Good Neighbor Genting
Around the State
Too soon old, too late schmart -- a German saying I just bastardized, but it fits the cagey customers negotiating in Miami for Genting.
They figured out how to get schmart sooner rather than later.
The Genting Group might have laid a little low at the Florida Gaming Congress last month, but you know darn well the Malaysian conglomerate still wants a casino resort on that $236 million property it purchased from The Miami Herald two years ago.
Here's the thing.
They know they can't have it right now, no way, no how. This year is out. So what do they do? Instead of railing against the city of Miami and the state, instead of whining or bullying or digging in their heels and raising the hackles of a community that welcomes newcomers but wants them to be good citizens first -- instead of all that, they quietly, obediently scale back.
Genting is going smaller and smiling about it.
Genting will show Miami what it does and how well it can do it, and in the end -- mark my words -- it's going to have the city behind it, pushing like a mother in labor for the Magic City's newest, richest, best-behaved neighbor to get that casino resort expansion.
A corporation that creates a whole division for a 13.9-acre development site means business. A whole division. That's what Genting did when it brought Resorts World Miami (RWM) to life. Then, when offers to buy the property rolled in after the Legislature scotched casino gambling there, the corporation showed its first commitment to Miami by turning them down, one by one.
In a March 14 Miami Herald story, "Genting's new vision calls for luxury hotel, condos," Bill Thompson, senior vice president of development for RWM, explains how the new, trimmed-down RWM/Genting play-ball plans are going to win hearts and minds all over Miami-Dade. He didn't put it quite like that, but you be the judge.
-- The downgrade from grandiose: Only half of the original site -- the half that includes the bayfront and historic Boulevard Shops on Biscayne Boulevard -- will be developed. Imploded or bulldozed, the 5-acre Herald building will make way for a pedestal structure with three towers on top. Each condo tower will have several hundred units that could go for $700 per square foot or more, and a four- or five-star hotel will feature about 500 rooms.
-- Love potion No. 1: Thompson says all elements will follow the Miami 21 zoning code. "We're not asking for anything that is not allowed," he tells the Herald. "We're not asking for any variances or waivers. We're not closing streets."
-- Love potion No. 2: Remember how critics of the original design complained it was a monster that blocked the waterfront? In the new plan, two amply sized "view corridors" will be cut through the base of the structure.
-- Love potion No. 3: The public will be able to access the waterfront on the old Herald property for the first time. RWM has plans for a 50-foot-wide promenade in a tiered design, complete with restaurants overlooking Biscayne Bay. Pedestrians can jump on "from the Genting project under the I-395 overpass to the new Museum Park via a boardwalk that Genting plans to build out into the bay," says the Herald.
-- Love potions No. 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8: A "heavily landscaped park" to link to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on the south side. A landscaped walkway with retail shops along the north side. A marina to accommodate large boats (state approval needed). Endless good-faith planning meetings with downtown stakeholders. Willingness to spend "a couple of million dollars" to return the wow factor to the once-grand Boulevard Shops along Biscayne Boulevard.
The Genting folks, who clearly are enamored of the city they bought into, learned fast. Within a year they got Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Arsht Center Chairman Mike Edison on their side. They already have a reputation in the neighborhood for openness and cooperation, for a sense of what Miami is and wants to become.
Other resort casino developers looking at Florida have exciting plans of their own, no doubt. And I'd like to see them. But Genting is already an interesting story. It made an investment it might have given up on, except for a couple of things: It found so much about Miami to love, practiced the art of compromise, and because it had the money to do so -- opted to blend and stay patient.
I may not live to see it, but I believe soon enough -- just off Biscayne Bay -- yes, with local folks cheering it on -- Genting and Miami and Florida will get one fabulous, state-of-the-art destination casino.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.