Miami already is a tourist “Mecca”. People from all over the world flock to South Florida for its sun and fun and shopping and beaches. Well, now they have another HUGE reason to make the trip down south.

The Miami-Dade County Commission voted 11-1 on to approve American Dream Miami, which would be poised to be the largest mall in North America! It would include amusement park rides and the continent’s first indoor ski slope. The developer is Triple Five Group, who owns the Mall of America in Minnesota.

The American Dream Miami project was approved for 6.2 million square feet of retail and entertainment space plus 2,000 hotel rooms. It is to be set on 194.5-acres at the intersection of I-75 and the Florida Turnpike. The expectations are that the project should attract 30 million visitors a year. Those expectations are more than Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom brings in.

The commission also passed 11-1 a resolution barring American Dream Miami from receiving taxpayer funding from the county. That means no tax breaks, bonds, loans or tax increment financing, however, the developer could still seek state or federal subsidies.

The South Florida Taxpayer Alliance, an organization funded by mall owners Simon Property Group, GGP and Taubman Centers, had attorney Alex Heckler present the commission with an o

bjection to American Dream Miami receiving any taxpayer funding. He noted that Triple Five Group received significant public subsidies for three of its other malls.

Don Ghermezian, a member of the family that owns Triple Five Group, doesn’t want people to think that the American Dream Miami is a mega mall.

“We are not in the mall business,” he said.

Ghermezian said the American Dream Meadowlands project, which is under construction and expected to open in a year in New Jersey, is 75 percent leased with 55 percent of its space entertainment and the rest retail. He mentioned the water park branded by DreamWorks, the amusement park branded by Nickelodeon, and a Cirque du Soleil theater.

Ghermezian said the Miami project would have similar features and improves on what makes the Mall of America successful.

 

“The amusement park is meant to compete with the best parks in the world,” he said. “There are so many things we are doing that are different and unique that are not a mall …. I’m looking to create an entertainment component and retail components that don’t exist in this market today.”

 

Dozens of county residents spoke in favor of American Dream Miami. They explained they were looking forward to having an amusement park for their children nearby, instead of traveling to Orlando.

“Last year, we had 16 million overnight visitors. Orlando had 68 million tourists,” Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss said. “I ask the question: Why? Disney and the theme parks and Universal Studios.”

There is a downside. Many local residents who spoke in opposition to American Dream Miami, cited heavy traffic and the environmental impact. The traffic study said the project would generate 70,308 net new daily vehicle trips.

 

Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava voted against the project because the traffic is not adequately mitigated, it undermines the plan for public transportation, and she wants to focus on creating skilled jobs.

The Triple Five Group has agreed to a series of roadway improvements, including four highway interchanges, that must be completed before the project opens. Attorney Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, who represents the developer, said this would cost about $210 million, and the developer would be responsible for paying. There would be an additional $58 million in impact fees for American Dream Miami. The total project cost would exceed $4 billion.

Broward County officials dropped their opposition to American Dream Miami after the developer pledged to pay the county $650,000 for transportation improvements along Miramar Parkway near Interstate 75 and provide three bus bays at the mall for Broward County Transit. The developer also agreed to run a private shuttle from the mall to Miramar Town Center and a second location in south Broward to be determined later.

Miami-Dade County has estimated that American Dream Miami could generate between 9,000+ to 22,000+ jobs. Diaz de la Portilla thinks the development can create 25,000+ jobs.

Triple Five Group promised to reach out to local businesses and the workforce to build and staff its project. The developer previously signed a deal with the county to provide 35 percent of both its architectural/engineering and construction jobs to local small businesses, and 65 percent of its employment to county residents.

 

“It’s about ensuring citizens of our communities have the opportunity for employment,” said Rick Beasley, executive director of CareerSource South Florida. “We are building pipelines for these particular jobs.”

 

American Dream Miami would have 3.5 million square feet of retail, 1.5 million square feet of entertainment, 1.2 million square feet of back-of-house supporting space, and 2,000 hotel rooms. The maximum height would be 500 feet.

Now that the zoning for American Dream Miami has been approved, the developer must submit a site plan with a more specific plan for how the buildings would look.

Th entertainment features at the project are to include: an indoor ski slope, amusement park rides, Ferris wheel, a submarine that dives into an aquarium with a coral reef, miniature golf, an ice rink, a sports center for competitive games, fishing lake, movie theater and multiple performance venues.

“We look forward to the next step of this comprehensive application process and building an entertainment destination with attractions for families to enjoy and our community to be proud of,” Diaz de la Portilla said.

This is going to be one major project. There may be some negatives in regards to jobs and traffic. Only time will tell. I have a feeling that it will be well worth it. This is going to add to all of what South Florida has to offer.