Miami Freedom Park vision inches forward


Inter Miami update June 2020 Image: Inter Miami CF

A Special Area Plan (SAP) application has been submitted by the developers of Miami Freedom Park (MFP) in US, the mixed-use site that is supposed to be the permanent home facility of Major League Soccer (MLS) club Inter Miami. The developers claim that it is an important milestone in bringing the project to fruition. However, the lease on the property is still pending City approval.

The developer has yet to secure nod from four of the five City Commissioners to finalize the lease.

Miami Freedom Park LLC aims to lease and develop 131 acres at Melreese, a golf club just east of Miami International Airport. In 2018, 60 percent of Miami voters approved a ballot initiative allowing the Major League Soccer expansion franchise to move forward with a no-bid, 99-year lease on the property.

Miami Freedom Park LLC has filed the Special Area Plan application as they want to break ground at the earliest possible.

Miami Freedom Park is a proposed 25,000 seat soccer-specific stadium which will come up with its added attractions – retail shops, 750 hotel rooms, restaurants, and a training center to be built in Miami, Florida, US, for Inter Miami CF. It will also enjoy 400,000 square feet of offices for a potential tech hub, and 600,000 square feet of commercial space. The commercial development would take place on 20.9 acres of the site, which is the part the Special Area Plan application covers.

As part of the proposed deal, Miami Freedom Park would perform environmental remediation at no cost to the City on the 131-acre site and build a 58-acre public park with a one-mile walking loop and a one-mile bicycle path. A 128,000-square-foot pedestrian promenade lined with shops and restaurants would greet the people and lead them up to the stadium. There would also be elevated soccer and football fields, with parking beneath them. There would be 5,400 parking spaces.

Inter Miami CF is an American professional soccer club based in the Miami metropolitan area. The team began play in MLS in the 2020 season at Inter Miami CF Stadium, the site of the former Lockhart Stadium in Florida, US.

To translate into reality the Miami Freedom Park, the rezoning of 20.9 acres of the total 131 acres of the Melreese site for the project is needed. In a referendum held in November 2018, 60 percent of Miami voters supported the development.

The Special Area Plan application for the $1bn (£796.8m/€889.9m) complex will facilitate developers to gain greater development capacity in lieu for public benefits on certain land holdings.

Media reports stated that the Special Area Plan does not change the tone of the initial vision for MFP, but rather stresses on the point as to how dramatically the project would alter the existing park and the surrounding neighborhood, potentially leading to opposition.

Media reports further stated that the City of Miami and Inter Miami are co-applicants on the Special Area Plan as Melreese, currently a golf course, is owned by the City. The two parties are negotiating the terms of a lease deal, a successful vote on which is not at all certain.

Jorge Mas, Managing Owner of Inter Miami, said in a statement, “With the goal of following through on the will of Miami voters, we are submitting the Miami Freedom Park zoning application so it can be reviewed as we continue to advance lease agreement negotiations.”

Mas added, “This parallel path will allow us to more quickly bring the creation of one of the City’s largest public parks, the future home stadium of our MLS team, more than 15,000 jobs, and contributions of $42.7m in annual tax revenue, all at no cost to City taxpayers.”

The inaugural season of Inter Miami was launched earlier this year with two away games before MLS suspended its season due to the COVID-19 outbreak globally which completely threw the sporting calendar out of gear. The club will restart its season in the closed-door ‘MLS is Back Tournament’ at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando on July 8, before resuming games at its temporary facility, Inter Miami CF Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, when the coronavirus dust settles. Inter Miami recently completed a stadium in Fort Lauderdale.

The team, which is co-owned by soccer giant David Beckham, said Fort Lauderdale will be its temporary home before moving to the larger stadium in Miami. It plans to use the Fort Lauderdale facility for training and United Soccer League (USL) games once the Miami stadium is completed.

In October last year, MLS Commissioner Don Garber crossed swords with Miami authorities over the entire process surrounding the delivery of the permanent stadium. Garber spoke out amid ongoing unease over securing a stadium for a franchise that was initially formed in 2014, before being ratified in January 2018.

Special Area Plan highlights

  • Improved walkability with a one-mile wellness loop, a one-mile bike path and signalized crosswalks for better connectivity to the surrounding neighborhood;
  • 131 acres of environmental remediation at no cost to the City;
  • Contribution of $42.7M in annual tax revenue and $3.5M annual lease payments to the City of Miami; and
  • Creation of more than 15,000 jobs.

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