John Alschuler

MIAMI—The news that retired soccer star David Beckham and his partners have set their sights on Downtown Miami as the preferred location for a new Major League Soccer team set off a flurry of excitement across South Florida and around the world earlier this year. Last month’s announcement that the team has selected the Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway slip as its ideal stadium site has turned the world’s attention to the Downtown Miami waterfront and adjacent Museum Park.

The team’s plans call for filling in the submerged slip and developing a privately-funded 20,000-seat soccer stadium amidst an expanded park encompassing new art and science museums. A public vote on the proposal will take place later this year but one thing is for certain: Downtown Miami’s position in the crosshairs of David Beckham and company has been a marketing goldmine for the city’s real estate sector.

We caught up with John Alschuler, chairman of HR&A Advisors—the urban planning consultancy behind the Beckham team’s vision—to discuss the real estate impacts of the soccer star’s proposal, in part one of this exclusive interview. Be sure to return to GlobeSt.com’s Miami afternoon edition for part two of this discussion.

GlobeSt.com: Miami Beckham United has identified the FEC slip in downtown Miami as its top choice for a new MLS stadium. Why do you like this site?

Alschuler: We’ve said from day one that our team’s privately funded soccer park should be located near the heart of the city, and the FEC slip is the most logical site in downtown. Reclaiming the slip site allows us to enlarge Museum Park by 20%, create more accessible space along the waterfront, and expand downtown’s bay walk from the new art and science museums south to Brickell Avenue. Plus, this site will allow countless opportunities to integrate our venue within downtown’s existing infrastructure, in terms of pedestrian access, links to public transit, and proximity to local businesses.

GlobeSt.com: What is your vision for the stadium? Do you plan to include commercial development within the park?

Alschuler: The new soccer venue and surrounding park will be a year-round destination that activates now lifeless stretches of the bay front, regardless of whether the team is in action. We want the stadium to be an asset for the park. Running along the park, the ground floor of the stadium can house indoor and outdoor cafes and restaurants that provide a place for park-goers to relax and refresh.

These uses will be well within the footprint of the stadium, will complement nearby businesses, and will be serve as an amenity for park visitors. Our goal is to draw residents and visitors to downtown 365 days a year through a mix of soccer matches and events, restaurants that are open to the public, and features such as a video wall where families will gather to watch major events and outdoor movies.

GlobeSt.com: How do you expect the stadium will fit within the Downtown Miami landscape? Are there similar examples of urban stadiums that have inspired the plan?

Alschuler: Today’s most successful stadiums are located in urban neighborhoods where businesses are plentiful, streets are walkable, mass transit is reachable and parking is dispersed. Examples include PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Petco Park in San Diego and AT&T Park in San Francisco. For historical context, look at Downtown Chicago’s lakefront, which is home to Soldier Field, the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Millennium Park, all within walking distance. We’re creating a similar experience in Miami—one anchored by an expanded park, an MLS soccer club, and world-class museums.

Be sure to come back this afternoon for part two of this exclusive interview.