City of Miami Referendum: Jungle Island

This post is part of our voter guide for the Aug. 28 local and primary elections. Head to the main landing page for a guide to the key races and decisions being made this election.

If you live in the City of Miami, you also have a referendum that you’ll be voting on when you head to the polls on Aug. 28. Per usual, it’s kind of wonky and missing context, so we broke it down.

Shall Miami’s Charter be amended extending Jungle Island’s Lease for an additional 39-years, plus 15-year option, waiving competitive bidding, allowing at developer’s expense and option, construction of hotel and attractions with maximum 300 rooms and 130-foot height, in exchange for: • Additional annual rent for the hotel of $250,000.00 increasing to $1,220,000.00 or 5.0% of hotel gross sales, whichever greater; • Contribution of $700,000.00 to the adjacent City park and $750,000.00 for affordable housing?

Jungle Island is on city-owned property (like the Melreese golf course where David Beckham wants to build his soccer stadium). Anytime a piece of city property is up for negotiation with a private entity, it has to go to voters.

Jungle Island is asking to extend its lease for at least another 39 years (bringing it to 2099), with the option to extend another 15 years, without allowing anyone else to bid for the property. It’s also asking for approval to build an on-site hotel.

In exchange, it will pay an additional $250,000 in rent or 5 percent of sales, whichever is larger, to the City of Miami; $700,000 to fix up the city park next door, and $750,000 for the city’s affordable housing fund for several years.

It sounds like a good deal, but the city’s experience with a developer leasing land on nearby Watson Island has many residents worried about this deal. On Watson Island, the developer promised a swank marina complex with shops and a hotel, but years later, none of that has happened. Plus, there’s no requirement that the hotel be built – just the option to do so.

The city commision says it has built in protections against that happening in the case of Jungle Island, with incremental benchmarks that the attraction has to hit in order to keep the lease extension and the right to build the hotel.

If you vote yes, you are agreeing to extend Jungle Island’s lease and allowing it to build a hotel on site.

If you vote no, the lease will end in 2060 and no hotel will be built.

This post is part of our voter guide for the Aug. 28 local and primary elections. Head to the main landing page for a guide to the key races and decisions being made this election.