The “no” vote on the Miami Springs golf course referendum took place more than two weeks ago, but it is still heavy on the minds of Manny Perez-Vichot and Enrique Aguerrevere. Both had plenty to lose when 53 percent of the voters did not approve the sale of less than one-quarter of an acre of golf course property, and they are undecided about what to do next.
Perez-Vichot is an architect by profession and the owner of the old James Medical Center property, where the city’s ancient bridal path ran through the middle of its parking lot. Aguerrevere is Perez-Vichot’s business partner who just recently completed the construction of the EB Hotel, at the Wells Fargo Bank building on Northwest 36th Street.
The two are still upset that they did not do a better job of selling the voters on the hotel project that was going to be built on the property. They blamed their inexperience in the political process and improprieties by those who strongly opposed their plans.
“We were not experienced politicians and did not do a good job of putting out the facts,” Perez-Vichot said from his office at 327 Eldron Drive where his firm Southeast Design Associates now resides. “And there was a lot of misinformation — the lies by our opponents won out over the facts —and we did not fight to their level.”
Aguerrevere, who partnered with Perez-Vichot as the expert in the process of building a 90-room “brand” hotel on the property, was stopped in his tracks when the voters said no to the referendum.
“We had a deal with an operator, were prepared to spend over $1 million in utilities infrastructure and impact fees,” said Aguerrevere. “The hotel deal with a brand like Intercontinental, Marriott, Hilton or Windham would have been put together in two months had the voters approved the sale.”
The two had completed all the designs for parking and the hotel on the property and had “toed the line” with all the restrictions that had been requested by residents and placed on the property by the City of Miami Springs. They regret not posting a rendering of the proposed hotel for residents to see, before the vote was taken.
“Of course we were in it to make a profit,“ said Perez-Vichot. “But it was good for the residents of Miami Springs and I just hope this does not ‘demonize’ the process because increasing the commercial tax base is necessary or our quality of life will go down.”
It is still possible that the two could decide to build a smaller, non-brand hotel on the property or they could pay to have another vote by the residents of Miami Springs. The second scenario seems more likely than the first.
“We have no set plans and are going to let the dust settle before deciding what to do next. We can’t attract a brand name hotel to the property as it stands,” said Perez-Vichot.
The April 8 election was paid for in its entirety by Perez-Vichot and that cost included paying the city’s attorney to defend against the lawsuit that was brought by the opposition, to stop the election. Although Perez-Vichot would not divulge the exact figure, the cost far exceeded the $25,000 previously reported.
So the former bridal path through the middle of the parking lot remains golf course property, although Perez-Vichot — he paid the Dr. Charles James heirs $305,000 for the property — has a continuing licensing agreement with the city for its use.
Perez-Vichot will continue to run Southeast Design Associates at the Eldron Drive address in the short term; he and Aguerrevere will wait for the next opportunity to redevelop the most blighted area in Miami Springs.
In fact, the 57,384-square-foot-complex across the street that consists of 97 apartments has just recently come out of bankruptcy and is on the market for $6 million. The Perez-Vichot Group has made an offer for this property in the past and could do it again.