Island Gardens to Begin Rising in 08′

In a major update, the Daily Business Review has reported that Mehmet Bayraktar’s Flagstone Group is aggressively moving forward with plans for Island Gardens. The plan, which includes 11 acres of public land and 13 acres of submerged land, has ruffled quite a few feathers at the City of Miami Beach due to transportation issues, but the City of Miami seems intent on ensuring the project rise from under-utilized Watson Island.

Expected to be fully completed by 2010, the project entails only the second Shangri-La Hotel in the U.S. as well as a Westin Hotel. The project also includes a marina for super-yachts (100 ft. & over). According to the DBR article, Mehmed is not concerned with the stagnant condo market stating that Island Gardens includes no condo units. I see what the Turkish Billionaire is saying. He’s got two major anchors and a plan for the first major marina of its kind in the city. This is not to mention, of course, a lease on what is arguably the most iconic and conspicuous parcel of land in the entire city.

To summarize, Flagstone has:

  • Secured 35% of the funding needed
  • Signed term sheets with two major U.S. banking institutions (anticipating a closing by the end of this year)
  • Been negotiating with an alternate institutional investor group
  • Received its environmental permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the South Florida Water Management District, and Miami-Dade County

According to the DBR report, the “developer has permission to begin dredging the section of the bay south of the MacArthur Causeway” for the purpose of infilling the submerged land. Construction is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2008.

Island Gardens is a monumental development in that it will attract attention from all over the world. Miami, no stranger to publicity but in the midst of a housing slump, can use the positive attention. Although the project will probably be beneficial to the City in the long run, it will partially block the skyline’s view (from the MacArthur), create a traffic problem on the causeway, and only allocates 100 1000 feet of the public land for promenade use. Still, Island Gardens will further raise the bar in Miami’s luxury hotel market, add jobs to the economy, increase the City’s revenue, and lure obscenely wealthy visitors into Miami. Looks like Mr. Mehmed has become my favorite Turkish billionaire.

Map: City of Miami’s Watson Island Plans

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26 Comments

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26 responses to “Island Gardens to Begin Rising in 08′

  1. John

    I tend to be pretty pro development, but I don’t know that the benefits for Island Gardens will out-weigh the downside. Miami’s skyline is one of the only things it has going for its urban core. I think we call all agree downtown is better viewed from a distance, rather than up close. Also, the traffic will make it a nightmare to get to what is now Miami’s biggest tourism draw–South Beach. Not to mention the conversion of prime public land, something Miami severely lacks compared to great cities like NYC, London, Chicago, Boston, Paris, San Francisco (just to name a few), into a playground for the uber-weathy of the world.

    I love skyscrapers, and long for the day Miami has a supertall of its own, along with great hotels and marinas–but not at the expense of public land, park space and trees. I think this project will prove to be a bust in the long run, and add to the many mistakes that help the City of Miami hemorrhage money like Scrooge on Christmas morning.

    • Jak słucham poezji śpiewanej coraz większe prrzeażenie mnie bierze gdy patrzę? na to dokąd zmierza społeczeństwo i jak? patrzę na moich rf3wieśnikf3w, to mnie coś aż boli w środku. Chwała tym co maja jeszcze czas na chwile refleksji. Cudowna piosenka!

  2. John I have struggled with the same issues when it comes to this project. In fact, when it was first proposed I wrote an article titled “Don’t Block my View!” The issue with transportation is another major problem (but in case of a MacArthur backup, there are alternate routes into South Beach via the Julia Tuttle and Venetian Causeways).

    Still, given the current negative state of the market, a project like this serves to remind the world that Miami truly is on the path to urban greatness. This project is a prolific one and although I completely agree with your concerns, I know that the City has not come up with a better way of utilizing the land, and in the absence of an alternative land-use initiative, Island Gardens seems a tantalizing prospect. I hope the City requires more space for a public promenade from Flagstone. 100ft is pitiful.

  3. Steve

    I am with Xavier on this and I don’t believe it will add that much traffic because the slow down on the MacArthur is always due to the backup at Alton Road, not along the way. In other words, this isn’t adding to the bottleneck. The traffic concern is like saying development in the Design District contributes to traffic delays at the Golden Glades on 95–not really.

    I don’t really see what the issue is with the skyline. These buildings aren’t so close or dense so they block the skyline. If they think people will pay those kind of big bucks for a non-beach destination with MacArthur traffic whizzing by, good luck to them.

