If Miami-Dade County Commissioners have their way, this theme-park experience will become reality for poverty-stricken areas of South Dade.
The Miami-Herald reported Sunday that county commissioners are seeking partners to build a multi-attraction entertainment destination to compete with central Florida's mega-theme parks.
Local and international developers from both the public and private sectors are being sought to negotiate for an opportunity to create the proposed entertainment area on almost 400 acres adjacent to Zoo Miami and the Gold Coast Railroad Museum.
The site is adjacent to a 279-acre U.S. Coast Guard communications facility - which is also available for development.
According to the Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) issued by Miami-Dade, private bonds may be considered as part of the financing arrangement.
Attracting more than 810,000 visitors a year, the zoo - formerly called Metro Zoo - is home to more than 2,000 animals.
Prior to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the zoo had attracted more than a million visitors each year.
The proposed theme-styled entertainment area envisioned is to be a collection of various attractions and hotels.
Miami-Dade officials said the project is being "vigorously pursued" to spur economic development and job creation for an area not fully recovered from the devestation of Hurricane Andrew twenty years ago.
The project is also expected to expand the tourist industry and increase a visitors stay in south Florida, expand the number of venues in the area and increase income for Zoo Miami through additional admissions.
Owned and operated by the Miami-Dade County Park and Recreation Department, Zoo Miami also receives support from the nonprofit Zoological Society of Florida.
"Miami-Dade County is on the move to become a place that people repeatedly want to visit and a place where people desire to permanently live," Moss said.
As long as they meet project objectives and comply with existing site approvals, proposed development can be any combination of attractions, amusements, lodging and conference centers, food service, specialty themed retail and banquet halls.
Miami-Dade County is seeking qualified developers that will independently, collectively or collaboratively negotiate the development of the Zoo Miami Entertainment Area.
This is "the type of project that has the potential to serve as a catalyst for attracting other types of major investments into the county," said Jack Kardys, director of Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Director. "This ITN is an aggressive effort to find the best developer able to create a phenomenal-not average-entertainment zone that will become a renowned landmark-attraction."
According to Kardys, the county wants a design that will be unique to Miami, as well as fun and exciting.
The idea of bringing a theme park styled experience to South Dade is not new. In 2002, the county thought that a water park, family entertainment center, and hotels would be suitable for the area surrounding Zoo MIami.
The proposal faded away following the recession and financial crisis that made private financing impossible to obtain.
The current, broad proposal was developed after commissioners requested expressions of interest from local and national developers.
The proposal provides additional opportunities for attractions and cultural facilities within the entertainment area, allows for additional marketing of Zoo Miami, and includes an opportunity for small developers to compete with master developers.
Submitted plans will be evaluated by a review committee on the basis of approach, experience and qualifications of development, operations and management teams, financial feasibility and financial capacity of the proposer, and financial return to Miami-Dade County.
Once proposals are submitted, the County Commission will review and make the final selection.
Although negotiations with chosen developers will take several months, officials expect groundbreaking to occur in 2015.
"We are positioning ourselves as a dynamic global community that offers more reasons to visit and invest in Miami, and more incentives to live and do businesses here," said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. "Diversifying our portfolio of cultural, recreational, and educational offerings is critical to this ongoing effort, and this mixed-use approach to our parks will create a strong range of products for consumers and investors alike."
Commissioner Moss - whose commission district encompasses the project area - said it is critical that the project provide jobs that will improve the surrounding community.
"The generation of jobs for our residents is what makes this project especially appealing to me and the district I serve, and it is why I am championing it," Moss concluded.