David Beckham’s proposed Major League Soccer stadium and mixed-use development surrounding it have just overcome another hurdle.
The Miami Urban Development Review Board on Wednesday approved designs for a 25,000-seat stadium and a nearly 5,000-car garage, as well as a master plan for a wider project that includes a hotel, offices and a public park. The vote is preliminary, as it will still need to be signed by another city government, and then by the city commission.
The decision is another milestone for the Miami Freedom Park project, the permanent home of the Inter Miami CF Football Club, which has been in development for nine years and has been met with opposition throughout that time. In April, commissioners approved a controversial no-bid developer deal for a 99-year lease on the city-owned Melreese Country Club at 1802 Northwest 37th Avenue, the project’s proposed site.
Miami-based businessmen Jorge and Jose Mas, brothers who run engineering and construction firm MasTec in Coral Gables, lead a development partnership that includes Beckham and Los Angeles-based Ares Management. SoftBank’s Marcelo Clore and Masayoshi Son sold their stake in the project and football club to Beckham and the Mas brothers last September.
A city development board vote has given the green light to a plan for a 130-acre project being developed as a special area plan, a designation that gives some wiggle room in building codes in exchange for public goods. The complex, designed by Arquitectonica, will rise on 72 acres leased by the partnership; the remaining 58 acres will be a public park administered by the city.
The developers pledged $20 million to improve the city’s parks and open spaces, with the bulk going towards the development of the 58-acre park on Melreese land. Another $5 million will go to the city’s Baywalk and Riverwalk projects.
Manika is the lead architect for the stadium, which will be located at the northern end of the site. According to Arquitectonica’s presentation at the board meeting, the northwest corner of the land will feature a 750-room hotel and 400,000-square-foot office space designed to accommodate the growing influx of technology companies to South Florida. Approximately 600,000 square feet of commercial space is planned, mainly in the “football village” south of the stadium with shops and restaurants.
Building heights are capped at 160 feet, though not all buildings reach that maximum, and development is concentrated on the north and west portion of the site to avoid a flight path to Miami International Airport to the west of the site, Iris Escarra, a developer attorney, told the board.
Miami Freedom Park Drive will be the main north-south road separating the buildings from the public park at the center of the site. Entrances to the complex will be at 19th Terrace Northwest to the east, Le Jeune Road to the west, and 14th Street to the south. The plans also include a pedestrian overpass to the Miami Intermodal Center, a public transportation hub, to the north.
The 4,900-car garage, along the western end of the site along Le Jeune Road, will include 215,000 square feet of rooftop communal sports facilities, including soccer and football, as well as basketball and tennis courts. In total, the project will have 5,100 parking spaces.
The Development Review Board recommended that the garage be approved on the condition that the building, nearly 1,500 feet long, be separated by a walkway, creating two parking structures. Sports fields will remain connected on the roof.
Chairman of the Board Ignacio Permui noted that the proposed garage is larger than some warehouses in the neighborhood.
“There must be some kind of break,” he said. Even “750 feet is huge.”
Alejandro Gonzalez of Arquitectonica promised at the meeting to address these issues. Sharing the garage has been considered, he said, but it could affect the number of parking spaces.
The design team settled on one parking lot design in part because the building would block out noise from Le Jeune and the airport to the west, Escarra, the developer’s attorney, added.
Wednesday’s vote was one step in the master plan and design approval process. The Planning, Zoning, and Appeals Board will then vote on the design of the garage and stadium, as well as the entire master plan, in a yet-to-be-scheduled meeting. The commission must also vote at two public hearings. Office and hotel projects are not yet completed.
The developers are also taking on the repair of the former incineration plant at their own expense. They have four years after the approval of the Special Area Plan to complete this work and build the stadium, and then another six years to complete the commercial property.
Part of the controversy that led to the commission’s leases vote was over developers’ leases, which opponents say are below market at a time when land values have skyrocketed. The team agreed to increase the annual base rent to $4.3 million from approximately $3.6 million, as well as increase the rent for the construction period. In addition, the city will order two new assessments that do not account for site contamination, all as a way to increase payments, possibly in excess of $4.3 million. Miami Herald.
Miami Freedom Park passed its first major hurdle in November 2018 when a majority of voters approved a referendum allowing the city to negotiate a lease.
Other sites the developers explored before settling on Melrise included properties in the Overtown area of Miami.
Inter Miami started playing MLS games two years ago at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, which replaced the old Lockhart Stadium. The team will continue to train there, but will move their competitive games to Miami Freedom Park, Escarra said.