By Jai-Leen James, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber voiced his concern Wednesday, July 3rd, regarding the city commission’s upcoming vote on a monorail proposal. The Genting Group, Malaysian casino company, is partnering with Chinese monorail manufacturer BYD Co. to build a monorail system in Miami-Dade County.
Gelber asked Miami-Dade commission chairwoman Audrey Edmonson, in a public letter, to delay the upcoming vote to allow the county more time to conduct research on the proposal to make a more informed decision. The vote is set to take place Wednesday, July 10th. Commissioners will vote on whether or not to authorize Mayor Gimenez to supervise competition bids.
“While I recognize that merely approving the publication of a solicitation does not commit the County or the City to a specific plan,” Gelber wrote, “I also recognize that when the metaphorical train leaves the station, it’s difficult to alter its route.”
According to a memo from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, the county received a proposal on May 2nd from the Miami Beach Monorail Consortium requesting to “design, build, finance, operate and maintain a monorail system between mainland Miami and Miami Beach along the MacArthur Causeway.” Gimenez urged commissioners to approve the proposal in order to start a bidding process for companies to compete for the transit route.
In 2017, the county commission voted unanimously to allow Genting to build a 300-room hotel and apartment building over the Omni Station bus terminal within its property. According to Casino, The Genting Group has offered to fund the monorail project that would cost $48 million per mile and cost over a quarter billion dollars.
According to the Tier One Evaluation Report submitted by Parsons for the Beach Corridor Transit Project, a monorail system between mainland Miami and Miami Beach would cost nearly $1 billion to build and $18 million a year to operate.
According to the memo from Mayor Gimenez, the estimated cost for the Beach Corridor project “[…] inclusive of all capital, maintenance, and operating costs caries greatly depending on the proposed segment length, number of stations, and mode of transportation.”
The Beach Corridor where Genting wants to build the monorail is located in Districts 3 and 5. Chairwoman Audrey M. Edmonson represents District 3 and Commissioner Eileen Higgins represents District 5.
The Genting Group owns resort and casino properties in Malaysia, China, the United States, the Caribbean, the Philippines and Singapore. In 2011, Genting purchased thirty acres of land downtown with the intentions of building a multibillion-dollar casino resort. However, commercial casinos are outlawed in Florida and Genting has been unable to amend that law.
“Although I can only speak for myself as Mayor, I believe that most or all of my Commission will strenuously object to any plan that might allow for, or even contemplate, a casino that is placed nearby or that is actually tethered to our community,” Gelber said in his letter to county commissioners.
“Our City has for many years opposed casino gaming within our city limits or outside our gateways. I believe casino gambling is an existential threat to our community fabric and our quality of life.”