Miami-Dade County Aims to Redevelop 400 Acres Near Zoo Miami

Miami-Dade County Aims to Redevelop 400 Acres Near Zoo Miami

Commercial News » North America Commercial News Edition | By Hortense Leon | January 8, 2013 8:30 AM ET

Last month, the Miami-Dade County Department of Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces put out an invitation to negotiate (ITN) in order to attract developers--internationally and locally, and those in the public and private sectors-- who want to develop a multi-attraction entertainment destination to compete with Central Florida's mega-theme parks. In short, the department is putting Orlando on notice that Miami-Dade can also be a contender, when it comes to glitzy amusement parks.

The 400 acres of land that are slated for the project are adjacent to Zoo Miami and the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Southwest Miami-Dade. The zoo, formerly known as the Miami Metro Zoo, is home to more than 2,000 animals and attracts more than 810,000 visitors a year. The proposed entertainment area is envisioned as a collection of various attractions, according to by Miami-Dade County

Invitations to negotiate (ITN) and requests for proposals (RFP), as solicitations for development, can be used interchangeable, says Jack Kardys, director of the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department. However, an RFP assumes that the project sponsors know exactly what project and pricing responses are likely, and negotiations are easily resolved between comparable responses, he says. ITNs, on the other hand, acknowledges that the sponsors either do not know exactly what they want, or remain open to varying proposals from the industry, responses may not be easily compared, and extensive negotiations may be involved, says Kardys.

The 400 acres that Miami-Dade County wants to develop, including the existing Zoo Miami, has been named the Zoo Miami Entertainment Area (ZMEA). The county is vigorously pursuing the project, or group of projects, with the primary goal of spurring economic development and job creation for residents, according to a press release put out at the time of the ITN. The project also has the goals of increasing the number of tourists that come to the area, increasing the amount of time visitors spend there and increasing income for Zoo Miami, the release said.

No bond issue will be required to develop the ZMEA, says Kardys. "In fact, the turn-key project will largely require private funding," he says. But the ITN allows for developers to include provisions for limited public funding. Responses to the ITN are due by April 2014.

Proposed developments can be any combination of attractions--amusements, hotels, conference centers, restaurants, specially-themed retail venues and banquet halls.

"Jobs are the key to building to building a healthy and vibrant community and the generation of jobs for our residents is what makes this project especially appealing to me and the district I serve and it is why I am championing it," says Dennis C. Moss, the Miami-Dade County commissioner representing the area. "We have an opportunity to create our version of Universal Studios Orlando," he says. Commissioner Moss chairs the Zoo Oversight Board that oversees Zoo Miami.

Approximately 118 acres of the ZMEA are located on county land within Zoo Miami and Gold Coast Railroad Museum Park properties. The remaining approximately 279 acres are located within the adjacent US Coast Guard base, 39 acres of which are already owned by the county.

Proposals that target Coast Guard lands will require a relocation plan as part of their development proposal and will likely require assistance from the county to find suitable space to relocate administrative and communication functions, according to the Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department. Ground-breaking for the project is expected some time in 2015.

The county has discussed relocation with the Coast Guard for several years, according to Kardys. Officials of the Coast Guard have said that they would rather remain on the property, but if the county can find a functional replacement property that meets their needs, they said they would consider relocating, says Kardys.

The county believes that the land now occupied by the Coast Guard could be put to better use, from the standpoint of economic benefit, than the way it is currently being used, says Kardys. The future land use of the property has been amended by the county, with the state of Florida's approval, he says.

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