A large no-bid deal is on the horizon in Miami, though you might've heard of this one before.
In November, Miami voters could agree to let the city lease more than half of its only city-owned golf course to David Beckham and his partners to build a privately owned soccer complex with a 28,000-seat stadium, one million square feet of tech-related office space and 500 to 800 hotel rooms.
Beckham and his partners, which include local business giants Jorge and Jose Mas, want to turn Melreese golf course into a 73-acre soccer, commercial and hotel complex and a 58-acre park. All would be privately funded under the terms of a 39-year lease, which could be extended to 99 years. The city would receive annual rent of about $4 million to $5 million, and the owners would pay taxes on the rezoned park land, which does not currently contribute to the tax rolls.
The near-quixotic, multi-year quest to bring a Major League Soccer franchise to Miami will take a new turn July 12, when commissioners will consider sending a question to voters: Should Miami change its laws so that commissioners could accept a no-bid deal that would drastically repurpose the golf course next to Miami International Airport?
The Melreese proposal, already creating controversy among supportive soccer fans and opposition who believe Melreese should remain a golf course, further confirms that the Beckham group is no longer considering land it owns in Overtown for a stadium.
New aspects of the proposal emerged this week when the city published the agenda for the July 12 meeting. Among the previously undisclosed details:
▪ 10.5 acres for a 28,000-seat stadium.
▪ 138,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
▪ 12,000 square feet for music and entertainment.
▪ Underground parking garage beneath multiple public soccer fields.
▪ Of the total 131 acres owned by the city of Miami at 1400 NW 37th Ave., 78 acres would be leased to the Beckham group. The 5 acres of adjacent baseball fields and Grapeland Water Park would remain as is.
▪ The remaining 58 acres would be redeveloped into a public park, to be funded by $20 million the Beckham group would pay the city in annual installments of $666,667 over 20 years.
▪ Annual base rent payment to the city would be the greater of $3.5 million or fair market value as determined by two appraisers (two city-contracted appraisers determined a fair market rent for the acreage being leased would be between $4 million and $5 million)
The plan is expected to be presented with much pomp and circumstance July 12, when Beckham and Mas are scheduled to appear at City Hall. But with nine days before the high-profile vote, architectural renderings are being kept secret by the Mas brothers, even as they met with Miami commissioners in recent days. The Miami Herald requested visuals that were shown to Mayor Francis Suarez and the commission over the last week upon a lawyer's advice that once those images were presented to elected officials, they became public records.
The Mas brothers did not leave copies of the renderings with the commissioners or other city officials they showed them to. Because of this, City Attorney Victoria Mendez said the city could not produce the renderings.
Mas declined to comment.
"I certainly think the sooner the vision gets out, the better," Suarez said, "because I think it’s a beautiful vision.”
Suarez argued that the city would benefit because of the new tax revenue and a new park, at no cost to the city.
"You have a group that’s willing to pay fair market value for the land and privately finance a stadium and a new public park," he said.
Commissioner Willy Gort, whose district includes Melreese, last week told NBC 6 that he believes Melreese should remain the way it is. He and other opponents have pointed to the First Tee program youth program, which teaches kids how to golf, as an important community service that should remain at Melreese.
"I think a public golf course is very important, especially Melreese," Gort said. "It's been there for years, it is known worldwide," adding that the Latin PGA has taken place there multiple years.
Regardless, the buzz about the plan is expected to swell from both soccer supporters and opponents of the proposal this week. The Beckham group is polling residents to measure public sentiment, sources told the Miami Herald. An online petition to preserve the golf course has picked up thousands of signatures in recent days. As of Tuesday evening, the petition had 10,846 supporters.
The language of the proposed referendum that commissioners will take up next week reads:
Shall Miami’s Charter be amended to authorize the City to execute a lease with Miami Freedom Park, LLC for the development of approximately 73 acres at 1400 Northwest 37 Avenue, for a total 99 year term, including:
▪ Soccer stadium, 500 total hotel rooms with conference center, retail and commercial technology complexes;
▪ $20,000,000 tenant contribution paid over 30 years to develop a 58 acre public park with amenities; and
▪ Minimum guaranteed rent of $3,577,365.00 annually?