Miami-Dade County

Walmart breaks ground in Midtown, appeals court dismisses challenge

Crews dig trenches at Walmart’s Midtown site on Jan. 8, 2015.
Crews dig trenches at Walmart’s Midtown site on Jan. 8, 2015. Miami Herald

When Walmart first submitted plans to build a 200,000-square-foot superstore in Midtown Miami, representatives of the world’s largest retailer said they expected to break ground by late 2013.

That was two years too optimistic.

Lawsuits and city proceedings have long delayed work and progress on the planned three-story project immediately south of the Midtown Miami Shops. But construction crews finally arrived at 3055 N. Miami Ave. this week began digging trenches. Even more important for the retailer, a panel of judges with the Third District Court of Appeal on Thursday denied a petition challenging the city of Miami’s approval of the project.

The ruling damages a case brought years ago by residents and business owners who say the city repeatedly ignored its own laws in approving Walmart’s project. They scored a victory in 2014 when a panel of circuit judges ruled the city had improperly granted Walmart a variance on its project, but their arguments that Walmart should have been forced to start from scratch have since been repeatedly dismissed.

“We are pleased that the appeals court has validated the lower court’s decision and the City of Miami Commission’s unanimous approval of our new Walmart store in Midtown,” Walmart spokeswoman Adriana Reyes said in a statement. “This decision brings Walmart one step closer to creating hundreds of new jobs and access to affordable groceries for the residents in nearby Wynwood, Overtown, Allapattah and Downtown Miami who have been anticipating our store’s arrival for years.”

Walmart shouldn't be self-congratulating after taking four years to take the very first steps toward building activist

Grant Stern

But opponents of the project may not be done. Grant Stern, a mortgage broker and radio personality who has fought Walmart every step of the way on its Midtown project, said Friday that his efforts won’t end if the lawsuit, which could be continued through an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, is defeated. Stern is still fighting a public records lawsuit with the city of Miami, and believes there are other ways to challenge the project, which he says would be left alone if it were simply designed according to the law.

“Walmart shouldn't be self-congratulating after taking four years to take the very first steps toward building. We're going to keep challenging until everything is conforming,” Stern said. “For them to take four years... to take step one, they should be embarrassed.”

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