    Furthermore, the timing of this project is going to be really helpful to the local economy as so many projects in Miami are wrapping up in the next 18-24 months. We will have plenty of construction workers looking for work.

  4. Ronn

    Yeah, I agree with Steve & Xavier regarding the MacArthur traffic, not bad at all… However the 100ft I read it was 1000 ft of waterfront and 1500 parking spots, looking forward to having dinner there sounds amazing…

  5. Is it 1000ft? If so, that makes more sense. I was flabbergasted by the 100ft.

  6. Brad

    Like everything else in this town, this whole development will surely morph into an ultra-exclusive, private, gated, security-guard swamped haven for the “uber-wealthy” as John noted above. I’m sure that any public access/utlization will be minimal and half-assed. It is dissappointing that the private and public sectors in MIami cannot work together to offer the public more waterfront parks or recreational facilities. It all comes down to $, obviously, and what land use can generate the most $’ for the developer and city. Here, that use is clearly a mega hotel and mega marina, both of which will be unable to be appreciated by 99.5% of the populace.

    But we do have that awkwardly-placed Children’s Museum, whatever the hell that is….

  7. To follow up on Brad’s legitimate gripes, Florida FTAA proposed the secretariat structure on Watson Island. Although the likelihood of the FTAA becoming a reality anytime soon is near zilch, if it eventually does and Miami earns the right of being the HQ, then the secretariat’s placement would be terribly awkward.

  8. Mike Antczak

    I think this development will make the entire bicsayne bay area truly beautiful, as it should be since it is a world class site. Hopefully the city does a nice job with biscayne park which will make mega yacht watching from the mainland something we can all appreciate (just imagine all the big yachts and a full cruise ship port at night!).

    I’m also in favor of the tunnel that would connect watson island with the port in order to alleviate all the truck traffic from downtown, which I believe also includes the widening of the i-395 to further aleiviate traffic entering south beach.

    Ultimately, I think that the tunnel along with the mega yacht complex and the transformation of biscayne park (along with the removal of the camillus house from downtown and the many other developments already going on) will make downtown miami truly world class. Pro development miami all the way!!!!

  9. Daniel

    i agree 100% with Mike Antczak. Miami will finally and hopefully by 2012 be a world class city. All the new developments need to fill with people, and new retails to open in the area.

    This project will ofcouse make the skyline much nicer, i cant imagine that at night all iluminated, will be like the DUBAI 6 stars hotel in the bay.

    i hope residents and people stop complaining more and being such a ………. and start makign things better, giving better positive attitude and help distribute among all that MIAMI will ROCK by 2010.

    The Brickell area and midtown are looking terrific too!

    enjoy miami!

  10. FrenchyMiami

    Local people still complain because the heavy construction work has put some stress on the city which is normal..but they worked pretty fast actually and Brickell and Midtown do look fantastic…Also a lot of the locals have been left out and can’t afford what they re seeing in front of them…it s frustrating for them…that s why they complain….But it seems they ll start getting what they want fantastatic locations and designed appartments and great prices…they can can now buy around 10%-20% (if u include inflation) cheaper in finished buildings.

  11. The FDOT plans for an I-395 tunnel or open ditch that Mike refers to will definitely alleviate traffic flow along the I-395, but that may take several years to pan out. The approved and funded port tunnel project will have more of an effect on reducing cargo traffic along Biscayne Blvd than anything else.

    People are going to complain because not everyone is bullish about development (although readers here tend to be) and this project sits on public land in the middle of the bay. The scale, placement, and use of this project is unprecedented.

    The skyline obstruction issue is similar to what New Yorkers complained about when the Pan Am (now Metlife) building was constructed. Today, most NYers will agree that its one of the city’s most iconic buildings. Time tends to iron out differences, but there should be little doubt that IG will partially obstruct views of the skyline. Still, I think the benefits will outweigh the cons.

  12. 12

    Sorry for being a contrarian here but I rather see it as open land to the public and bringing back Casablanca and the fish mongers.

  13. 13

    People always complain “public land this, public land that” well unless something like a stadium is to be constructed there, this is definitley the best way to go. The “public” is getting waterfront space, chic restaurants and city views…What’s not to like? For the life of me I don’t know why uber rich bashing has become so fashionable these days. This has the potential to be a mini monaco, but oh wait, noooo that sucks because that would attract the mega rich and mega rich are mean boo hoo.

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