One of New York’s celebrity designers, Naeem Khan, plans to open a new fashion house on the Miami River, where his company would manufacture clothing for its high-end brand, according to Miami-Dade County documents.
The dress designer, whose fashions have been worn by Michelle Obama and Beyoncé, would combine a manufacturing space with a training center at a county-owned lot at 1175 NW South River Dr., according to elected officials who have met with him.
Miami-Dade County commissioners gave initial approval Monday to turn over the former county carpentry shop to the Khan organization for discounted rent and the option to eventually purchase the vacant property. Khan plans to spend $6 million building a 30,000-square-foot facility where it would employ at least 50 people making an average of about $50,000 a year, according to the documents.
The Khan project meshes with Miami-Dade’s effort to promote Miami as a fashion hub and the Latin American answer to New York’s garment industry. “We’re big on modeling. We’re a hot destination. Fashion feeds right into that,” said Bruno Barreiro, the county commissioner who sponsored the land package.
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Khan’s press office did not respond to an interview request, and county officials involved in the project were not available to comment. A spokeswoman for the Beacon Council, Miami-Dade’s economic-development arm, said the group could not discuss the Khan venture because it is part of a confidential pursuit of business incentives, which typically become public after approval.
At a Monday meeting of the County Commission’s finance committee, the Khan 30-year-lease package was recommended to the full commission. The deal would let Khan rent the one-acre site for about $9,000 a year to start, rising to about $30,000 in the third year, with an escalator clause after that. The documents describe the rent as below-market, and say Khan also would be given a below-market price if he exercises his option to purchase the property.
Khan could exercise the option only if he meets the hiring goals laid out in the documents. That includes expanding the workforce to at least 70 full-time payroll slots with average yearly compensation of $50,000.
“To me, it’s a great opportunity,” said County Commissioner Dennis Moss, who said he met with Khan in Miami earlier this year. “That’s what’s so interesting. It’s him that is going to be leading the effort.”
The discounted land deal comes on the heels of county Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s clash with commissioners over a $75 million earmark for economic-development grants to be paid out of property taxes. Gimenez is backing the proposed SkyRise Miami observation tower and a South Miami-Dade theme park to receive the money, as well as a medical school and an Opa-locka Airport project.
Miami-Dade’s rules for the grants require that the projects be “game changers” for the local economy, and critics questioned why the money wasn’t saved to sweeten a deal for large employers deciding between Miami-Dade and other locations. The Khan project does not appear on the county’s list of grant applicants. Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, chairman of the finance committee, used the Khan discussion as a way to ding the grant program.
“All it needed was that ‘game-changer’ moniker in it, and it would be a slam dunk,” Bovo said.