Walmart’s plans to move to Midtown Miami may have just met their first organized and funded opposition. What seemed to be shaping up as a debate between community groups, residents, and business owners has reached another scale: Now, it’s developer versus developer.
The neighborhood’s newest big stake holder, Midtown Opportunities, has contracted the powerful law firm Holland and Knight in an effort to persuade the City of Miami to reject the zoning changes being requested by Walmart and Diversified Development Reality (DDR), the current owner of the land where Walmart’s Midtown store would be built.
Midtown Opportunities bought 22 acres in Midtown in a deal with the original developer of the neighborhood, Midtown Equities of Manhattan, that was announced in December. DDR owns the mall, Midtown Shops, where the Target, Marshall’s, and stores and restaurants on Buena Vista Avenue are located.
The first salvo in what could turn into a long legal battle between the two was fired earlier this week in the form of a letter from Holland and Knight Attorney Richard A. Perez to the City of Miami Planning Director Francisco Garcia (read full letter). In the letter, Perez argues that Garcia should reject DDR’s request for the planning department to consider as “minor” the streetscape modifications being requested by Walmart/DDR for a loading dock and parking garage on the south end of Midtown Boulevard. If Garcia does reject the request, the plans would be subject to additional review and could require approval by the city commission
The debate centers on the part of Miami 21 code that applies to the up-and-coming retail district: the Midtown Overlay District Design Standards. In one section, the code specifies that the sidewalks on Midtown Boulevard have a minimum of 10-inches-wide “unobstructed area to accommodate pedestrians,” which, Perez points out in the letter, wouldn’t leave room for the entrance to a large parking garage.
“Certainly, an entrance to a parking garage with 600 spaces may be said to obstruct pedestrian use of sidewalks along Midtown Boulevard,” he wrote.
DDR’s request to the city made the point that that the southern side of Midtown Boulevard doesn’t get a lot of pedestrian traffic in the first place, but in the letter Perez argues that the code does not make a distinction between one part of the street and another, and that the garage would contradict the goals of the Midtown master plan
“The Design Standards do not draw such distinctions and treat all of Midtown Boulevard as one thoroughfare,” Perez wrote in the letter. “We argue that, to accept the proposed modifications on this basis would, in fact, ensure that few pedestrian trips occur within this area, creating a ‘hard edge’ to pedestrian friendly features that would run counter to the intended goals for this area’s development.”
Neither the manager of Midtown Opportunities, Alex Vadia, nor DDR has responded to requests for comment. We will update as more information becomes available.
Here’s the full letter:
— “Opinion: City should reject Walmart zoning request”
— “Puerto Rican business group supports Midtown Walmart”
— “Midtown Walmart Would Force Art Fairs Out”
— “Plans for Midtown Walmart emerge with zoning request”
— “Op-ed: Midtown Walmart will hurt job growth, local businesses”
This post was produced in partnership with Open Media Miami.