The narrative of Miami’s ongoing transformation comprises various story lines, including, most prominently, the burgeoning of its artist community and cultural offerings (as chronicled in the recently released documentary Rising Tide). There’s also the less prominent stories of its increasingly vibrant music scene — attested to by our list of the Top 50 South Florida Songs of 2012 — and its surprisingly rich bike culture (surprising because our sprawled-out, car-centric city would seem utterly inhospitable to bike travel — and, in fact, it can be.)
There’s a new twist in the debate over Walmart and the future of Midtown Miami.
A developer opposed to the store opening in the neighborhood, Alex Vadia, has submitted to the City of Miami a preliminary design for “Mpark”, a new urban park to be located on a narrow strip of land on Midtown Boulevard near N.E. 29th Street. The location is significant: The park’s plan includes property that Walmart had planned to use to build the entrance for a parking garage with space for 650 cars.
The development company that owns Midtown Shops allegedly threatened to use an unorthodox legal tactic as part of its effort to bring Walmart to Midtown, one that the opposing lawyer called “distasteful” in a letter submitted to the City of Miami. That same letter also gives a hint of the legal and city code issues that could decide if the store is ever built or not.
The letter (in full below) is from Midtown Opportunities, a company managed by Alex Vadia that owns undeveloped land in Midtown and is opposed to Walmart’s plans to build a store in the neighborhood. The letter presents two key arguments:
Update #2: Walmart’s plans to open its first City of Miami location may have hit a snag with the city’s planning department Tuesday (see below), but the retail giant is nonetheless going forward with plans for a store in Midtown and is working on new plans to submit to the city, as well as a more robust community outreach effort. We will have more soon. For now, here’s the official statement from Steve Restivo, Walmart’s senior director of community affairs:
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.
With plans for a proposed mega Walmart store in Midtown moving forward, reality sets in for many art fair organizers who will have to start looking for new venues once the project breaks ground.
Scope Art Fair, Red Dot, and Art Asia, three Art Basel Miami Beach satellite fairs that last year took place on land where Walmart is planning to build its new store, are confident they’ll be able to set up camp on the lot this year too. After that, they’ll have to start searching for a space somewhere else.
When real estate developer Alex Vadia and his company Midtown Opportunities bought 16 acres in Midtown in December, he told a Miami Herald reporter that he saw the potential in the neighborhood and that he would keep the community’s interest in mind when looking for ways to develop the property.
“We’re evaluating anything that will enhance the community,” Vadia said.
Since then community activists that have tried to reach him say they’ve been ignored.