4

Developer Wants To Build Massive LED Advertising Tower in Overtown

^
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

For months, Miami Beach developer Michael Simkins has been buying up properties around Overtown, tearing down apartment buildings and — in some cases — sparking resident's fury to the point that his construction equipment was set on fire earlier this year. But Simkins' exact plans for those sites hasn't been clear. 

Until now. Turns out Simkins wants to use the land in Miami's historically black neighborhood to build a 633-foot "media tower" covered with gigantic LED billboards. Neighborhood preservationists and activists are already crying foul over the plans.

"It's one of the worst projects ever proposed in Miami-Dade County," says Peter Ehrlich, founder of Scenic Miami, a group formed in part to fight gigantic advertising projects. "This is the worst-case scenario we've ever envisioned since we were founded."

The project details, which the Miami Herald discovered in documents filed with the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency, describe a twisting, ribbon-like tower taller than Seattle's Space needle — and roughly the same height as the St. Louis Arch — with huge LED ads with nearly 85,000 combined square feet of surface area.
Ehrlich estimates that the signs would be visible from miles away. More germane to the project, they'll be impossible to ignore for the tens of thousands of commuters every day on both I-95 and 836. "The proposed LED billboard tower might be visible from 25-30 miles away," he says. "If built, this LED billboard tower would be most visually ugly structure in the State of Florida."

Simkins, who hasn't returned an email from New Times seeking comment on the project, has already run into controversy in Overtown, where his Lion Financial Group has bought at least ten properties. In February, someone set one of his equipment on fire outside an apartment building he'd just demolished. Simkins said the building was dilapidated, but Edduard Prince, a community activist, said residents were fed up with the pending development changing the neighborhood.

"The community is completely frustrated, and the frustration is growing," Prince told New Times.

Now, Simkins will have another fight on his hands. Ehrlich's group and other activists have long fought attempts to build electronic ads in Miami. The city's code forbids such billboards, but it does have a loophole allowing "media towers" such as Simkins' proposal; however a similar County code outright forbids all such advertising, including media towers.

A fight over the codes last erupted when another developer wanted to build a huge advertising tower near the Adrienne Arsht Center,  a plan that was later abandoned. 

Erlich says he anticipates a similar fight brewing over Simkins tower — and notes that Simkins' agreement with the CRA even promises to pay for any legal fees stemming from suits filed against the group. "Billboards and LED billboards are illegal under the City of Miami Sign Code," Ehrlich says. "Yes, there was a loophole for a visual pollution tower inserted in the Code a decade ago but it does not supersede the sign code of Miami-Dade County." 

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.