By Chuck Strouse
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The buyers of the failed Biscayne Landings project in North Miami have a novel idea for the city-owned, 193-acre site just off Biscayne Boulevard near Florida International University: a ski and snow-sports mountain park that would include a 550-foot-tall slope.
Solar Mountain would also include a 163-meter ski jump, ice-skating rinks, a snowboarding half-pipe, gourmet restaurants, an indoor tennis facility, and a 2,700-seat arena. All of it would be powered with solar and wind energy.
Some North Miami residents are skeptical. Two of the new owners have close ties to Mayor Andre Pierre.
Solar Park Management Corp. won the right to develop the site at a recent foreclosure auction. The company's principals include Pierre's former law partner, Marc Douthit, and the mayor's campaign manager, Willis Howard, state incorporation records show.
"I am absolutely not comfortable with this," homeowner David Levin says. "There needs to be a complete, open discussion on who these people are and how they became involved."
Others point out the city is still due $10 million from the former developers — but the city is giving that away in the rush to develop. "It should not be allowed," real estate broker Bruce Gibson says.
The mayor responds that his relationships with Douthit and Howard have no bearing on Biscayne Landings matters. He says he has known Douthit for nearly 13 years. They dissolved their partnership in 2007. Pierre says he took out a $150,000 mortgage with a company owned by Douthit to purchase the office building where the two lawyers had their practice. "I will make sure to protect the interests of North Miami's residents first," he adds.