‘Sea-cret’ to more success

By Bari Auerbach
Since Sunny Isles Beach incorporated in 1997, the city has experienced a “revitalization transformation” – and now the progress continues as plans are moving forward to construct a magnificent new Park/Aquarium complex at the gateway to the city on Sunny Isles Boulevard.

LETTER OF INTENT APPROVED

At the July 15 City Commission meeting, a resolution was passed approving a non binding Letter of Intent between the City of Sunny Isles Beach and H & M Gables Investors, LLC (operator of the Seaquarium) to lease property to construct, develop and operate an Aquarium at 151 Sunny Isles Boulevard. Related facilities proposed include a restaurant, food and gift concessions, meeting rooms and party rooms. The Aquarium will be open to the public and used to help promote Sunny Isles Beach tourism.

City Attorney Hans Ottinot explained in a memo to the Commission, “The operator of the Seaquarium has expressed a strong interest in developing a private/public partnership with the City to develop an Aquarium in [Sunny Isles Beach]. To facilitate the execution of a lease agreement, the operator of the Seaquarium has agreed to accept the terms outlined in the Letter of Intent.

“The City and the operator of the Miami Seaquarium have agreed to enter a 99 year lease. Under the proposed lease, the City will collect, with the exception of the first four years of the lease term, an annual rent in the amount of $324,000 (with appropriate inflating increases). H & M will be responsible for all costs associated with the construction of the Aquarium. The City will provide the Aquarium with the use of the parking garage that the City intends to build adjacent to the Aquarium. The City, however, will collect all revenues generated from the use of the garage.

“In addition to collecting rent, the City will be entitled to collect a percentage of the gross sales from the Aquarium less the amount of the base rent. The City will have the right to approve the sale of the Aquarium to a third party. The City will also have the right to terminate the lease if the Aquarium is not constructed. The parties agree to finalize all necessary agreements within ninety days of approval of the Letter of Intent.”

PROGRESS REPORT

A recent Sunny Isles Beach “Progress Report” published by the City Commission featured an update on plans for the Park/Aquarium complex – representing “the City’s commitment to creating public facili-ties/amenities to further the development of the City as a growing destination community with recreational amenities.”

Edelcup explained, “The City has purchased over four acres of land on the north side of Sunny Isles Boulevard to create a first class park. The park will enhance the gateway of the city by eliminating the strip club [formerly Thee Doll House property acquired by the City via eminent domain] that greets residents and visitors upon arrival in the city. The park will feature great lawns and a skywalk that will connect Sunny Isles Boulevard to the beach.

“In addition to the park, the City intends to partner with the operator of the Miami Seaquarium to construct an Aquarium as a component of the park. The Aquarium will provide residents and visitors with the opportunity to explore the secrets of marine life. Our residents and visitors will have the opportunity to observe the feeding habits of aquatic animals through hands-on activities similar to those available at the Miami Seaquarium.

“Students from Sunny Isles Beach K-8 Community School can expand their understanding of aquatic ecosystems with learning programs that will be conducted at the Aquarium; and residents of the City will receive discounted rates to enjoy the amenities at the Aquarium. Essentially, the Aquarium will be an economic benefit to the City in many ways.”

‘SEA-SATIONAL NEWS’

Promising to be inspirational, educational and entertaining, the “sea-sational” news that operators of the Sequarium wanted to partner with the City to build a Park/Aquarium complex started making headlines around South Florida and beyond at the beginning of the year.

At a City Commission meeting held on Jan. 28, Arthur H. Hertz, Chair of Wometco Enterprises, accompanied by a project architect presented schematics for the proposed project described with “splash-tacular” adjectives such as “elegant, modern and magnificent” as well as “architecture becoming art.”

Addressing site selection, Hertz praised Sunny Isles Beach, noting, “This city is beautiful and fiscally sound…this can be attributed to [strong] leadership…The [Aquarium] will complement the essence of the city and be a special destination point capturing the attention of neighboring cities.”

Mayor Edelcup commended the schematics, noting, “This is a futuristic project with an outstanding design – it will be educational and entertaining for all members of the family. It’s a great concept for the Town Center district of our city…The design fits the [Sunny Isles Boulevard] property and vision of our Comprehensive Plan…It will be unique for Sunny Isles Beach and all of South Florida. We’re so pleased Mr. Hertz selected Sunny Isles Beach for this showpiece. The area to the west [will be a park] so the amenities will flow together.”

‘GATEWAY PARK’

At the July 15 City Commission meeting, a resolution passed temporarily naming the Park/Aquarium complex as “Gateway Park.” City Attorney Hans Ottinot explained, “The City has been acquiring property over the last year to greatly expand its park system. At this point, we have officially named every section except the newly acquired areas between the east bound and west bound lanes of Sunny Isles Boulevard.

“There are several advantages to having an official name for each park area (legal references, grant applications, etc.) This section has been referred to as the Seaquarium Park, Sunny Isles Boulevard Park, and others, but we would suggest a temporary name of Gateway Park. This name would apply until a permanent name is designated by the Commission, preferably after construction of the park is completed.


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