More Pushback Against Casinos in Miami

More pushback against casinos

South Florida Business Journal by Kevin Gale, Editor in Chief

Date: Tuesday, December 20, 2011, 10:10am EST

Miami Herald headquartersMark Freerks

Preservationists are seeking to protect the Miami Herald’s headquarters building.

Kevin Gale
Editor in Chief – South Florida Business Journal
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Resorts World Miami reacted quickly Tuesday to the notion thatThe Miami Herald‘s headquarters building should be preserved rather than torn down for a $3.8 billion destination resort.

“The Miami Herald Building has long been an affront to smart urban planning and does not comply with Miami 21 code, nor with the City’s Charter Amendment, which require 70 percent active uses, 50 foot setbacks from the water with public access, and a 25 percent view corridor from the street,” a statement attributed to Resorts World Miami President Christian Goode said.

An article in the Tuesday edition of the Herald by Andres Viglucci, who has written extensively about architecture, talked about a move by the Dade Heritage Trust to seek protected landmark status for the newspaper’s headquarters building.

That article and another one, about hotel rates, exemplify the myriad of opposition and obstacles to destination gambling resorts in South Florida.

A local section article talks about the Herald HQ’s status as an iconic example of Miami Modern (MiMo), a mid-century architecture that emerged from Miami’s resorts. The related category of mid-century modern architecture includes Fort Lauderdale’s Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six, with its spires and revolving rooftop restaurant. Preservationists were unhappy that another mid-century modern hotel across the street was torn down, partly because of the parabolic roof by its front office.

Viglucci is on target when he talks about how a lot of people don’t appreciate MiMo. However, a lack of appreciation for architectural history isn’t anything unusual in South Florida. A few years ago, I found a 30-year-old article in the then-Miami Business Journal about plans to raze South Beach Art Deco hotels and dredge a bunch of canals.

Whether preservationists will succeed in their goal with the Herald building is debatable, but it’s another headache for Genting Group as it seeks support to build Resorts World Miami. (If you want to read more about the destination resort debate, here are links to a recent debate in Miami and an earlier one in Fort Lauderdale.)

The article said the existing Herald building might be incorporated into a casino, but how do you successfully meld the curvy lines of Arquitectonica‘s plans for a new resort with a boxy building squatting along Biscayne Bay?

Goode’s statement continued to emphasize economic benefits and pluses for the community.

“Any impacts derived from preserving the Herald building are far outweighed by the benefits that a new master-planned development will bring to the Omni neighborhood, including activating the downtown waterfront, employing tens of thousands of Floridians, generating meaningful tax revenue, and adding value to a depressed area,” the statement said. “Efforts to stall this progress show just how far opponents of sensible development will go in putting their interests above what’s best for everyday citizens in the community.”

The statement’s “just how far” comment is indicative of how the debate is heating up.

So, who’s on the Dade Heritage Trust?

The president is Bertram “Chico” Goldsmith, who began his career in downtown Miami working for the Walter Etling Real Estate Co., according to a biography on the website for Informed Families, an organization he has served as chairman. Goldsmith has focused his efforts on managing his family’s real estate holdings.

I didn’t recognize the names of most of the people on the trustee list, except for Matthew Greer, CEO of affordable housing developer Carlisle Development Group, and bankerDwight Hill. The separate advisory group includes banker Adolfo Henriques, who won the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Sand in My Shoes Award; PR specialistLeslie Pantin; famed architect Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk; preservationist Ava Moore Parks; former Coral Gables Mayor Donald Slesnick II; and Bruce Matheson, whose family was among the pioneers in Miami-Dade County.

For Genting, this could be a formidable opposition, even though the Herald article said some board members thought the move on the Herald building was overreaching.

In the other article, an analysis by Strategic Advisory Group shows Miami Beach hotels have dramatically higher rates than Las Vegas hotels.

That fits in with a general concern that a destination gambling resort, with room rates subsidized by a casino, could drive down overall room rates and hurt existing businesses. Genting is planning 5,200 rooms in four towers, so it would be a big player.

“They’re going to destroy the market inventory,” said Stuart Blumberg, who formerly led the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association.

Last week, the Miami Beach City Commission soundly rejected the concept of a gambling resort.

There are other issues Genting and other would-be destination resort developers face. I’ll cover some of them in a year-end look back in Friday’s print edition of the South Florida Business Journal.