It’s Not Looking Good for Inter Miami’s Melreese Development Plans

Inter Miami is in the process of building a stadium on the former site of Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale, for their entry into MLS for the 2020 season. Based on what happened Tuesday, they may want to extend their lease by a few years.

Late Tuesday evening, two Miami commissioners filed a resolution which would direct the City Manager to cease negotiations with Inter Miami over the Jorge Mas led Melreese development project. Not only that, the resolution would require the City to open up the land to other potential projects (typically called a “RFP”).

The proposed resolution which could kill the Miami Freedom Park project.

Needless to say, this is a concerning development for Inter Miami. The quest to find a site to build a permanent stadium in Miami proper has proved to be among the most contentious and difficult stadium projects in recent memory–especially given the fact that there is no indication that Inter Miami has ever requested any significant (or even nominal) public contribution.

After Jorge Mas joined the Inter Miami ownership group, he immediately turned his eye from a site in Overtown (which Inter Miami still controls) to a grander vision which would have included a stadium, retail and office space and housing.

Mas and Beckham spent signifiant time and effort getting the Miami commissioners to agree to send to the voters in November 2018 a referendum to allow the city to negotiate a lease with the team. That vote passed with over 60% approval, but only authorized negotiation–not a final deal.

Since that time the negotiations have been stalled for one reason or another related to the hiring of consultants and attorneys, and arguments over the remediation needed for the site.

Inter Miami also ran into issues with some of the Commissioners, who either were wary of the proposal from the team, or simply objected to the negotiations out of principle. Local rules require that four of the five commissioners approve a lease-development agreement, leaving little wiggle room for the team.

Now with two commissioners apparently set to try to force an end to the negotiations, it appears unlikely that Inter Miami will be able to get the four votes necessary to move the plan forward. Which explains in part their decision to build in Ft. Lauderdale.

Where that leaves the project ultimately is unclear. There is an election next month where several of the commissioners are up for reelection. It’s possible that some of the commissioners are replaced with members more sympathetic to Inter Miami. The Mayor of the City of Miami is very pro-MLS, and would likely veto the resolution.

The procedure from that point is unclear, but Inter Miami could use the reconstituted commission and the veto to try to force the project through. That would certainly bring a slew of lawsuits, which could take years to resolve.

The resolution is set to be discussed by the Commissioners on October 24.


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