Taking a political U-turn, Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado spoke out Tuesday against a developer’s proposal to build a 633-foot media tower and said he will attempt to change legislation that allows such a project to be built near Overtown without special approvals.
Regalado said the three-sided tower, which would twist upward and project images from large LED signs embedded within the building’s skin, presents a “quality of life” problem for downtown-area residents. He called on the city’s five commissioners to reject plans submitted by Miami Beach real estate investor and developer Michael Simkins.
“I do not support their concept, our administration has not issued a permit for this project. I hope and believe the five commissioners will do the right thing and eventually do not approve [their] media towers,” Regalado wrote in a response to critics of the project who emailed his office.
Regalado’s stance came a day after Simkins and SHoP Architects publicly presented their project for the first time to Miami commissioners, who were sitting as the board of the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency. Miami’s zoning code required Simkins to seek approval from the redevelopment agency for his development, though it allows a media tower at his proposed site and a zoning administrator gave a preliminary thumbs-up to his building design, sans signage.
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The executive director of the redevelopment agency has given consent to allow the developer to move forward with a building permit application for five high-tech signs, the largest of which would be 30,000 square feet. But attorneys for the agency say Simkins can’t receive final approval for the signs without first executing a covenant in which $5 million has been promised before the tower would open and another $1 million minimum every year after.
For Simkins and other investors involved, the tower would be the catalyst for a larger, roughly 10-acre district dreamed up as a means to attract major technology companies to the Park West neighborhood. He says the district, if approved, would bring thousands of high-paying jobs to Miami.
“I hope that he gives us the opportunity to share our project with him before passing judgment and making a decision on our project,” Simkins said of the mayor.
Regalado’s position appears to be a 180-degree turn from 2010, when he helped fast-track plans to erect two billboard towers near the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. That project was approved by the commission, but was never built.
Regalado said Tuesday that the difference in position is because in 2010, the city was in a financial crisis, and now Miami is overflowing with property taxes. He also said developer Mark Siffin negotiated with Miami’s administration in 2010, where today Simkins worked with the redevelopment agency, over which Regalado has no authority.
The mayor said a media tower is something that should rest with the mayor and City Commission, and said he was “blindsided” when The Herald revealed plans for Simkins’ Miami Innovation Tower last week.
Regalado says he will craft a proposal to remove language from Miami’s zoning code allowing media towers in the redevelopment area ahead of a June hearing, when Simkins is expected to go back before the CRA board.