle Island also drew controversy last year, when owner Bern Levine threatened to leave Miami on the hook for a $25 million federal loan unless the theme park received a 50-year extension on its lease. City officials refused, and Levine found a way to begin making the loan payments.
Last week, Perez gave his word that the Flagstone project would be different.
“It’s really the most complicated job I have ever been involved in,” Perez said. “I will put 1,000 percent of my effort to make it a reality.”