The Miami-Dade County Commission has given zoning approval to Triple Five Worldwide Group’s plan to build American Dream Miami which will be the largest mall in North America. To call American Dream Miami a mall is not a fair description. It will be a 6 million square foot theme park, office, retail, shopping and entertainment complex. Plans call for 2000 hotel rooms, an ice climbing wall, an indoor ski slope, a water park with submarine rides, shopping, dining, a performing arts center and offices. The project will be built on 175 acres at the intersection of I-75, the Florida Turnpike and Miami Gardens Drive, just south of the Miami-Dade – Broward County line.
In addition, Graham Companies, which is selling a portion of the property to Triple Five, received approval to develop 300 acres to the south of a larger commercial and residential project, containing 3 million square feet of office, 1 million square feet of retail and 2,000 rental units to be developed over the next 20 years. The American Dream project is expected to add nearly 100,000 trips per day to area roads. The Graham project would add over 50,000 trips per day.
While local leaders are very excited about the potential economic impact of these 2 projects and tout tax revenues and job creation, the traffic congestion is one area where major disagreement exists. While Miami-Dade County will address traffic issues in the approval process, Broward County and cities near the county line have expressed concern. In Miami-Dade County, the developers will have to improve or pay for improvements to state roads affected which the state does not address or pay for. However, Triple Five claims that there will be no impact, or minimal impact at most, to Broward County roads. The developer’s claims are ridiculous. Studies show major traffic diversions to Broward County roads including the Turnpike extension and Miramar Parkway. The complex is 1 mile from the county line and common sense dictates that a high percentage of visitors will be coming from the north. Any market study would compare visitors to Hard Rock Stadium, also on the county line, for Dolphins games, soccer games and concerts, and see how many people come from Broward and north. Countless comparisons in Broward and Miami-Dade could be made. The American Dream Mall would not survive without visitors outside Miami-Dade County.
Prior to Miami-Dade’s approval, Broward threatened to file a lawsuit unless the developer agreed to make improvements to Broward roads impacted by American Dream Miami. Negotiations ensued and Triple Five agreed to spend $650,000 on modernization of traffic lights on Miramar Parkway. This conciliation is not enough and Broward continues to push for more but won’t find support from its counterparts in Miami-Dade. In a letter to Broward Mayor Beam Furr, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez wrote that Miami-Dade County had found no evidence that the American Dream Miami and Graham projects combined would contribute more than 5% of the daily traffic on any Broward roads which would be the trigger to demand fees from the developers. Mayor Gimenez’ conclusion comes despite several reports showing a high impact in Broward County.
American Dream Mall and the Graham Project demonstrate a total lack of regional cooperation in planning. While Triple Five can save a few dollars by not paying fees to Broward to mitigate potential traffic impact, their reluctance to pay is not only cheap, it is shortsighted. The expected price tag of the Triple Five project is $4 Billion. There is no estimate yet for the Graham Company project. However, adding a few million dollars for traffic mitigation in Broward County is meaningless for either party. The shortsightedness is hard to understand. Clearly, the developers know that the visitors will be coming to this theme park from Broward and the north, whether they are residents or tourists. These visitors will make up a huge percentage of the annual visitors to American Dream Miami. They will be sitting in traffic unnecessarily and starting their experience poorly. This could be avoided, or made better. Triple Five, Graham Companies, Miami-Dade County…. Think bigger.