Miami developer seeks to build landmark oceanfront observation tower

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 21, 2013 9:40 PM
Miami developer seeks to build landmark oceanfront observation tower

By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) - Paris has the Eiffel Tower and now a developer is hoping to give Miami its own eye-catching landmark.

Jeff Berkowitz plans to raise $300 million to $400 million, partly from Chinese investors, to build the curvaceous 1,000-foot (305-meter) tall SkyRise Miami tower on the water that would feature fine dining, as well as a bungee jump platform, and a vertical "drop ride" that would send thrill-seekers plummeting 50 stories.

Shaped like a vertical hairpin, the sleek structure is open at the sides to allow hurricane-force winds to blow through, and has the support of city officials, including Miami Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

"This is going to become Miami's Eiffel Tower," Berkowitz said, estimating it could attract 3.2 million visitors annually.

The observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floor of the Empire State Building in New York City, the second highest in the United States at 1,211 feet, attract about 4 million visitors annually, earning more $60 million according to 2012 documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The sleek steel and glass monolith designed by Arquitectonica, one of Miami's top architecture firms, still has to go through the permit process with local authorities and needs an agreement with South Florida-based General Growth Prosperities, which owns malls across the country including the waterfront shopping center in Miami where the proposed tower would be built.

The Federal Aviation Administration, which must approve building heights along flights paths in and out of Miami International Airport, has signed off on it, Berkowitz said.

The project has been under wraps for three years and during that time developers and architects have made several trips to Toronto for wind tunnel testing to ensure the tower can withstand the hurricane-force winds that sometimes hit Miami, Berkowitz said.

Tishman Construction, builder of both the original and new World Trade Center, along with Miami-based Coastal Construction would serve as general contractors. Montreal-based gsmprjct°, which designed the observation deck atop the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, once the world's tallest building, has been contracted to handle the one that will sit on the SkyRise tower.

Berkowitz said he is planning a three-city tour of China in the coming month to court potential investors. The plan is to tempt potential investors with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service's EB-5 visa program, which offers green cards to people who invest $500,000 and $1 million and create or save 10 jobs in two years.

While the program has come under criticism for lax oversight, its popularity has exploded in the years following the global financial meltdown as developers and businesses seek fresh capital in still-tight credit markets.

(Editing by David Adams and Bill Trott)