SEPTEMBER 11, 2014







For the last few months Nitin Motwani, the general partner for the Miami World Center project has been beating the drums about what a great project this development will be for the City of Miami.

At every opportunity Motwani has spoken in glowing terms about how this project will fill the hole in the donut that currently exists as a result of the vacant lots and warehouses that make up most of the area between 6th and 11th street and between NE 2nd Avenue and Miami Avenue, and how this World Center will become a new downtown for Miami.

He never misses an opportunity to talk about how the new Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s will anchor over 750,000 square feet of retail space, and how the project will include over 3000 condo and rental housing units and how it will have 34,000 square feet of open “park space” as well as a link with the All Aboard Train Station that will border the Convention Center and hotel that will also become a part of this deal.

What he has never talked about at any function, whether it be the community outreach presentations or his appearances before the City’s Planning and Zoning Board hearing is how he and his partners want 25 liquor licenses for the areas highlighted in Brown in the illustration below.

Nor has he revealed that he and his partners not only want 25 liquor licenses, but they also want them in a way that will deny the City or the Planning and Zoning Board oversight or approval of how, to whom or where those 25 liquor license get used within their project boundaries.

Additionally, as you can see in the highlighted Blue section, these 25 liquor licenses are in addition to the liquor licenses that will be provided to restaurants “where the sale of liquor licenses is incidental to and in conjunction with the principal sale of food...”

So contrary to what Nitin Motwani would have everyone believe, this World Center project is not going to become a mostly high-end retail and residential mix, but rather with every block being designated as an “entertainment speciality district,” this 4 block area could easily become a raucous, nightclub district bordering the other entertainment district just to the North of it that currently includes Space, The 11ELVEN Club, and several other clubs.

Not only is this a devious backdoor scheme, but worse for everyone involved, starting with the residents of the condos in the area, it excludes the City from any intelligent oversight after the deal is approved by the City Commission this month by turning complete control over to the developers.

I’m wondering how many of those condo owners who showed up at the Planning and Zoning Board meeting would have had a second thought about their effusive praise for this deal had they known about this before they showed up to sing their praises for this deal.

But this isn’t all of the underhanded parts of this deal.  Here’s another.


Much has been made in recent months about the City’s habit of transferring streets and alleys to property owners for a $2 square foot process fee.  Those streets and alleys often have significant economic value, and there have been those folks, including myself, who have argued that given the financial problems that the city has, the taxpayers deserve to receive some benefit for that economic value.

It’s been argued by the members of the City Commission, especially by Commissioner Francis Suarez, that those streets are alleys actually belong to the property owners adjoining the street or alley, and that because of that, what the City has been doing has just been giving back that property to those property owners.

I’m willing to concede that the Commissioner’s argument is correct, but in turn, the Commissioner has to concede that the air rights above city streets are of significant economic value and that these air rights SHOULD NOT be given away, as these developers want them to do.

Here is another section of the World Center Development Deal that reveals that this is what they want the City to do.

Here is Section 55-14 in its entirety, including the part about how to calculate payment for  of air rights.

Sec. 55-14. Encroachments on or in rights-of-way, public easements, private easements or emergency access easements; exceptions.

(a)  No building or any other type of structure shall be permitted on or in any right-of-way, public easement or emergency access easement, except required or approved utility installations, or as may be permitted under the Florida Building Code or chapter 54.

(b)  The city commission, by resolution, may permit an encroachment which does not unduly restrict use of the right-of-way, public easement or emergency access easement area where such encroachment is a necessary essential element in the construction of an otherwise authorized pedestrian and/or vehicular overpass above or underpass below said right-of-way, public easement or emergency access easement area subject to payment of a one time user fee in accordance with subsection (c) here-in-below and to the recording of a covenant to run with the land executed by the property owner in accordance with subsection (d) here-in-below, with the payment by the owner of the requisite user fee including, but not limited to, the preparation and recording of said covenant.

(c)  Calculation of user fee. The user fee shall be calculated as follows:

(1)  Property owner must obtain a certified appraisal for the land value of the two properties from a certified general appraiser approved by the city. The land value per square foot of building shall be determined by dividing the total market value of the land comprising the entire project site by the maximum amount of building square footage that can be constructed by right as permitted by the applicable city zoning ordinance(s).

(2)  The estimated value of the aerial or subterranean rights shall be determined by multiplying the land value per square foot of building determined in subsection (c)(1), by the total square footage of the proposed passageway(s) including multiple levels.

(d)  Covenant to run with the land. The covenant to run with the land (covenant) shall be in a form acceptable to the city attorney. The provisions of the covenant shall include but not be limited to:

(1)  Maintenance of the overpass or underpass by the property owner in accordance with the Florida Building Code and the City Charter and Code.

(2)  Restoration or removal of the encroachment by the property owner within 30 days of written notification by the director of the department of public works to properly maintain, restore, or remove the overpass or underpass, as applicable.

