MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — A gigantic $4 billion retail and entertainment complex won government approval Thursday after years of debate, greenlighting what promises to be the largest mall in North America, just a few miles from the environmentally sensitive Everglades.
The Miami-Dade County Commission voted 9-1 to approve American Dream Miami, which would be built on 175 acres (70 hectares) of now vacant land at the busy confluence of Interstate 75 and Florida’s Turnpike, northwest of Miami International Airport.
It was the second of two votes held Thursday on the massive project.
The first vote went 11-1 in favor, with only Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava voting no. She cited environmental and water concerns as her reasons for voting against the project.
Plans call for hundreds of retail shops and restaurants, but the developers don’t want people to call it a mall.
They’re pointing to its planned theme-park attractions such as an indoor ski slope, submarine ride, water park and skating rink, along with 2,000 hotel rooms.
Miami-Dade’s Mayor likes everything about the American Dream project, an alternative he says to Disney.
“So that we don’t have to go and travel three or four hours to get to Orlando to see the kind of things we should be seeing here in Miami -Dade,“ said Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
Although it’s close to the environmentally sensitive Everglades, most concerns have centered on traffic. Canadian developer Triple Five estimates it would draw some 30 million visitors a year.
Neighboring Broward County has threatened to sue if developers don’t take steps to ease traffic gridlock.
Teenager Megan Sorbo came down from Orlando to oppose the massive development that will go up near the “River of Grass.” “My greatest worry is that there is too much development around the Everglades because people keep infringing and infringing,“ the teenager said.
An environmentalist said the massive mall and entertainment project would use poison. “All kinds of toxins, coming off of tires, gasoline, and anti-freeze,“ said activist Matthew Schwartz.
The developer said this isn’t just any mall project. They said the project will create 14,000 permanent jobs.
“It’s a job creation project. It’s an economic engine for this county. It’s a place for family entertainment and fun,“ said attorney Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, who represents the developer.
One mayor from the north end of the county, worried about the projected number of visitors and the congestion they would bring. “Our main concern is traffic congestion. Every day, I get calls on this, every single day, every single morning,” said Mayor Manny Cid of Miami Lakes.
Developers have agreed to spend big bucks to avoid traffic jams. “People are going to get jobs and send their kids to school with this,” said Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert.
“We are obligated to $210 million worth of roadway and highway improvements,” Diaz de la Portilla said.
When the crowd was asked for a show of hands in support of the American dream almost every hand in the chamber went up.
Three times previously Miami-Dade commissioners have voted to support the project.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)