Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is being warned that he may come to regret favoring David Beckham’s plan to build a $1 billion complex at Melreese Park.
On Sunday, the mayor sent the strongest signal yet that that he would campaign in favor of turning over 73 acres of park to be developed into an office, retail and stadium complex. His public endorsement came just days after the proposal was revealed to him and fellow commissioners.
Moments after Beckham business partner released a rendering of the complex on Twitter, Suarez retweeted the proposal and called it “a beautiful vision” of “true green public space.”
Wow. A beautiful vision! 110 acres of true green public space open and accessible for our neighbors! This will be a vibrant park, entertainment complex, and soccer facility for ALL Miamians. #FutbolMiami https://t.co/3lccXXhy8n
— Mayor Francis Suarez (@FrancisSuarez) July 8, 2018
But critics quickly pounced on the deal, questioning the back-room dealing, paving over of green space, and below market value rent proposed for what will become intensely zoned land.
Eric Zichella, a lobbyist who isn’t involved in the deal, wrote to the mayor that “this is a legacy project you don’t want.”
It’s a bad idea Francis. You shouldn’t do this. They already have a stadium site. Stadiums don’t create economic development. They don’t create cool neighborhoods, especially where there are only 20 games a year. This is a legacy project you don’t want.
— Eric Zichella (@ZichellaEric) July 8, 2018
Others have questioned whether the project site just feet from the end of Miami International Airport’s runway would risk endangering planes, causing the FAA to reject the proposal. The site is also a former toxic waste dump.
As part of the proposal, Beckham is promising a $20 million gift to renovate the remaining half of the park – but the city may already have the funding to rebuild the entire golf course into a park without him. Last week, it emerged that the city still had no plan how to spend $400 million in “Forever Bonds,” including up to $78 million tabbed for parks, which could be used to turn Melreese into a public green space.
Beckham’s team has intentionally kept details of the proposal hidden from the public, only revealing renderings to commissioners in closed door meetings just days ago. They also avoided leaving plans on file with the city to skirt public records laws, and have worked to avoid a competitive bidding process for the land.
According to the Crespogram, one of the lobbyists hired by Beckham is Barbara Hardemon, an aunt of commissioner Keon Hardemon, who will be voting on the deal. The mayor, commissioners, and city manager are also invited to attend a party hosted by Beckham at the Five-Star Setai Hotel tonight.
So far, two commissioners have announced that they are against the deal, including Willie Gort and Manolo Reyes, according to Crespo. Three votes are needed to block it, and commissioner Ken Russell hasn’t announced his decision yet.
this green space would become office and retail under beckham’s plan. photos of melreese from january 2015: