SFLBJ: This issue could hold up construction of Midtown Miami's Wal-Mart

Jul 15, 2016

The site work for the Wal-Mart at Midtown Miami has been completed, but the retail giant needs to resolve one sticky issue before it can commence vertical construction.

This would be Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s first location in the booming city’s urban core. Plans for the 203,000-square-foot store at 3055 N. Miami Ave. were delayed several years by a lawsuit challenging its approval by community activist Grant Stern. Once the Florida Third District Court of Appeal sided with Wal-Mart in January, site work started.

Initial foundation work for the Wal-Mart was completed on June 23 and it has submitted an application with the city for vertical construction, said Aaron Gordon, who represents Wal-Mart.

The issue that has complicated obtaining a vertical construction permit is that Wal-Mart doesn’t actually own all the land that’s needed for its store.

Wal-Mart owns 4.6 acres with frontage on Northeast 31st Street, but it doesn’t own the frontage on North Miami Avenue or Northeast 1st Avenue. The narrow strips of property separating Wal-Mart’s land from those key streets are owned by the Midtown Miami Community Development District and Midtown Opportunities, respectively.

That issue could be resolved if Wal-Mart signed a unity of title agreement with both of those entities to combine the three properties into one.

Wal-Mart representatives say the company has a settlement with Midtown Opportunities, one of the main developers in the neighborhood. Gordon didn’t say whether Wal-Mart had an agreement with the Midtown Miami CDD, a taxing agency that funds infrastructure development in the neighborhood.

When asked whether the Wal-Mart would need a unity of title agreement with the Midtown Miami CDD before obtaining a vertical construction permit, Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez responded: “If there are still different owners to the contiguous parcels, they will need a unity of title before they go vertical.”

On June 22, Midtown Miami CDD Manager Craig Wrathell wrote Méndez a letter inquiring about the unity of title issue with Wal-Mart and asking her for clarification.

“It is our understanding that additional permits will not be issued by the city until a fully executed unity of title is presented to the city,” Wrathell wrote. “To date, the CDD, which owns affected property adjacent to the Wal-Mart property, has not yet become a party to a fully-executed unity of title.”

Wrathell couldn’t be reached for comment. The CDD is run by a five-member board elected by residents of the district. The last CDD meeting was on July 12 and a deal with Wal-Mart was not on the agenda.

The CDD had $89 million in bond debt outstanding on Sept. 30, 2015. That debt is secured by the CDD’s assets, including its real estate.

“They should reconsider whether they can fit a project like this into Midtown,” Stern said.

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