Jungle Island expansion moves forward with water/sewer deal

Written by John Charles Robbins on September 20, 2022


Jungle Island expansion moves forward with water/sewer deal

Miami City Commissioners have approved a resolution that is expected to lead to a new water and sewer agreement with the county for the Jungle Island expansion, with details on the size of the proposed new uses, including the restaurants.

Jungle Island, formerly Parrot Jungle, was a zoo revived as an eco-adventure park on Watson Island.

The City of Miami owns the island and leases approximately 19.3 acres to ESJ JI Leasehold LLC. The lease and a development agreement with ESJ relate to Jungle Island.

At a recent meeting, City Commissioners authorized City Manager Art Noriega “to negotiate and execute an Addendum to the Agreement for Water and Sanitary Sewer Facilities, by and between the Water Department and Miami-Dade County and City Sewer for the provision of water and sewer services to a city-owned property leased from ESJ JI Leasehold, LLC.

The resolution also directs “to establish obligations toward the completion of the tenant’s facility located at approximately 1111 MacArthur Causeway in Watson Island; …further authorizing the City Manager to negotiate and execute all other necessary documents, including amendments and modifications to said agreement. »

The city’s Department of Real Estate and Asset Management, which administers the lease with the ESJ, requested the latter legislation.

A footnote notes that the county and city have entered into an agreement for Jungle Island’s water and sewer needs as of February 5, 2020.

“The tenant (ESJ) has revised the scope of work for the project and has requested that the city enter into an addendum to the agreement to reflect these revisions. The county is willing to enter into an addendum provided the city complies with any county policies or standards that have been revised since the date of the agreement,” the resolution states.

The park reopened after a series of renovations following damage from Hurricane Irma. The park features new high-rise nature hikes, ziplines, and more.

A planned major expansion is the construction of a hotel, along with several associated uses.
The authorization to build the hotel had to be the subject of a referendum.

In August 2018, city voters approved the Jungle Island Hotel off MacArthur Causeway.

The plan calls for an eight-story hotel with up to 300 rooms atop a rebuilt parking lot.

The developer’s app described the hotel, which is connected to the Jungle Island theme park as well as the city-owned Ichimura Japanese Garden by a characteristic staircase.

In a draft new agreement between the city and county, it reads:

“The CITY intends to construct and connect to the COUNTY’s water and sewer systems, 5,484 square feet of full-service restaurant.”

Either way, the city itself wouldn’t be doing the construction, it would be the tenant ESJ.

According to the project, phase 2 would include:

■9,805 gallons of water for a water park and 3,905 gallons for an animal display area.

■ Sewer connections for 46 gallons for the water park and 3,905 gallons for the animal display area.

According to the project, phase 3 would include building and connecting to county systems:

■300 hotel rooms.

■12,699 square feet of full-service restaurant.

■8,130 square feet of retail space.

■2,664 square feet of coffee.

■1,966 square feet of bar/cocktail lounge/nightclub.

The combined average daily gallonage for the three phases is 69,326 gallons of water and 59,572 gallons of sewer, with some credits, the project says.

In July 2021, the city commission voted 4-1 in favor of a deal giving the owners of Jungle Island a financial break on money they owed the city, and it was hoped the move would help the company obtain financing for the hotel.

The commission voted to amend a development agreement with ESJ JI Leasehold LLC to pay a portion of a loan provided by the city to the original tenant for the construction and operation of a hotel at Jungle Island in exchange completion of the project by 2026.

This will require ESJ to show a hotel occupancy certificate.

The amended agreement will see ESJ JI Leasehold pay a lump sum of $8 million on the original $13.8 million loan made in April 2000 to previous tenant Parrot Jungle and Gardens of Watson Island LLC, and the remaining balance of $5,821,923 would be reduced by $2 million if paid before January 31, 2028.

The Department of Real Estate and Asset Management recommended that the city accept the forgiveness in an effort to collect the majority of a long-standing debt and allow ESJ to obtain the financing necessary to complete the construction of the hotel and additional improvements required in the lease.


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