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MIAMI, FL) — Last month (December 7th, 2011), the Port of Miami held a press conference to unveil the port’s “Vision 2035” master plan for the redevelopment of ‘Port Miami’ over the next three decades.
During the press conference presentation, Port of Miami Director Bill Johnson (who has been widely applauded by me and many others for doing a great job running the port since his appointment in 2006) passionately stated, “We are sometimes controversial, and we know that. But, we are also always looking for fresh ideas to improve the port. This new master plan unveiled today is very fluid and subject to change…think of it as a road map of sorts.”
Port Miami “Vision 2035” Overview
His comments, combined with conversations with several others over the last few months, got me thinking of a radical and ‘outside-the-box’ idea that could set up the entire South Florida region to become the Hong Kong or Singapore of the western hemisphere in the 21st century globally connected economy.
Simply put, create significant economic value and long-term job creation by swapping the concentrated port assets and industry focus of both Dade and Broward counties of Florida, by merging them into a new ‘super-regional’ county.
Imagine if the two counties were to merge and took the following actions:
1. Place all the current and future container cargo of Miami’s port into Port Everglades.
2. Concentrate and place all cruise ships of both ports in Miami’s port.
3. Redevelop Dodge Island into a world-class convention center destination site by utilizing the remaining 400+ acres left on Dodge island (after the massive container port area is moved to Port Everglades) for supporting hotels, retails, office and luxury condo buildings.
4. Co-locate all 3 newly proposed, multi-billion dollar mega-casinos on Dodge Island, thereby isolating them on a single island away from downtown Miami, South Beach or elsewhere.
…why you ask?
Let’s begin by looking at the mega-issues (and opportunities) that South Florida deals with today.
First, South Florida has above-normal employment rates (hovering around 3% above national average), very high property taxes and continual lack of proper funding for schools, police and fire services, etc…
Second, South Florida is now grappling with the issue of establishing the three proposed destination casino gambling locations in South Florida (2 in Miami, 1 in Ft. Lauderdale). If two newly proposed Florida bills – SB 710, sponsored by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, and HB 487, sponsored by Rep. Erik Fresen are passed, these 3 mega-casinos are coming. These two bills would also create a gaming commission to oversee all sanctioned legal gambling in the state.
Third, Port Miami is currently investing in new infrastructure such as the new 4-lane underwater causeway and deep dredge to handle the doubling of container cargo over the next decade alone, which is predicted to create 30,000 new jobs for the local economy. These expansions will handle the much bigger Post-Panamax ships arriving in Miami once the Panama Canal expansion is completed in late-2014.
Fourth, Cuba undoubtedly will become a major tourism, convention and destination casino competitor to Florida when the US and Cuba have normalized relations one day. Havana was Las Vegas before Las Vegas, and it will be again when US trade embargoes are lifted once there is a political change in Cuba.
By merging Dade and Broward counties, an elegant solution emerges to address these four prominent issues and others, and BOTH counties (as a new super-regional entity) will feel the economic benefits of this new structure.
According to internationally acclaimed architectural firm HHCP (who designed the master plan of the famous Dubai Palm Jumeirah project for Nakheel), the total combined value of all new development on both Miami’s Dodge Island and Ft. Lauderdale’s Port Everglades over a 7-10 year period could be in the $50 to $100 billion range.
Resorts World Miami Overview
Translation: hundreds of thousands of new and permanent jobs for the local economy, and a tidal wave of new tax revenues to the coffers of this new super-county.
New property, resort and sales taxes generated annually from these two mega-project redevelopments could deliver multi-billions in tax revenues alone. Therefore, the potential exists for every local citizen to enjoy lower property taxes, better schools, recreational facilities, parks, police, fire and medical services—all subsidized by these newly found tax revenues.
Redeveloping Dodge Island also benefits the region by virtue of the placement of a world-class two to three million sq. ft convention center, equipped to handle the larger national and international conventions that Miami Beach’s much smaller convention facility can’t handle.
Miami is probably the largest underserved US city as a locale for bigger conventions that typically opt for convention centers at Orlando or Las Vegas destinations. A new world-class convention complex on Dodge Island could almost double Miami’s tourism industry in a few years alone by attracting the mega-conventions we miss out on today, with some events attracting over 100,000+ attendees each.
Bottom-line, a new mega-convention center would be a complimentor, not a competitor– to Miami Beach’s current facility because they are chasing different segments of the market.
In addition, the new 4-lane underwater causeway currently being built off the 395 Causeway could easily be repurposed to offer a direct highway connection between Miami International Airport to Dodge Island for convention attendees, thereby having minimal impact on Miami’s overall traffic congestion.
On the casino side of the equation, the idea of isolating them onto the island also removes any land speculation around currently proposed sites–such as Genting Group’s recent acquisition of the Miami Herald site. The county could do a land-swap with Genting to place their proposed new $3.8 billion casino on the island as well.
By placing the three casinos on the island, you also save the entire region’s smaller businesses and retailers who have voiced concerns about the Miami Herald site. If the casinos are on the island, then local retailers have no siphoning away of consumer foot traffic and customers caused by a bigger casino being built right next door.
Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale
The reasoning behind shifting the port of Miami’s container business to Port Everglades is twofold.
One, it frees up over 400+ acres of the most underutilized and valuable real estate in North America for redevelopment towards much higher purposes including a convention complex, hotels, casinos, retail, office and luxury condo towers. This ‘Mini-Manhattan Island in Miami”, if you will, could create hundreds of thousands of new jobs (directly and indirectly) and billions of dollars in new super-regional tax revenues.
Second, Port Everglades today already has the 595 Expressway’s inter-modal infrastructure in place to handle the increased container truck cargo throughput caused from the coming Panama Canal expansion, which is over 6 lanes wide and offers direct access to both I-95 and the Turnpike before terminating at Port Everglades. Same with rail services.
Port Everglades Container Staging Area
In addition, the current depth of Port Everglades does not require dredging to accommodate the new larger container ships, as it already receives US aircraft carriers coming in for the annual Fleet Week. If the port can accommodate aircraft carriers, it certainly can accommodate larger container ships.
Port Everglades development also offers opportunities for much more land to expand the container staging and storage areas, and the ability to create significantly more ship berths beyond current capacity by notching land around Port everglades, thereby guaranteeing more future capacity when needed in the years following the completion of the Panama canal expansion in late-2014.
The Cost Savings Component
Besides these highlighted massive tax revenue expansion opportunities for this new Dade-Broward super region, another compelling component of this idea results in hundreds of millions of dollars in cost saving by not replicating services across two separate counties as they are situated today.
Under a new Dade-Broward regional government superstructure, the economic efficiencies gained by such a merger would translate into very significant cost saving for the entire super-region.
Not a Totally New Idea Per Se
Over the last three decades over a half dozen groups have proposed moving Miami’s port south to the Homestead area to allow for redevelop of Dodge Island as well. Miami’s port has already been relocated twice before in its 70+ year history.
The most recent group proposing this Port of Miami redevelopment idea is Brad Parker of Parker Consulting International in Orlando.
Parker, a venture capital advisor and developer’s consultant told World Property Channel that he recently proposed this Port of Miami redevelopment idea directly to Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Jack Osterholt in Miami on December 21, 2011.
According to Parker, no one has ever proposed to Miami Dade County to build the county a world-class convention center in turn for the balance of the development rights from Dodge Island. Parker has offered on behalf of an investment fund to build the county a four million square foot convention center in exchange for the development rights on the remaining balance of Dodge Island’s three hundred and twenty-eight acres. Parker has stated the cruise industry would be a vibrant and expanded part of his proposal. The economic impact in the re-development of the port would far outweigh the moving of the freight business elsewhere and more importantly would make the large populous within Miami more secure.
The new twist I (Michael Gerrity, founder & CEO of World Property Channel) offer and suggest to you herein is not to go South with a new port in Homestead, but to merge Dade and Broward counties into a single super-county in order to swap port assets and industry focuses that will then allow for the redevelopment of Dodge Island in order to meet the needs of South Florida’s under-served convention, tourism and potential gaming industries for the next 50+ years.
What Would It Take To Become a Reality?
In a nutshell, an act of God.
The reality is that the political cultures, power structures and leadership of both Counties today probably won’t allow this to happen because both harbor many sacred cows and protected political fiefdoms.
What would it take to make this County merger and asset swap idea a reality?
Effectively an “Arab Spring” voter uprising by citizens like you.
Unlike company mergers of different corporate cultures and product lines where you have ‘top-down’ directives by company boards and CEO to make the merger happen, in a political scenario like this, the horsepower needed to make this happen is from the ‘bottom-up’ – the local citizens of each County would need to demand it with their votes.
Citizens living and working in both counties could benefit tremendously from an idea like this due to the hundreds of thousands of local and permanent jobs it would create. In addition, the prospect of lowering everyone’s property taxes resulting from the gains of billions in new tax revenues derived from the potentially $50 to $100 billion in new property development on Dodge Island alone makes it compelling.
Net-net, local citizens would also have better funded schools (and teachers) because of this tidal-wave of new super-regional revenues along with better and expanded police, medical and fire services.
But all these things require ‘vision’, not from political leaders who will fight to keep their own turfs, but the vision of, by, and for the people.
My job as the founder and CEO of the World Property Channel is to do two things: firstly, keep you informed about the local and global real estate markets, and secondly, share a good idea or two every now and then that may be of great benefit to our local economy, because Miami is our company’s hometown too.
By merging and concentrating Dade-Broward’s current infrastructure and assets against a backdrop of an ever-increasing globally connected and hyper-competitive economy, the true value of an idea like this represents an equation where 2 + 2 = 5.
If you see the potential upside of an ‘outside-the-box’ idea like this, please share this Op-Ed piece with your family, friends, colleagues and politicians … and let’s get the conversation going today!
Given all the right ingredients now coming together at this VERY MOMENT in time for South Florida, the next two decades could bring forth the greatest era of growth and prosperity for all.
…and just remember, new and radical ideas sometimes change the world.