all aboard expansion
The Coral Gables company behind the All Aboard Florida rail project has pitched a complicated road realignment and small land swap that would allow for an expansion of a major transportation hub planned in downtown, according to Miami’s city manager.

The proposal, floated last week over lunch, would substantially increase the size of a block Florida East Coast Industries owns on Northwest First Street, on the southern edge of its MiamiCentral station. Right now, the company plans to build rail platforms, hotel rooms, office suites and rental apartments.

Four office and rental towers are planned on the four northern blocks. Renderings released months ago show only a parking lot on the fifth, block to the south.

There, First Avenue forks around a small triangular patch of trees owned by Miami and curves west, cutting into All Aboard Florida’s land and limiting what can be built. According to Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso, representatives of the Coral Gables-based company suggested last week that they’d like to see the road straightened, and want the city transfer the 7,677-square-foot green space to the company in exchange for a parcel of land near the old Miami Arena site.

Alfonso said the company would then be able to build a fifth tower, and the city would build a new park and perhaps a new fire station to service the massive amount of new development in the area.

“They’re supposed to give us a letter of intent and some points they want to achieve and then we’ll get into those negotiations,” said Alfonso.

On Wednesday, All Aboard Florida spokeswoman Lynn Martenstein confirmed the company’s interest in expanding the MiamiCentral project, but declined to address specifics.

“Our conversations with the city are preliminary and we are exploring potential opportunities to see if there are enhancements possible for the area adjacent to Miami Central,” she stated.

The discussion comes as All Aboard is nearing a deal to erect rail lines over city streets and a platform 50 feet in the air. City laws require developers to pay for “air rights” over public right of way, and emails show All Aboard representatives have been haggling with the city for months over payments.

Alfonso said an air-rights agreement is likely to go before the Miami Commission on June 25. Meanwhile, executives also continue to meet with the city’s anti-poverty arm in Overtown in order to negotiate community benefits in exchange for a public subsidy package that would help fund a Tri-Rail connection to their project.

Alfonso also expects to update commissioners Thursday on the city’s efforts to help find funding for the project.

Source:  Miami Herald