SkyRise tower gets early OK for $9 million from Miami-Dade
Miami-Dade County commissioners on Thursday endorsed using property taxes to fund about $30 million in development subsidies for a series of for-profit projects, including $9 million for the planned SkyRise Miami observation tower on the city waterfront. The full commission still must vote on the grants, which would tap into $75 million worth of county debt authorized by the 2004 Building Better Communities ballot initiative.
A special countywide property tax funds the debt payments, and the rate can increase as commissioners authorize more borrowing. Administration officials have not offered an estimate on whether the tax rate would go up because of the economic-development program, but the relatively small chunk of debt would likely only account for pennies on a typical tax bill.The money under discussion must be used for developer expenses that fall under the category of “public infrastructure,” such as parking facilities, sewage and utility work, road extensions and sidewalks.
SkyRise aims to become the most popular tourist attraction in South Florida, drawing about 3 million visitors a year to what would be the city’s highest point, with plunge rides, catering halls, restaurants and nightclubs. Jeff Berkowitz, the SkyRise developer, sees it as a signature icon for Miami, in the way Seattle has the Space Needle and Paris the Eiffel Tower.
“Most of these towers around the world have been built with government assistance,” he said. “I’m of the opinion that something this important should have some level of government participation.”
He hopes to raise 60 percent of his $430 million development tab from more than 500 foreign investors under the federal EB-5 visa program, which trades investor dollars for green cards.
Investor materials describe a lucrative venture, with Berkowitz projecting SkyRise would soar in value to $630 million within five years. “Cash flow from the operation of the SkyRise Miami Tower may be sufficient to return all, or a significant portion, of the EB-5 investors’ capital after year 5,” read the brochure.
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