Tourism & Cruises

Royal Caribbean unveils new $300M office plan for PortMiami that will look like a ship

The view from downtown Miami is about to look a whole lot different.

On Monday the Miami-Dade Tourism and Ports Committee approved a deal that would allow Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to build a new office and parking garage on the land at the southwest corner of Dodge Island next to where its older offices sit now. The new campus would expand the company’s workforce capacity from 2,200 to 4,200.

The full board of commissioners will vote on the proposal in May.

The expansion plan is about both space — around 550 employees are currently working in temporary spaces like WeWorks — and attracting more digitally oriented talent. The company currently employs 4,000 based throughout South Florida and 75,000 globally.

“We used to interview people, now they interview us,” said Royal Caribbean’s Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty. “We need to be able to attract the best talent in the world.”

For folks who are used to working at state-of-the-art start-ups, Royal Caribbean’s two six-story offices seem underwhelming, say Royal Caribbean executives. The high cubicle walls fill up nearly every square inch of floor space, and the enclosed window-facing offices block out natural light. The employees’ cars have the best views of the downtown Miami skyline.

The designs for the new buildings by New York architecture firm HOK give employees the view.

The 10-story, 350,000-square-foot office building, planned for the company’s current parking lot, would incorporate floor-to-ceiling windows. Parking will be housed in a new garage.

Architect Kenneth Drucker of HOK said the building is designed to look like a ship. The firm’s local projects include renovations to the Hard Rock stadium and the children’s and federal courthouses in downtown Miami.

“The big inspiration to us was the way that the balconies step at the stern of the ship,” he said. “We wanted it to be very fluid and iconic on the waterfront.”

Royal Caribbean’s giant crown logo will be emblazoned on the roof to catch the eyes of airline passengers overhead. The design for the adjacent parking garage mirrors the office building. The garage also will hold a fitness center and a soccer field with a running track on top. The concrete and asphalt between the buildings is to be replaced by grass and trees.

The current office buildings will be gutted “down to the studs,” said Liberty, and renovated with up-to-date interiors.

Royal Caribbean plans to spend at least $300 million on the project. The company hopes to have the new buildings finished by October 2020 and the renovations on the old buildings completed by fall of 2021.

Liberty said the company would aim to make the new structures silver-certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design organization. Still, the office location itself is what makes Royal Caribbean among the 15 S&P 500 companies most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, according to Four Twenty Seven, a market intelligence firm that does climate-risk analytics.

On Monday the Miami-Dade Tourism and Ports Committee approved a deal that would allow Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. to build a new office and parking garage on the land at the southwest corner of Dodge Island next to where its older offices sit now. The building, shown in this rendering, was designed by HOK. ILLUSTRATION / Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.

To prepare for inevitable sea level rise, the company plans to build the structures 15 feet above sea level and store critical machinery on higher floors. Many climate models project Miami streets will be flooding daily by 2070.

“It’s a concern of ours,” said Liberty. “It’s 40 to 50 years from now. We will try our best to manage through.”

Royal Caribbean has been negotiating with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the commission, primarily Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa, over the terms of the land and structure lease agreement. The trio has a successful track record: Royal Caribbean’s new cruise terminal at the port opened in November 2018.

In the campus expansion proposal the committee approved Monday, Royal Caribbean will pay the county $311 million in rent over the course of 40 years with the option to extend the lease for two five-year terms after that.

The county will provide Royal Caribbean with an estimated $20.9 million in maintenance, utilities and repairs for its existing office buildings. The county will also give Royal Caribbean around $24.1 million in insurance reimbursements and rent-and-maintenance credits over the course of the lease.

The new projects would expand Royal Caribbean’s claim on the southwest corner of PortMiami by more than three acres.

The land didn’t come without a fight. In 2014, David Beckham wanted to build a soccer stadium on the same slice of land. Royal Caribbean fought hard against the idea, telling port officials the company wanted the same land for an expanded corporate campus and sending CEO Richard Fain to lobby Mayor Gimenez against Beckham’s plan. In the end, Royal Caribbean prevailed and the soccer stadium focused on other locations.

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Taylor Dolven covers the tourism industry at the Miami Herald, where she aims to tell stories about the people who work in tourism and the people who enjoy it. Previously, she worked at Vice News in Brooklyn, NY, where she won a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of NY for a national investigation of police shootings.