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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – With one unanimous vote, Miami-Dade school board members brought the proposed “American Dream Miami” mall closer to reality Wednesday.
Canadian developer Eskandar Ghermezian, whose company has developed some of the world’s largest malls—including Minnesota’s Mall of America—is looking to build the four million-square-foot shopping theme park where I-75 meets the Florida Turnpike.
In order to build the mall, the developer needed the school board to give up a lease on a 45-acre piece of land it was sitting on in case it needed to build a school.
“It was a resounding vote of support for a project that resulted in the district protecting its financial interest, receiving $7.25 million dollars in exchange for lifting the lease hold on a piece of property that didn’t belong to us. I think it’s a terrific financial investment on the school system,” said Miami-Dade School’s Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
None of the school board members have spoken out against the sale of the land. Even Raquel Regalado, who opposes the mall plan as a county mayoral candidate, said the cancellation is a good deal.
“In this case, what’s best for our students is to sell the property and to use the money to fix our schools because we don’t need the property there,” said Regalado.
The school board vote comes one day after Miami-Dade Commissioners approved the sale of about 80 acres of surplus land so the developer will have enough room for the project, which is planned to include a water park, submarine rides, and an artificial ski slope.
There was opposition, however, from two county commissioners.
“It’s a large, exciting proposition, but I was here for the Marlins stadium and so was that,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman.
In addition to $7.2 million dollars, the developer said he will donate $1 million once he gets, if he gets, the green light for the project. There remains countless regulatory, zoning, environmental and other hoops the project has to clear to be approved.
“I have to raise money now. The this is start to raise the money for the project,” said Ghermezian.