Up until October, developer Jeff Berkowitz's audacious plan for a 1,000-foot tall tower on the bay front had sailed through with scant opposition from politicians or residents. The city commission quickly signed off on the Skyrise plan, and voters gave it a green light in August. But then came news that contrary to Mayor Tomas Regalado's very public promises, Skyrise would be asking for millions in taxpayer support.
That revelation has lead to huge headaches for County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and a big speedbump for Skyrise when the county commission stalled out on a vote last month on $9 million in funding.
Today, Skyrise is back in County Hall, and it's anyone's guess if it will garner enough votes to stay alive.
Update: The County Commission has passed the $9 million in funding.
"We're very optimistic that the plan will be approved today," Brian May, a lobbyist working for Berkowitz, tells Riptide. May says his team will make the same pitch it made on Nov. 5, when the commission split 6-6: That the funding will go to nearby infrastructure.
At least one commissioner remains deadset against the plan, though. Commissioner Xavier Suarez tells Riptide he'll vote against the plan again and will do anything possible to stall out the proposal.
"The residents do not want this thing there," Suarez says. "You have two museums, a performing arts center, a sports arena and a beautiful bay front that is now becoming usable. And you're talking about adding what I've described as inverted toenail clipper in the middle?"
There will be two wild card votes on the commission this time around. New Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava replaces the ousted Lynda Bell, who backed the project in the November vote; Javier Souto, meanwhile, was absent from the last vote but is expected on the dais today.
Berkowitz has pitched the tower as a major attraction for downtown, with a 650-foot drop ride and a 570-foot bungee jump as well as restaurants and an observation tower atop the massive structure. He's also promised improvements to the decaying Bayside Marketplace nearby.
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But doubts remain about his projections that millions of tourists would frequent the site, and anger is strong over what many see as broken promises by the developer and Regalado not to use taxpayer cash on the deal.
Update: The commission passed the deal with just three no votes this time around:
SkyRise Miami $9 million in property-tax borrowing passes with 3 no votes.
— Doug Hanks (@doug_hanks) December 16, 2014