American Dreams Megamall Clears First Hurdle in County Commission

Though many residents remain skeptical, the Miami-Dade County Commission overwhelming welcomed the plan to build North America's largest mall complex in Northeast Miami-Dade. The commission took its first official vote on a land deal at today's meeting and approved it in a 10-2 vote. 

Triple Five, the developers behind the plan and owners of America's current largest mall, the Mall of The Americas in Minnesota, need to assemble a 200-acre parcel of land near the intersection of the Turnpike and I-75 to build the project, currently dubbed American Dreams Miami. Some of that land is state owned, and the county has the right of first refusal to that land. So the ordinance [link to PDF], authored by Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz (who represents the area), would allow the county to take $12.3 million of Triple Five's money and buy the 82 acres of land for the developer.

However, there's one other hitch. The Miami-Dade County School Board currently has a lease on about 44.5 acres of that land. The ordinance would allow the county to use another $7.25 million of Triple Five's money to buy out the School Board's lease. The School Board must also approve the deal, and is expected to according to the Miami Herald

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez originally negotiated the deal with Triple Five and urged the commission to approve it. No public money would be used in the deal. 

The mall's plans are ambitious. Not only would it provide massive amounts of traditional retail space, but it would also feature an amusement park, fake ski slope and coral reef, Art Deco village, sea lion shows, giant ferris wheel, ice ballet shows, and other tourist-friendly attractions. The plans have been met by many with awe, but not everyone is on board. 

School Board member Raquel Regalado, whose political ambitions are about as large as Triple Five's retail ambitions, announced that Gimenez's support of the mall was the final straw, and that she would run for county mayor against him in 2016. A petition protesting the mall has also been circulated but hasn't received much support.

Supporters point to the claim that the mall would bring 25,000 new jobs to Miami-Dade, but others have pointed that many of those would be low paying.

Commissioners Daniella Levine-Cava and Xavier Suarez were the only dissenting votes.

In other news out of the County Commission, they voted down a plan to charge fares for the Metromover.  

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kyle Munzenrieder