Miami-Dade County

Jungle Island hotel won’t be on November ballot

ESJ Capital, owner of Jungle Island, said Thursday it would not try to get approval of its proposed hotel on Miami’s November ballot.
ESJ Capital, owner of Jungle Island, said Thursday it would not try to get approval of its proposed hotel on Miami’s November ballot. Jungle Island

The new owners of Jungle Island gave up their effort Thursday to place a proposed hotel and lease extension on the November ballot rather than push for a vote by Miami commissioners that seemed destined to fail.

ESJ Capital Partners had pushed for weeks to have commissioners OK a November referendum seeking voter approval for a potential 39-year lease extension and development agreement allowing a $50 million hotel on Watson Island. The company, which purchased the under-performing park for $60 million in April with plans for a sweeping redesign, had said it needed swift authorization for the hotel in order to nail down a deal with an unnamed “eco-adventure” hotel brand.

Without that certainty, the park’s representatives said they could lose the hotel flag.

But in the face of sudden community opposition from Venetian Island residents, Alex Tachmes, an attorney representing Jungle Island, announced Thursday morning that the park owner would not seek a vote either Thursday or on the November ballot and would instead spend the coming months working out kinks with neighbors.

“The residents need more time. We want more time with them,” he said.

Shortly after, Ellie Mimoun, chief operating officer of ESJ Capital Partners, issued a statement reaffirming that the company would give up plans for a November referendum — ending any speculation that the theme park might try to return should commissioners agree to hold a special August meeting in order to place late-developing projects on the ballot ahead of a September deadline to get ballot questions to the supervisor of elections.

“We have no doubts that a family-friendly boutique hotel ideally fits the needs of our city’s residents and families, and our local long-term strategic plan of transforming Jungle Island into an eco-adventure destination,” he said. “A boutique hotel would mean hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of incremental revenue to the City of Miami.”

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