The Miami City Commission took a major step toward a new city government office building to replace the Miami Riverside Center downtown over strong objections of Commissioner Manolo Reyes.
On a 4-1 vote June 9, the commission selected city-owned property at 1550 NW 37th Ave. for the new building, right next door to the new Miami Freedom Park, soon home to David Beckham and partners’ Major League Soccer stadium and a commercial park.
The site is now the Melreese golf course clubhouse, on land adjacent to Miami International Airport to be remediated and redeveloped by Miami Freedom Park LLC.
The resolution directs City Manager Art Noriega to negotiate an agreement with Lancelot Miami River LLC to develop the city administrative building at the Melreese site.
Mr. Reyes voted no after raising concerns that all the new development will choke surrounding roads with traffic.
He fears Miami Freedom Park alone, with a projected 1 million square feet of commercial development, will clog area streets and affect neighborhoods. Adding a city government office building and hundreds more people traveling to and from the property will make the situation worse, he said.
The long-debated issue led to a shouting match between Mr. Reyes and Commissioner Joe Carollo, and to Mr. Reyes cutting off Mr. Noriega and stating, “I don’t want your opinion.”
Mr. Reyes demanded an independent traffic study for Freedom Park and the new proposal to have the city’s office building there. Mr. Noriega said a traffic study is being done as part of the private developer’s Special Area Plan.
“I’m asking for an independent analysis, not an in-house analysis,” Mr. Reyes said.
“My concern with this is, that area is going to be very highly developed… it’s going to be over 6,000 people that are going to come into that area daily to work… I am concerned about the neighborhood, and surrounding roads and the airport,” Mr. Reyes said.
Mr. Noriega said he believes the traffic impact can be handled, and Mr. Carollo agreed.
“The impacts to the neighborhood are only impacts if you don’t (work to) solve them. We can hypothetically, say you’re adding 1,000 people, but if you build the infrastructure to accommodate it, it actually solves the problem. You can solve the problem,” Mr. Noriega said.
“The airport did it when they redid all the off ramps and all the on ramps off 836. The movement in and out of the airport is now completely isolated from LeJeune (Road). They did a wonderful job. They solved the problem. You can do the same thing here. So, traffic impacts can be mitigated and can be solved without impacting the residential neighborhood,” Mr. Noriega said.
Mr. Reyes also complained there’s been no comprehensive analysis of other city-owned sites for the office building. Mr. Noriega said he’d be “happy to go through that exercise,” but as for the Melreese site, “I just think it’s a really, really, really optimal site.”
Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla said, “I think it’s a good idea. I think it’s a great location for our city administration building. It makes sense.”
Mr. Carollo said, “I don’t see a better location than this location.” He noted a new office building has been debated for years and “we’re at a point where we’ve got to make some decisions.”
Lancelot, an affiliate of Adler Group, has a deal with the city to develop a large private mixed-use development on the city’s riverfront site and adjoining land Adler owns. The deal requires Lancelot to construct the new city office building.