Future of Herald building site in hands of Genting

tolorunnipa@MiamiHerald.comMay 16, 2013 

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The Miami Herald’s remaining employees closed down the newspaper’s longstanding building at One Herald Plaza on Thursday night.

Next home for the Miami Herald Media Company: Doral.

The future of the 50-year-old building overlooking Biscayne Bay is in the hands of Genting, the Malaysia-based gaming company that bought the property in 2011.

Genting has said it would demolish the Herald headquarters as part of its plans to construct a luxury hotel with up to 500 rooms and hundreds of luxury condos that will be bordered by a pedestrian bay walk. Ultimately, the company wants to build a casino, but state lawmakers in Tallahassee have not given any green light for destination casinos.

With no approval for gambling on the horizon, company officials at Genting said they are committed to a scaled-down development plan in the short term. “We want to create something that’s cool and going to draw people here,” Bill Thompson, senior vice president of development for Resorts World Miami, told the Herald in March.

Before it can begin construction, Genting must go through the process of tearing down the 750,000 square-foot news hub that has been home to the Herald since 1963. The company has said it will first remove asbestos from the site before starting the demolition process, which could take months.

Miami city officials said no building demolition or building permit applications had been filed with the city as of Thursday.

After state lawmakers rejected Genting’s bid for expanded resort gaming in 2012, the global conglomerate significantly scaled back its plans for the downtown site.

Back in 2011, Genting announced plans for a grandiose $3 billion complex that would have been home to the world’s largest casino on a 13.9-acre site. The plan called for 5,200 hotel rooms to anchor a massive 10 million-square foot development with a huge lagoon and more than 50 restaurants and bars.

The company bought the site for $236 million from the Miami Herald’s parent company, McClatchy Co., hoping new gambling laws would help bring in millions of international tourists and billions of dollars in revenue.

With no go-ahead for gambling, Genting has said it plans to move forward with a “phased approach.” The company abandoned plans for a petition drive to get a casino initiative on the 2014 ballot six months ago.

The Florida Legislature did not take up gambling expansion this year, instead opting to commission a study to look at various options for gaming in the state. Lawmakers also voted overwhelmingly to outlaw so-called Internet cafes, with proponents celebrating it as a crackdown on gambling in Florida.

“This will be one of the largest contractions of gaming that we’ve experienced in our state, certainly in the last 50 or 100 years,” said Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, before the 110-6 vote in March. Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill days later. In that context, it’s not clear if lawmakers would get behind the idea of expanded gambling in future years.

Nonetheless, Genting has stood by its multimillion-dollar plans, stating that the site is a good investment even without a casino.

“You start out with the waterfront property and that improves the value across everything else,” said Thompson. “Then you stay fluid based on what’s happening in the marketplace.”

The plan calls for new towers on the site where the Herald building currently sits and a redevelopment of the historic Boulevard Shops on Biscayne Boulevard. Genting is looking to build a 50-foot wide promenade alongside Biscayne Bay, with three or four waterfront restaurants.

Genting plans to build a boardwalk on the bay that will allow pedestrians to connect to the new Museum Park across the Interstate-395 overpass.

Genting hasn’t decided yet whether it will implode the Herald building or bulldoze it, Thompson said in March. By the end of 2013, Genting plans to begin rebuilding the seawall along the bay.

Herald newsroom staff gathered Thursday evening at the downtown newsroom to hold a final farewell toast to the One Herald Plaza building.

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