Politics

Miami Taxpayers Could Pay Millions for SkyRise Tower After All

When Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado pitched voters this summer on developer Jeff Berkowitz's eye-opening plan to erect a gigantic paperclip on the bayfront, he repeatedly made a simple promise in ads: "Taxpayers win without putting in a cent."

It remains to be seen if anyone will win with the massive SkyRise Tower, but taxpayers will almost definitely be putting more than a cent into the project. They'll be paying out $9 million in subsidies, in fact, under an agreement that received initial approval yesterday.

See also: SkyRise Miami Passes, but Is It Really Better Than the Downtown Soccer Stadium?

To be fair, the promises of a completely privately funded project came from Regalado, the city mayor, who teamed up with Berkowitz for a series of Spanish-language ads a few weeks before voters considered the SkyRise referendum this summer.

The ads, which were also notable for never mentioning SkyRise by name, pitched voters on "an important question: [whether to] improve the Bayside mall with private funds and [to] construct a new building."

Audio: Friends of Bayside Radio Ad

Yesterday, it was County Mayor Carlos Gimenez -- not Regalado -- who shepherded a $30 million package in development subsidies through a committee.

But the effect to taxpayers is the same; rather than not putting in "a cent," they'll be handing Berkowitz $9 million in subsidies taken from property taxes. What's more, Berkowitz and his team actually put in their request (for $15 million) back in February; they didn't publicize the request until now, the Miami Herald reports, because they wanted to wait until after voters approved the deal in the August vote.

The same vote, mind you, in which Regalado assured them that backing SkyRise wouldn't cost them anything.

The subsidy package still faces a vote by the full county commission.

Riptide has requested comment from Regalado. We'll update this post when we hear back.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink