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County Commissioner Xavier Suarez upset over port's development plan


Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez lashed out against PortMiami brass on Friday over pushing a commercial development at the same the county is in talks with David Beckham about putting a soccer stadium on the port. 

Suarez sent a stern letter to county Mayor Carlos Gimenez, citing a Miami Herald story detailing the port's global sales pitch for a development plan that outlines a 7 million square-foot commercial complex of hotel rooms, offices, entertainment, apartment and a convention center but no stadium. 

 "The idea that the Port of Miami should compete with downtown Miami for commercial development, using our staff resources and our land (and presumably subsidies) makes no sense and is counterproductive,'' wrote Suarez, whose District 7 ends just south of the island port.

Read the letter by clicking here: Download Suarezletter0307

The bulk of Suarez's letter deals with old news. A 2011 port master plan called for a new commercial district there, and the concept quickly drew fire from Miami's downtown real estate industry. 

But the detailed rendering and the potential scope of the project only became public in recent weeks. Suarez also criticized Port Director Bill Johnson's interest in helping develop the proposed project once he retires from government, which is he set to do by June 2015.

Port executives weren't immediately available for comment on Suarez's letter.

The Herald reported Friday that Johnson went to Asia in January pitching the port's soccer-free development plan to business executives.

"[I]t appears that these folks are working at cross-purposes not only to our increasingly vibrant downtown, but also to your own efforts to bring Major League Soccer to a downtown site," Suarez wrote.

Suarez  sent a copy of the letter to Commission Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa and asked her to schedule a discussion on the port issues at the March 17 commission meeting.

As the port's soccer-free plan drew fire from a commissioner Friday, the  mayor talked about a future for the land that includes a soccer stadium.  

On the heels of joining President Obama for a speech at Coral Reef Senior High, Gimenez spoke on a real estate panel hosted by Neisen Kasdin, a Beckham lobbyist. The event was part of the all-day Akerman Real Estate Summit conference by the Miami lawfirm where Kasdin, a land-use lawyer and former Miami Beach mayor, is managing partner.

Afterwards, Kasdin drifted into a reporter's exchange with Gimenez and the two fielded questions about where the soccer talks stand.  

Gimenez repeated his insistance that a soccer stadium anchor a larger development in the port.

"It has to be part of a great public space,'' he said. "I really don't care about just a stadium."

Kasdin said Beckham's side is working on a presentation for Gimenez for the area beyond the 12-acre stadium footprint, but that the blueprint would stop short of a detailed proposal.

"We may illustrate a vision for the site," Kasdin said. "We are not creating a plan for the site.''

Gimenez said if a stadium proposal clears the significant hurdles ahead, the port land outside the sports venue would likely be offered to other developers as well as to Beckham.

"There probably will be an RFP in conjunction with the development around soccer,'' Gimenez said. "And it will not neccesarily be the soccer people who do that development."