Within a few years, South Florida could be home to the largest indoor amusement park-mall in the country, bringing traffic, jobs and more people each year than Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
The planned American Dream Miami indoor theme park, resort and mall and a proposed housing-office park next to it are expected to add tens of thousands more cars to the roads, some of which already are strained, planning documents say.
More than 70,000 car trips per day would come and go from the mega-mall, with more than 30 million visitors per year, estimates show. Magic Kingdom at Disney World, the world’s busiest amusement park, drew 20.4 million visitors in 2015, the most recent year available, the Orlando Sentinel reported in May.
The complex is proposed in an unincorporated wedge of northwest Miami-Dade County, immediately north of the city of Hialeah, and just south of the city of Miramar in Broward County.
The tourist complex could house an indoor ski slope, water park, movie complex and hotels. The same group, developer Triple Five, is building an American Dream theme park-mall in New Jersey, and owns the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., and the West Edmonton Mall in Canada.
The proposal has won initial support in Miami-Dade County, where its fate ultimately rests. But analysis of issues like traffic and how it will be dealt with are still under way. Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Esteban Bovo Jr. cautioned that gridlock is “coming to roost’’ in South Florida “in a way that we don’t want to happen."
Two large developments are making their way to Miami-Dade County, just miles from Broward county. American Dream Miami amusment park, mall and resort is slated to be the largest of its kind in the country. The Graham Project will include 2,000 apartments and a 3 million-square-foot business park. (SOURCE: South Florida Regional Planning Council, maps4news) “One of the things that jumps out at me today is that despite the potential of being able to produce jobs, the traffic situation for many of our residents has gotten to the point that they’re willing to forego the investment and the potential for job creation,’’ Bovo said. “And that, my colleagues, should be screaming at us more and more, the need to do something about transportation."
Hialeah Gardens Mayor Yioset De La Cruz took a different approach.
“Traffic is an issue, there’s no doubt. It’s always an issue,’’ he said. “Traffic is an issue in Orlando, with the Disney parks. But I guarantee you, Orlando is better off today with those parks than they were before. Traffic is an issue in Sunrise, with Sawgrass Mills mall. But I guarantee you, they want to keep that mall because of the benefits that it brings to their city."
The main routes to the proposed mega-development, Interstate 75 and Florida’s Turnpike, “run through our city,’’ Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam said at the Miami-Dade meeting, where the project won a key approval. Workers for the super-mall may very well live in Miramar, a few miles away. He said the proper “transportation system’’ is critical.
Vacant land in the region is scarce, but the site between the Florida Turnpike’s Homestead extension and Interstate 75, a few miles south of the Broward County line, offers a blank slate of 514 acres.
“This is one of the mother of all projects going on right now that you’re probably not going to see again in Broward and Miami-Dade counties,’’ Mark Woerner, Miami-Dade’s planning chief, said.
Here’s what’s proposed:
- AMERICAN DREAM MIAMI: The developer proposes 6.2 million square feet of development, including 3.5 million square feet of retail, 1.5 million square feet of entertainment, 1.2 million square feet of common area and 2,000 hotel rooms. The 175-acre, $4 billion project would be built in one phase, as soon as possible. The developer says it could be complete by 2020. It is expected to attract 30,000 visitors a day and to add 70,308 car trips to and from the site a day. It would provide an estimated 14,500 jobs.
- THE GRAHAM COMPANIES: Directly to the south of American Dream, developers from the Miami-Lakes-based Graham Cos. propose 3 million square feet of office space, 1 million square feet of commercial retail, and 2,000 apartments. The 339-acre, $1.1 billion project would be built over two decades, complete by 2040. It would provide 9,955 full-time jobs and add 10,310 car trips to and from by 2020. That is expected to triple to 61,217 by 2040, according to a March 2016 analysis.
Don Ghermezian, part of the family-owned Triple Five team, rejected the “mall’’ label. Ghermezian told Miami-Dade commissioners at a Jan. 25 hearing that he has nine kids, and they’re always glued to electronics. He said he envisions a complex where even the stores are entertainment centers for children, a place where they can put the iPhones down.
“I’ve heard the words mall a couple of times. We’re not a mall developer,’’ Ghermezian said. “To tell you the truth, I loathe malls. … The 3.5 million square feet of retail that’s in there, a great majority is what I call ‘retail-tainment.’ ”
His father, Eskandar Ghermezian, said worries about traffic are misguided, given the changes he sees coming.
“Twenty years from now - write it down, please — the traffic will be less than what we have today,’’ he said to Miami-Dade commissioners. “People are going to work from the house. They’re not going to the office. … All this traffic 20 years from now will be zero."
Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a former state senator who is a lawyer-lobbyist for American Dream Miami, said the two projects would generate tens of thousands of construction jobs and full-time permanent posts.
“This is about jobs,’’ he said. “This is about economic development."
Broward officials said they want to take a closer look at how the enormous development would affect mass transit and roadways.
Nonprofit envisions casino resort complex dubbed 'Downtown West' for Broward A special meeting of the South Florida Regional Planning Council will be held Friday to go over the concerns. The council will vote on whether to recommend what the developers are seeking: changes to the land use plan, which currently limit the land to industrial and business development and wouldn’t allow the super-mall that’s envisioned. The projects will be reviewed by the state, then will return for final votes in Miami-Dade County in April or May, officials predicted.
Concerned officials in Broward County have little say in how the American Dream Miami indoor theme park and mall is developed, nor will they receive property taxes from the project. Still, Jerry Bell, designated to replace the retiring Woerner as planning chief for Miami-Dade County, said the developers “will be required to address demonstrated traffic impacts, including impacts from the project in Broward County,’’ as part of the approval process.
De la Portilla said the developer produced a traffic study that’s 5,000 pages long. Potential improvements are still under review.
IF YOU GO
The special meeting will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, March 10, at the South Florida Regional Planning Council, 3440 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 140. Public comment is allowed. View the project documents at www.miamidade.gov/planning. Click on “CDMP,’’ then “Amendment cycles,’’ and select “May 2016.’’ The applications were numbers five and six.
by Brittany Wallman