Watson Island sits in the middle of Biscayne Bay between Miami and Miami Beach and across from the Port of Miami, the largest cruise ship port in the world. Without question it affords the best views of downtown Miami. A few years ago the City of Miami struck a deal with Turkish developer Mehmet Bayraktar (Flagstone Property Group) to develop a $480 million dollar world-class hotel and 50-slip mega yacht marina. The two hotels on the property will be managed by Westin and Shangri-La, the Hong Kong company's first venture in the U.S. Although larger towers were planned, they were reduced in height to 48- and 37-stories respectively, to pacify minor opposition by a few homeowners living on Venetian Isles who complained that the buildings would block their views of downtown Miami. Can you imagine what Manhattan would look like today if it had been inhabited with people a hundred years ago with this kind of mindset?
Too bad for those of us who believe in the spirit-lifting power of really tall, dramatically designed buildings. But that's the kind of thing you can come to expect in Miami. People get bent out of shape here quite quickly over nearly everything. One man recently coerced the Miami-Dade County School Board, which oversees the 4th largest school system in the U.S., to ban a book about Cuba written for second graders because he didn't like the way it painted a picture of his former homeland. When it was discovered that the Shangri-La hotel chain was based in communist Hong Kong, enough of a stink was raised by Cuban-American voters to actually make some local politicians question the contract between the city and Flagstone. It's a wonder if anything ever gets done here without offending someone.
Like me. I'm offended we aren't going to get something like the awe-inspiring architecture of the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai (see picture). It is the tallest hotel in the world. I'm offended that Miami couldn't have demanded more from the developer regarding a grand design for the best piece of public land left in South Florida. You can compare the two designs by clicking here.