City of Miami Looks Ready to Gamble Again on Jungle Island UPDATE
photo by Ben Lunsford via Wikimedia Commons
The City of Miami looks ready to give Jungle Island another chance.
The city has prepared an offer for the beleaguered amusement park, which recently admitted it was about to default on a loan, that could extend its lease and give the park more land on Watson Island.
But before the park agrees to repay its remaining $15 million loan balance, voters would have to approve a plan to give the park more property and a new 99-year lease.
UPDATE: Jungle Island has sent a letter to the City of Miami rejecting the terms offered. Click through for the full letter from the park.
The term sheet for the debt restructuring, which is posted in full on the Cresprogram Report, notes that "due to numerous economic factors and conditions, the parties recognize that the debt... needs to be restructured."
A Miami city spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on the potential deal.
Brian May, a consultant for Jungle Island, writes in an email that he cannot comment specifically on the negotiations but that Jungle Island is "diligently working to arrive at a viable solution."
Either way, the city and Jungle Island Group must approve the terms in the deal by Thursday, when the commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. The Miami-Dade County Commission, meanwhile, must give its seal by Sept. 30. Then, voters would have to OK the lease modification November 6.
If everything pans out, Jungle Island would receive its lease extension and more land, and the city would get the $15 million it owes for a loan from the U.S. Department of Urban Housing and Development (HUD).
"That payment would be made as a first order of business once the agreement is approved by the voters in November and by the state of Florida cabinet," May says.
In addition to the $15 million owed to the city, Jungle Island would also be required to pay roughly $2 million on a federal loan payment owed to HUD by August 1. Asked how Jungle Island would come up with that $2 million, May writes that "the answer to that question is part of the ongoing negotiations with the city of Miami, and consequently, we are unable to answer."
For Jungle Island, the deal would let the owners find new investors willing to expand the property and, in theory, to bring in more profits. That would, as noted in the term sheet, include "a hotel, enhanced retail, additional attractions, and requisite parking in order to operate an economically viable enterprise."
As park owner Bern Levine told the Miami Herald, an outside investor would be needed to help with loan payments as long as the city agreed to extend the park's lease and allow for property expansion. At the time, Miami city officials balked at Jungle Island's desire for a new lease and land, as well as a plea to forgive the debt. As Mayor Tomas Regalado told the Herald: "What they're asking is impossible."
If the deal goes through, it won't be the first time the city has helped out Jungle Island. The park, founded in 1936 in Pinecrest, moved to Watson Island with a new 60-year lease in 2003 with the help of a $25 million loan obtained by the city and county from HUD.
Since the relocation, the park has struggled to attract visitors, forcing the city to prop it up with more loans over the past ten years. If Jungle Island had defaulted on its federal loan, the city would have been on the hook for roughly 80 percent of the $15 million balance. The city hopes now that the park can make good on the agreement to pay what it owes.
Read the whole proposed contract here:
UPDATE: Jungle Island has told the city thanks but no thanks, rejecting the offers in the term sheet. In a letter addressed to Mayor Regalado and the City Commissioners, the park says, "We are unable to agree to on the City's proposed term sheet, as it contains a number of provisions that prevent us from ensuring we can pay off the HUD loan, while also ensuring the financial viability of Jungle Island." Though the letter states that Jungle Island is "committed to working with the City toward terms that are financially viable for all involved," the park did not put forth any new plans or terms.
Read the full letter here:
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