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Key to developing Miami’s Watson Island is acceptance by the Port of Miami of a proposal by Abramson & Associates, a Boston real estate advisory firm. The firm recommends using land on the island’s southern edge for a new cruise-ship terminal.

In the first phase, the Port would lease 3.62 acres to build a $40 million facility to accommodate up to four ships. Base rent would be nearly $800,000 a year. That figure is arrived at by applying an 8% rate to an attributed $65 psf target value of the land.

That same target value would be used to project roughly $750,000 in annual rent for 3.33 acres of land farther west on which a second terminal would eventually rise at a cost of $45 million.

In addition to the base rent, Miami would receive 15% of gross revenues whenever use surpassed an annual average of three ships per terminal. The city would also receive payments of $300,000 to $350,000 a year in lieu of taxes, but be responsible for building a 900-space parking garage and a roof-top helicopter pad.

Other proposed development for the island includes a $7 million, 45,000-sf visitor center to be built on a one-acre footprint within a 4.3-acre parcel. This would house headquarters of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau on the second floor. The first floor would provide space for a Chalk’s International Airlines counter and the U.S. Customs Service. Another proposed project is a 55,000-sf building on one acre for a new Miami Children’s Museum.

All of these new developments may not get under way for some time. However, what is being started this fall is a new facility for Parrot Jungle. It is being relocated to the northern and eastern half of the island where an aquatic theme park or similar attraction might be added at a later date.

Five years ago Miami city planners issued a request for proposals for 15 acres on the island that were then thought suitable for hotel, retail, restaurant and marina ventures. There were no responses. But that was before several million dollars were spent on improving the island’s infrastructure, including new roads.

“The market is very different today,” says Arleen Weintraub, acting director of Miami’s department of real estate and economic development. “People come to us weekly with lots of ideas.”

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