We recently mentioned the Port of Miami’s ambitious development plans in the context of the several major public projects taking place in South Florida. Among these projects, it is clear that the activity at the Port is of the greatest interest to the Miami development community and, indeed, often appears to be the topic of conversation everywhere you turn. Accordingly, the development plans for PortMiami deserve a closer look. Because the media commonly reports on only one of the several planned or ongoing development projects in any particular article, it is easy to lose sight of the full panoply of activity, and we will attempt to paint a more complete picture here.
Major Developments Set to Improve Access to and from Port
The Port is the beneficiary of multiple developments designed to improve access to and from the Port. First, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently soliciting bids for a deep-dredge project that will permit larger, more heavily loaded “Post-Panamax” ships to access the Port. Second, a consortium is currently building a tunnel connecting the Port to the interstate highway system that will permit trucks to more efficiently move cargo to and from the Port (currently trucks must drive to and from the Port over surface streets through downtown Miami — an ungainly process). Third, Florida East Coast Railway is restoring rail service to the Port, which is developing a rail center that will efficiently connect passengers, luggage, cargo, etc., from train to ship.
Taken together, these changes will make the Port substantially more accessible by sea, road, and rail. And, significantly, two of these three projects (the tunnel and rail service) are being developed as public-private partnerships, demonstrating the ability of the P3 structure to expedite public projects that may otherwise be shelved until more public revenue becomes available.
Seaport Plans for Commercial Development
In addition to the above-mentioned projects designed to improve access to the Port, the seaport itself will soon be expanding as well. The Port has adopted an ambitious master plan for growth in the near future. Plans include up to four new, efficient cruise-ship terminals and three new cruise-ship berths. These changes will permit both larger cruise ships and more passengers to use the Port. In addition, the Port plans to take advantage of its prime location in Biscayne Bay, a stone’s throw from downtown Miami. Plans for commercial development include a megayacht marina; a hotel; and retail, restaurant, and office space. In order to permit the Port to achieve its goals in a timely fashion, these commercial developments will, no doubt, follow the same path as the Port’s access projects and utilize public-private partnerships to leverage private funding sources and expertise.