Watson Island, where development was authorized in 2001, is connected with South Beach and the City of Miami by the MacArthur Causeway. It has well known facilities as Jungle Island and the Children’s Museum.
The long-delayed waterfront development known as Island Gardens by the Turkish developer Mehmet Bayraktar was initially approved by Miami voters in 2001 and a 99 year lease was finalized by the city commission a year later. Since then, only a mega-yacht marina was completed in 2015.
The following phase of construction of two hotels and a luxury mall with roughly 221,000-square-foot retail had a deadline that was moved several times to accommodate the developer. Finally, on a special meeting of the City Commission on May 30th, a motion presented by Commissioner Ken Russell to declare the developer in default of the agreement with the City for not breaking ground by May 1st 2017 was approved unanimously.
Commissioner Francis Suarez cited Flagstone’s inability to provide evidence it had obtained construction financing for the second phase of Island Gardens as required by the master agreement.
“The bottom line is that 15 years later, nothing has been built and the city has been ripped off,” said Commissioner Frank Carollo, who has been trying to end this deal for a long time. Flagstone has only paid $6.3 million in rent during that time period for prime waterfront property that a recent appraisal concluded would fetch $7 million a year, noted Carollo.
Flagstone’s attorneys and representatives warned that Commissioners would cause their client damages in excess of $100M and they are setting up taxpayers up for a $100 million lawsuit if they kick Bayraktar off Watson Island.
The City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado signed the Commission’s decision. That puts an end to the agreement between the City and the developer.