Miami-Dade County

Related Group (still) frontrunner to build Miami Dade College museum

A rendering of the original plans by Related Group for a cultural center and private towers at 520 Biscayne Blvd.
A rendering of the original plans by Related Group for a cultural center and private towers at 520 Biscayne Blvd. Related Group

Following months of intrigue, condo developer Related Group is once again in the driver’s seat to build a massive Miami Dade College cultural center and condo and office towers on Biscayne Boulevard.

On Tuesday, a group of college officials tasked with finding a developer to build a museum, 1,600-seat theater and 3,000-person conference center on a 2.6-acre parking lot voted to urge the college’s board of trustees to authorize negotiations for a development agreement with Related Group. They chose for the second time in less than four months to rank Related Group’s plans ahead of its competitors.

Teams led by art collector Gary Nader and Miami builder Gregg Covin ranked second and third, respectively.

The college, which began pursuing the project in November and had the teams submit updated plans last week, has not made Related’s latest proposal public, citing Florida procurement laws. Related submitted original plans several months ago for a $673 million project that also included a 75-story high-rise with 350 condos, a 39-story office tower and a 100-key boutique hotel.

College officials said Tuesday that Related still plans to build the same number of condos and 500,000 square feet of office space. They’ll fund the $115 million cultural center through $52.5 million in cash equity, $20 million in naming rights, and the rest through property tax subsidies from an Overtown redevelopment agency. Related has offered to share about $5.3 million in condo profits with the college, which says the project would take 78 months from start to finish if a negotiation is hammered out.

“This is not over. We still have to go to the board and engage in serious and difficult negotiations,” said Rolando Montoya, college provost and committee chairman.

The trustees aren’t bound to stick with the recommendation. In fact, in April, they rejected the committee’s initial recommendation to negotiate only with Related Group and Nader, and directed the committee to continue to speak with Covin’s team as well.

But despite plenty of recent drama — including revelations that private investigators had at one point tailed a college consultant — the results of the competition didn’t change. Committee members agreed again Tuesday that Related’s team continued to present the best design and qualifications. They also said that though Related’s plans presented the least amount of potential profit for the college, they also presented the least risk — important for an institution concerned about what would happen if it entered into an agreement with a developer that proves unable to build.

“You have a degree of uncertainty that’s exceedingly difficult to put a finger on,” said E.H. Levering, the college’s CFO. “There’s no point in proceeding if we don’t perceive the developer we choose can actually deliver.”

Roman Martinez, the college’s purchasing director, couldn’t say Tuesday when the trustees would consider the committee’s recommendation. Whenever they do, Related CEO Jorge Pérez says he’s looking forward to working out an agreement.

“We are very pleased to have scored the top ranking and look forward to working with Miami Dade College on this very important project,” he said in a statement.