A special Miami City Commissioners meeting Tuesday ended without a final decision on a Miami Freedom Park lease, with consideration now expected to be at least a month away.
Inter Miami CF, which begins MLS play next spring as an expansion team, is proposing Miami Freedom Park, a planned $1 billion redevelopment of the city-owned Melreese Country Club that would include a new soccer-specific stadium and surrounding development. There has been a push among some Miami commissioners to vote on a lease agreement, even though certain elected officials and city staff members contend that an agreement is not ready to be considered.
At a meeting last month, commissioners were to consider two measures relating to the proposal. One was on an agreement for the project, while another vote have would directed the city to cease negotiations with the team, and open the property up for bidding. Those discussions were pushed back to a special meeting Tuesday, which ultimately ended without a firm decision on the proposal.
For now, commissioners are not expected to consider a lease until at least December 12. The outcome of the proposal remains to be seen, as one commissioner who opposes the project will be replaced by the time a lease is considered again, while at least one other commissioner has indicated that Miami Freedom Park will have to meet certain standards to earn his approval. More from the Miami Herald:
At a special meeting Tuesday, Miami commissioners decided they won’t consider a lease until at least December 12, meaning one current commissioner who is critical of the project will no longer be in office. Wifredo “Willy” Gort, whose district includes the golf course at 1802 NW 37th Ave., will not get to vote on it.
Tuesday’s hearing was mostly a rehash of longstanding arguments from opponents and proponents among the commissioners and members of the public who spoke. Some argued against the proposal, saying the referendum that authorized the city to work on the no-bid deal was unclear, so voters didn’t know what they were voting for….
Gort has been a critic of the proposal since it debuted in the summer of 2018, when commissioners decided to hold a referendum to allow voters to decide if the city should skip its normal bidding process and negotiate a deal directly with Mas and his partners. With another commissioner adamantly opposing the deal, Commissioner Manolo Reyes, the lease appeared to have long political odds this year.
Now, the next District 1 commissioner will come into office with what could be a deciding vote on the matter, though other commissioners have shared their own sticking points that could factor into the final vote. Ken Russell, who was re-elected last week and sworn-in to his second four-year term during Tuesday’s meeting, has insisted he would not vote for a contract unless Mas and his partners can replace all of the green space that is redeveloped at Miami Freedom Park. Joe Carollo has long maintained that the city should consider opening up Melreese to any bidder who wants to redevelop, possibly for a golf resort or some sort of commercial center.
Any lease proposal would require approval of at least four of Miami’s five commissioners. Commissioners critical of the proposal had accused Inter Miami CF and supporters within city government of dragging out negotiations, claiming that they tried to stretch discussions beyond November’s election in hopes of eventually putting the proposal before a more favorable commission. Other city officials, however, have contended that any votes would be premature, given the amount of work–including appraisals and various studies–that has to be done before an agreement could be negotiated and presented for commissioner approval.
Inter Miami CF’s plan received a boost last November, when Miami voters approved a referendum that allows the city to negotiate a 99-year lease for the project. The referendum did not finalize plans, however, as Inter Miami CF investors and Miami officials still have to work out the terms of a land lease and eventually have it approved by commissioners.
Inter Miami CF is backed by a group that includes David Beckham, as well as Jorge and Jose Mas and other investors. It will begin play next spring at the stadium in Fort Lauderdale that is being constructed as part of its training academy, starting what is intended to be temporary stay for MLS matches until a new Miami home can be completed.
Rendering courtesy Inter Miami CF.
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