Genting‘s 300 room hotel, planned to be built over the Miami Omni bus terminal with access to the Adrienne Arsht Center Metromover station was unanimously approved by the Miami-Dade County Commission on Tuesday. The transportation committee approved the plan on March 16. During Tuesday’s hearing, a side debate arose focused on the assumption that the gambling giant, through Resorts World Miami LLC, is planning to eventually develop a casino at the site.
The Miami Herald reports that Commissioner Joe Martinez said, “I am willing to live with a casino there because it is coming.”
The ninety-year lease includes air rights over the property where a 36 story hotel is envisioned. The deal includes improvements to other local mass transit and other systems such as a $16 million upgrade for a nearby bus stop that will include an air-conditioned shelter.
Upgrades and redesigns slated for the Metromover station include replacing of stairs, escalators, elevators, surveillance systems, and flooring along with improved pedestrian access and improved views from within.
The infrastructure, including a total of $22 million in improvements will continue to be owned by Miami-Dade. Genting will also turn over a side street it currently controls. Genting will need to make $100,000 per year lease payments while construction is underway and a cash payment to Miami-Dade of $10 million. Ongoing revenues to Miami-Dade include whichever is greater of 50% on gross revenues from retail or $300,000 per year.
The development land includes seven parcels which when counted together equal less than one acre.
The deal allows for significant investment in the transit infrastructure at no cost to Miami-Dade. All revenue will accrue to Transportation and Public Works.
Genting also own about 30 acres of adjacent land including the former Miami Herald building on the waterfront. Genting purchased the property earlier for $236 million as well as the Omni retail and hotel complex which sold for $185 million.
The Malaysian conglomerate originally planned to build a 5,000 hotel-casino on the waterfront but lawmakers have been cold to the idea of expanded gambling in the state. Powerful interests such as the Seminole Tribe, who could provide Florida with up to $7 billion if their compact is renewed have stood in the developer’s way, as have some so-called grass roots organizations flying the Disney flag that say the state will suffer from expanded gambling.
Genting has also proposed bringing machine gambling to the Omni site under current law but those efforts have met with defeat so far.
Some commissioners seemed leery of Genting’s intent and at least one attempted to write more county control into the agreement before coming on board for the unanimous approval.
Genting counsel explained to the commissioners that in order for a casino to be installed above the bus terminal, Genting would need a change in existing state law, local approval for gambling expansion, and permission from the city of Miami to change zoning to allow card games or slots. As Miami-Dade will remain as owner of the property under Genting’s 90-year lease, County approval would be needed as any zoning request submitted to Miami would need to be endorsed by Miami-Dade.