Developer Jeff Berkowitz's plan to build an enormous observation tower in downtown Miami passed at the polls Tuesday, but its effect on downtown remains to be seen.
The few voters who showed up to cast ballots in the city yesterday approved the $400 million, 1,000-foot tower by a two-to-one margin. It will also likely include a Tower of Terror-like ride when finished around 2018. Berkowitz will now have to pay the city $1 million upfront. General Growth Properties, which owns Bayside Marketplace, must also invest $27 million in upgrades to the shopping center, and its lease will be extended.
"Up, up and away," said Berkowitz, who, along with Bayside developers, spent $300,000 to sell voters on the idea.
But questions abound. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, who deep-sixed a plan to build a soccer stadium on land near to the tower, was an advocate and even shot an advertisement in favor of the SkyRise proposal.
Regalado and the city never bothered to explore the amount of money they might have made from the soccer stadium before denying it a little-used boat slip. And there is no question that a David Beckham-backed Major League Soccer franchise -- now in jeopardy -- would have burnished the city's reputation.
The difference here is that Berkowitz is a known player -- both in the City of Miami and at county hall. He had the idea of Dadeland Station in 1996, a then-radical multilevel shopping center that combined parking and big-box stores adjacent to Metrorail.
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Probably more than anyone else, though, he is responsible for the retail mess that is Kendall. He piloted construction of at least six huge shopping centers on North Kendall Drive.
Could that kind of congestion and overpopulation be on its way to the city's center?
So forget about soccer. Keep an eye on SkyRise Miami and Bayside. The game is just beginning downtown.