A plan by Wal-Mart to open a store in downtown Miami — possibly at the bayfront City Square project near the new Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts — has sparked controversy.
City Square, designed by Arquitectonica, includes 675,000 square feet of retail space and more than a million square feet of residential space. Wal-Mart, which says it is exploring all of its options, is rumored to be eyeing about 170,000 square feet of the development, which is expected to open in the fall 2009.
Keep looking, says City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who represents residents of that area. Local residents worry that the additional traffic would overwhelm the surrounding downtown area. Sarnoff’s staff recommends the underdeveloped neighborhoods bordering the downtown business area.
“We’re not bashing Wal-Mart in particular. We’re just saying that the location is not right.” — Ron Nelson
Chief of staff for City Comissioner Marc Sarnoff
[Photo: Daniel Portnoy]
“What about Wynwood? What about Overtown?” asks Ron Nelson, chief of staff for Sarnoff. “We’re not bashing Wal-Mart in particular. We’re just saying that the location is not right.”
More than $1 billion in public funds have been or will be used to develop Miami’s Arts District, which now includes the performing arts center and plans to develop two museums near Biscayne Boulevard.
“And right in the middle of it, we’ll have a Wal-Mart,” Nelson says.
But the objections may have little impact on the roster of commercial tenants that move into City Square. Indiana-based developer Mark Siffin of Maefield Development received a special permit from Miami when he purchased the parcel in 2006 that would enable Wal-Mart to lease space without additional clearance from the city.
“When they granted that special permit,” Nelson says, “I don’t think they envisioned Wal-Mart. I don’t know what you put there in these difficult times.”