Residents continue to have differing opinions of the proposed Jungle Island hotel and theme park, with some in favor of its employment opportunities and others leery of neighborhood disruptions.
During the Miami City Commission meeting last week, nearby residents cautioned that additional development plans for Watson Island would create additional traffic, noise and obstructed views from neighboring islands.
Joia Beach Restaurant and Beach Club at 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail caters to yachts that completely block the channel and create tremendous barriers to other traffic, said Greg Baldwin of Venetian Way. “We live here and see crowded boats with people drinking,” he said. “That’s an accident waiting to happen.”
Mr. Baldwin estimated that most of the noise and speeding occurs between 3 and 6 p.m. Sometimes, he said, the boats stay later and there’s often illegal mooring in the channel on weekends between 6 and 7 p.m.
Others said waterfront property is scarce and its value must be protected from further development.
On the other hand, some residents welcome the project because they believe it will bring much-needed good jobs as well as be an appealing place to bring their children and out-of-town guests.
ESJ Capital Partners is committed to building a new attraction with a solid plan that will be good for business and attract tourists from around the world, said Wendy Kallergis, president and CEO of the Greater Miami and the Beaches Hotel Association.
Approved by referendum in August 2018, the Jungle Island hotel off the MacArthur Causeway would have up to 300 guestrooms atop a reconstructed parking garage. The developer’s application describes the hotel linking to the Jungle Island theme park, as well as to the city-owned Ichimura Japanese Garden through a signature stairway. Structures by the hotel and garage would be screened with vines and green walls to blend with the Jungle Island aesthetic.
If given final approval, the project would give the city $750,000 for affordable housing, $700,000 for the Japanese garden, and a yearly $35,000 contribution to the Liberty City Community Revitalization Trust for the 70-year term of the lease.
Last week, city commissioners gave preliminary approval for a Special Area Plan (SAP) under Miami 21 zoning that would allow the project’s developers leeway with additional density. SAPs permit new uses on land parcels greater than nine abutting acres originally zoned for other uses.
Commissioners are to vote Feb. 11 on rezoning for the proposed project during a second reading on the SAP. They are to vote Feb. 25 on the entire project.