Back in June, the City of Miami Commission unanimously voted to allow a referendum on this month’s ballot asking residents to vote on a proposed 300-room hotel at Jungle Island on Watson Island in Miami. Since then, I haven’t heard much about it (and I’m relatively well-informed about Miami issues). I suspect there will be a LOT of voters who will learn about the proposal for the first time when they see it on their ballot during early voting or on August 28th.
The Miami Herald has done a decent job of reporting on the proposal:
…the plan calls for a jungle-themed, family-friendly hotel. A rendering shows a long hotel sitting on a raised platform — the parking garage — that has been camouflaged to look like part of the landscaping around the building. The 13-story hotel is draped with vegetation…
Dunlap also hopes the project will prove popular with cruise lines as a place they can house travelers before and after sailings.
According to Dunlap, the park has been designed with its neighbors on the Venetian Islands in mind: The hotel is oriented so that the thinnest and lowest part of the structure faces the nearby residences. The park also wants to use water taxis to transport visitors to Jungle Island’s dock, reducing traffic on the MacArthur Causeway.
According to Dunlap, Jungle Island, which was named Parrot Jungle when it debuted in its original Pinecrest location, will be a family-focused adventure park. By the end of the year, the park will add a tree walk village where guests can walk in the tree canopy, a new kids playground and education area, a trampoline park, a new restaurant with a FlowRider, a surfing simulator, and zip lines. Next year, it will debut a man-made Crystal Lagoon.
It appears that residents on the Venetian Islands have been the most vocal opponents, and they have some very valid concerns that do not seem to be getting addressed. Traffic across the Venetian Bridge is a big issue. While the proposed water taxi would relieve a fraction of the traffic in a fun touristy way, what about the “400 hundred” employees ESJ Capital Partners, owner of Jungle Island, say will be hired for the hotel?
Neighbors are also concerned about noise, a reduction in their quality of life, and possibly a drop in property values.
I’d like to know more about any potential environmental impacts. I’m also not seeing any city-wide benefit for local businesses and restaurants from this development. It appears to be setting up to bring tourists straight from the airport and PortMiami, while providing no incentive and little ability to leave the resort to explore Downtown Miami, Miami Beach or other areas of Miami-Dade.
Some of the parts of the proposal I do like:
- The project is expected to create more than 400 jobs, with first priority going to City of Miami residents in District 5.
- The park will… allocate a guaranteed $100,000 if the referendum passes in August, and then an additional $35,000 annually beginning in 2021 for the duration of the lease. The total contribution to affordable housing was increased to $750,000.
- Jungle Island will also contribute $700,000 for maintenance repairs at an adjoining park, Ichimura Miami Japanese Garden
Additional Resources for the Jungle Island expansion issues:
There seem to be a lot of unanswered questions and unaddressed concerns, and no time left to consider them. I don’t yet know how I will vote on this referendum. What about you, Miami? Yes or no to a privately owned Jungle Island hotel on our publicly owned Watson Island?