Miami-Dade County

Knight Center redevelopment negotiations can move forward

The Hyatt Regency looms over the Miami River to the west (right) side of Brickell Avenue. The James L. Knight Miami Convention Center is lower, and to the right.
The Hyatt Regency looms over the Miami River to the west (right) side of Brickell Avenue. The James L. Knight Miami Convention Center is lower, and to the right. cjuste@miamiherald.com

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.

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.

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