Miami-Dade officials slash controversial Airport City proposal

 

achardy@ElNuevoHerald.com

Miami-Dade aviation officials have recommended dramatically downsizing the controversial Airport City project at Miami International Airport.

The $512 million project, to be built by Brazilian multinational conglomerate Odebrecht USA, would have been on 33.5 acres just east of Miami International Airport’s terminals and parking garages and would have included a business park with restaurants, retail and office space, a high-end hotel with conference and convention facilities, convenience services, a pet hotel and a gas station.

Now, under a new proposal, it would be slashed from 33.5 acres on three parcels to nine acres. MIA wants to keep the largest parcel - 24 acres - to expand the airfield.

“Our recommendation is that Miami-Dade Aviation Department be allowed to keep those 24 acres which we hope to develop in aviation-related businesses,” said Emilio González, director of the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, after the presentation. “If we were to start building hotels and office parks, we’d never get it back.”

Left unsaid was what impact the smaller proposal would have opposition from some Cuban-American leaders who were angered over Odebrecht’s involvement in two projects in Cuba – the expansion of the Mariel port through an Odebrecht affiliate, and a partnership to help revive the island’s sugar industry.

González said politics did not play a role in the decision to revise the project.

“My job is to protect the interests of this airport, to grow this airport economically,” he said.

González unveiled new plans during a Tuesday meeting of the County Commission’s Transportation and Aviation committee.

Eric Swanson, an Odebrecht USA representative in attendance said his company understands the aviation department’s need to expand, but it remains interested in developing the remaining parcels, he said.

“I’m not going to say we are not disappointed,” Swanson said. “We are. But we’re supportive of the decision [and] we want to go forward and move quickly.”

Now it’s up to the County Commission to endorse González’s new recommendation. The four commissioners present at Wednesday’s meeting said they leaned toward endorsing the aviation department’s proposal.

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