Unable to build the luxury Miami casino and resort envisioned five years ago when they dropped $236 million for 14 acres on Biscayne Bay, gaming giant Genting Group may indeed be actively seeking to flip the property.
Rumored for years, the company’s interest in selling the former site of the Miami Herald’s headquarters was confirmed recently on condition of anonymity by a developer who said he was shown the property. The meeting came after another failed attempt to change Florida’s restrictive gambling laws during the state’s 2016 legislative session.
Details such as the asking price and the exact timing of the visit were unavailable. A Genting spokeswoman denied any meeting took place.
We have not shown the property to a potential buyer
Melissa Rieder, Genting subsidiary Resorts World Bimini
“We have not shown the property to a potential buyer,” Melissa Rieder, marketing manager for Genting subsidiary Resorts World Bimini, wrote in a one-sentence email.
Despite the denial, the reported encounter suggests that Genting, among Miami’s more secretive real estate players, is at the very least considering a sale of the centerpiece of the company’s nearly $500 million portfolio. In total, the developer owns about 30 acres, including the Omni Mall and several parcels next to the Miami-Dade School Board headquarters.
“It means that they understand the people in downtown don’t want a big casino,” speculated Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, who once presented Genting Chairman K.T. Lim with a key to the city only to turn on casino plans. “That’s the bottom line.”
In actuality, it’s difficult to reach any conclusions on Genting’s plans, given the company’s secrecy and years of mixed messages. After signaling years ago that it intended to build a luxury complex without a casino, company representatives reached out to Miami condo king Jorge Perez in 2014 to talk about a partnership that never developed. Similarly, a brief talk with soccer star David Beckham about a professional sports stadium at the site went nowhere.
Even now, Genting continues to be active in Tallahassee, where its Resorts World Miami affiliate is represented on matters of “casino hotels” by Ballard Partners, and in the city of Miami, where former congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart registered to lobby for the company in January. Meanwhile, Genting was among the interested parties last year when the county sought to partner with a developer to build out the space over the Omni bus station and attached Metromover station, and the company is in the midst of renovating the historic Boulevard Shops across from the Performing Arts Center.
As for building plans, Genting hasn’t submitted any for the site since seeking comments on plans for an “as-of-right” project more than two years ago, according to the city’s planning department. Since then, Assistant Director Luciana Gonzalez said a search of the department’s files show no applications for building permits, marina or bay walk.
It is, of course, possible that Genting isn’t actively shopping the site, but rather open to offers in case they get a deal too good to turn down. When the company purchased the Herald property during the recession, the price gave some sticker shock, said Suzanne Hollander, a real estate broker and FIU professor. But now, with Miami’s cooling real estate market still among the hottest in the country, Genting could still receive an offer that proves irresistible.
“In real estate, every property has a sale price even if it’s not for sale. Maybe it’s not actively on the market,” she said. “It’d make a whole lot of sense that they could make a profit on it.”