(3)  In the event of failure of the property owner to restore, maintain or remove the overpass or underpass, when notified, the city manager may contract for the restoration or removal of the overpass or underpass, and place a special assessment lien against the owner's abutting private property for the unpaid cost of the restoration or removal. These unpaid costs and expenses incurred by the city or its agents shall constitute, and are hereby imposed as, special assessment liens against the abutting private real property of the owner, and until fully paid and discharged, or barred by law, shall remain liens equal in rank and dignity with liens of city and county ad valorem taxes and superior in rank and dignity to all other liens, encumbrances, titles and claims in, to or against the real property involved. Such fees shall become delinquent if not fully paid within 60 days after their due date. The total outstanding balance of delinquent fees and related charges shall bear an interest charge of one percent per month, on any and all of the outstanding balance of the fees due, and if not fully paid with all accrued interest by the due date will continue to accrue interest at the rate of one percent per month. Unpaid and delinquent fees, together with accrued interest, shall remain and constitute special assessment liens against the private property owner's abutting real property involved which is deriving a benefit under this chapter. Such special assessment liens for the repair, maintenance, removal or restoration costs and interest and costs thereon may be enforced by any of the methods provided in F.S. ch. 85, or in the alternative, foreclosure proceedings may be instituted and prosecuted under the provisions of F.S. ch. 173, or the collection and enforcement of payment thereof may be accomplished by any other method authorized by law. The owner shall pay all costs of collection, including reasonable attorney fees, court costs, and abstracting and related lien expenses imposed by this chapter.

(4)  Provision of an insurance policy, in an amount determined by the city's risk manager, naming the city as an additional insured for public liability and property damage. This insurance shall be in effect as long as the encroachment exists in the right-of-way, public easement or emergency access easement. If the property owner fails to continue to provide the insurance coverage, the city shall have the right to secure a similar insurance policy in its name and place a special assessment lien against the owner's abutting private property as set forth above in subsection (c)(3), for the total cost of the premium.

(5)  The property owner shall hold harmless and indemnify the city, its officials and employees from any claims for damage or loss to property and injury to persons of any nature whatsoever arising out of the use, construction, maintenance or removal of the overpass or underpass and from and against any claims which may arise out of the granting of permission for the encroachment or any activity performed under the terms of the covenant.

(e)  The city manager or designee may permit an encroachment into a private easement, where said encroachment is not a safety hazard, subject to receipt by the city of written consent of the holder(s) of the private easement(s), written releases from all benefited specified individuals or public or private entities, or a certification that no such benefited individuals or public or private entities exist within the easement, recommendations of approval from the departments of police, public works, fire-rescue, general services administration, planning, building and zoning, and an executed hold harmless and indemnification agreement for the benefit of the city in a form acceptable to the city attorney, with the herein exceptions being subject to compliance with all other requirements of law.

(f)  The user fee required under this section shall not apply to governmental entities and agencies, including state, county and city departments or instrumentalities that are exempted from payment of this user fee.

(Ord. No. 9584, § 1, 3-24-83; Ord. No. 10367, § 1, 1-14-88; Ord. No. 10730, § 1, 5-24-90; Ord. No. 11008, § 2, 10-8-92; Code 1980, § 54.5-15; Ord. No. 13060, § 2, 3-12-09)

The value of the air rights that the World Center wants could be worth millions of dollars, and the notion that the World Center developers would walk in the door with the expectation that the members of the Miami City Commission would even contemplate just giving them away for nothing, especially given what happened last night at the first budget hearing where it became a game of robbing Peter to pay Paul, is indicative of just how sleazy the back room deals regarding this whole deal have been.

As for their promise to provide insurance and a hold harmless agreement, that’s already required, so the developers aren’t doing anything other than following the law.  They certainly aren’t giving the City anything of value for these air rights.


Not to be ignored is the portion of the deal that includes a provision that would allow for this project to have its own “Master Sign Package.”  In addition to the kinds of streets signs that you would expect this district to have they also want control over “wall signs,” “tower signs,” and “on-site commercial signs.”

Given that this project is within the boundaries of the SEOPW CRA District where the City’s Master Zoning Code, Miami 21, has a very specific provision about allowing a media tower, (1.35 Definitions, page 45), the inclusion of “tower signs” could very well mean that once again there will be an effort to build a giant media tower on this piece of property.

But the best part of this egregious deal to screw the taxpayers of Miami is that after making all these demands on the City for free air rights, and all these liquor licenses as well as permission to slap giant LED signs all over the place is this little jewel.

These developers want every single thing that they can get from the City, but if it should come to giving back some land - remember that these people have asked for and received permission to close and/or control portions of 3 city streets totaling 90,000 square feet of property - they are very quick to tell the City to go screw.

This is a big project and the developers stand to make wheel barrows full of money from it.  But no matter the size of the project, the City of Miami and its citizens are entitled to a fair shake when it comes to this development deal, and like I said previously, given the action last night at the first budget hearing, and what are sure to be even more arguments and pleas for money at the next budget hearing, the Miami City Commission has to start behaving like they are the representatives of a poor city that places a value on their property, and not as a collection rubber stamp dopes for rich developers who continue to waltz into City Hall with their hands out.

The development can be reviewed in its entirety here.