Giant wheel coming to Miami’s Bayside Marketplace

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A Sky Views of America observation wheel (Credit: iStock)

A Sky Views of America observation wheel (Credit: iStock)

Coming soon to Bayside Marketplace: a giant observation wheel.

Miami commissioners on Thursday endorsed a revenue-sharing deal and height variance that will enable Sky Views of America to build a 190-foot-tall wheel on city-owned land that’s now controlled by Ashkenazy Acquisitions and General Growth Properties, the owners of Bayside Marketplace.

Resembling a Ferris wheel, the Sky Views of America Wheel will have 42 glass-enclosed capsules that each have room for eight passengers to sit in while it slowly rotates, offering views of Biscayne Bay and skylines of Miami and Miami Beach. It will be located just south of Bayside’s Hard Rock Café and several hundred feet away from the future site of SkyRise Miami, a 1000-foot tall observation tower that developer Jeff Berkowitz aims to build beside the Miamarina by 2023.

Under the terms of the lease agreement, Sky Views will pay the city of Miami 10 percent of the gross ticket sales.

The lone dissenting vote was from commissioner Joe Carollo, who felt that the city should get as much as 50 percent of the air-rights and profits. Carollo also questioned why Ashkenazy and GGP should be getting any of the revenue at all, since it is city land.

“I want to make clear I am in favor, 100 percent, of the wheel concept. What I’m not in favor of is Bayside profiting. They haven’t put a penny in there,” Carollo said.

Sky Views of America is aiming to build the observation wheel in time for Super Bowl in February. Described as a temporary installation, the agreement does not offer a timeframe for how long the wheel will be up.

Carollo suggested the wheel stay up for a year, allowing the city the true revenue flow and perhaps conduct a proper market study. “We can revisit the financial arrangements afterward,” he said.

But the majority of the commission just wanted to see the wheel built. “The investment is going to be quite a few million dollars,” said Commissioner Willy Gort. “I hope they sell $50 million in tickets. It will benefit the city, also.”

David Sacks, an attorney representing Bayside and Sky Views, said his clients are eager to build the wheel. “After two years of getting this done at great cost I think we are ecstatic that we can bring something to Miami that is iconic and much needed and improve the quality of life for all of Miami,” he said.

Built in 1987, Bayside Marketplace was built on 16 acres of land that once made up part of Bayfront Park. Its developer, Rouse Company, was granted a 45-year lease. In 2004, Rouse was acquired by GGP, and in 2014, New York-based Ashkenazy purchased a 49 percent stake in Bayside from GGP. That same year, the Bayside lease was extended to November 2060 with options to renew until November 2113. Under that amended lease, Bayside’s operators pay a minimum base rent of $1.5 million a year plus 6 percent of the gross revenue the venue collects from tenants. The fifth amended lease, which was approved Thursday, factors in revenue collected from Sky View as well.

Commissioner Manolo Reyes did not vote on the deal. During the discussion, Reyes got up to briefly leave the dais, tripped, and fell hard, leaving him bleeding near his left eye. In an abundance of caution, Reyes was taken to the hospital by Miami Fire Rescue, but not before urging a delay for another item on the agenda, the pending soccer stadium deal at Melreese golf course, until Nov. 12. The request was granted, and Reyes was treated for a mild concussion.

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