On the surface, Island Gardens appears to be an incredible development. It entails a 50 slip mega yacht marina, two world-class resorts, sleekly designed and relatively tall towers, but in digging deeper, there are problems. It will stand on one of the most important sites in the entire city. Watson Island, being situated in between both Miami Beach and Miami is as centrally located as one can imagine. The island, which belongs to the city, serves as a sort of junction point between the two urban areas. The Macarthur Causeway, of course, bisects the island and allows for the most incredible view of the CBD while heading west on the causeway from the beach. The view is really the postcard picture of Miami; literally, because if you find a postcard of Miami that doesn’t have South Beach images, it is likely to have the Watson Island view of the CBD. This famous view is now in jeopardy. I value this view because it allows me to take in the full scope of the city’s growing skyline. With Island Gardens built, it will blotch out a large portion of it.
Granted, the towers are nice, but so is the entire skyline and these wretched towers are going to compromise my beloved view of it. As to not make this personal and trite, there are other reasons why this project takes more away than it gives back. For one, the FTAA Secretariat, should Miami’s destiny as the Gateway to the Americas come to fruition and that cherished political/economic trophy come, would have to share its land with Island Gardens. I understand that there are those who would say “well you can’t leave the island in its current underutilized state”. I agree, but that’s not to say that there is a need to permit the IG project on that site. What if it’s not good for the site and the city? Putting all the rampant glorious development aside, there is such a thing as bad development. Even if the project is high profile, built by a foreign billionaire, and well designed and proportioned, it should not automatically result in a green light to the developer. The City of Miami Beach strongly opposes the project because it will create a traffic nightmare near the center of the bay. The residents of Palm, Hibiscus, and the Venetian Islands are opposing the development also. They bought on those exclusive island properties in part because of the unsurpassable value of their views. Is this to say that these people’s spoils should be maintained? No. I enjoy that same view too and so do thousands of Miamians and tourists.
The developer is offering 100 feet of public space as part of the deal. That is pitiful. Not worthy of further consideration except to say that it truly exemplifies my argument that the project does not offer the city much except tax revenues. What was once an island of the people is slated to become an Island built out by a Turkish billionaire who understandably may not realize the significance of the view he’s blocking and the transportation problems his project will likely create. Either that or he does not care—probably the latter. What is sad is that the city doesn’t seem to care either. It is also rather disappointing to see my fellow development enthusiasts blindly support such an offensive idea as to jeopardize what is arguably the best view of our city.
I am aware of the supposed benefits of this project: more tax revenue, new tall towers, another luxurious destination for the jet set, 221,000 new sq ft of retail space, an unprecedented mega-yacht marina for the ultra rich, more luxury hotel rooms added to the hospitality market, and job creation. But these benefits, with the exception of the mega yacht facility and retail space, sound much like the benefits of developments in Sunny Isles, South Beach, and Miami. The difference is that this development will cast a shadow over the FTAA facility, should we get it, will create traffic woes for Miami Beach, and will compromise the most important public view of the city. Unless you’re a jet setter from some other city who plans on visiting Miami and staying in this resort, or a mega yacht owner who plans on using the facility, or a member of the developer’s team, you don’t stand to benefit much from this project. Although it seems clear that the city will allow the project to go forth, I feel that it is important to demonstrate my earnest opposition to what I believe is a detrimental development that represents a stain in the political and economic partnership between Miami and Miami Beach.