Miami commissioners gave their blessing Thursday to the pursuit of a deal that would allow Hyatt Hotels Corp. to redevelop the riverfront site of the chain’s Regency hotel and the James L. Knight Center.
With about a decade left on a lease with Hyatt before the two sides are presented with a 45-year option to renew, city administrators are hoping to work out an arrangement that would let Hyatt rebuild the four-acre site at the mouth of the Miami River as a new hotel complex. The current facility, though once considered a signature development in downtown Miami, was bluntly referred to Thursday as “ugly.”
“It was beautiful in its heyday. It was a signature building downtown. But that day came and went,” said Commissioner Francis Suarez. “I don’t have a problem going forward.”
The framework for a new deal already exists in concept, although it is nonbinding. Under a proposed memorandum of understanding, which would need to be approved by a vote of the commission, Hyatt would have 12 months to come up with a proposed master plan for the publicly owned site and a new 99-year lease. Thursday’s discussion about the agreement did not end in an official decision.
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Administrators and Hyatt executives are also trying to settle a dispute over costly maintenance and upgrades that, according to real estate director Daniel Rotenberg, were done without city permission. Rotenberg said Thursday that without a new agreement, Hyatt has warned that it may not jump at the looming option to renew for another 45 years, potentially leaving the property without a hotel operator.
In other real estate news Thursday, commissioners voted to:
▪ Purchase property at 13 NW Sixth St. from AT&T for $3.45 million. The site, along with land acquired recently through a land swap with the parent company of All Aboard Florida, will be home to a new downtown fire station.
▪ Authorize a change in controlling ownership of Bayside Marketplace, which is transferring from General Growth Properties to Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. The city receives a payment of $1.8 million under the agreement, which comes as Bayside is moving forward with renovations.
▪ Ban city vendors from using styrofoam products in city parks and at city beaches. The law was passed on first reading.