Why SkyRise Miami Depends On Voters And Visitors' Pockets

Aug 25, 2014

Developer Jeff Berkowitz says it would be for Miami what the Eiffel Tower is for Paris.
Credit Skyrise Miami

City of Miami voters will decide Tuesday whether to let a local developer build Florida's tallest building on the waterfront behind Bayside Marketplace. 

Jeff Berkowitz visualizes SkyRise Miami as the city's special landmark. A $400 million, 1,000-foot tower stuffed with observation decks, restaurants, a theater and even some thrill rides. It would create jobs, bolster the economy and polish up the Miami brand. He says this is what major cities do.

"These towers are a proven concept. They're all over the world," Berkowitz says. "They attract a lot of people. The Eiffel Tower has had over 250 million visitors since it opened."

SkyRise would be visible all over Miami and, from its top, command the view over a 40-mile horizon from Key Largo to North Broward. Mayor Tomás Regalado says he's prepared to be impressed. 

"I think it's a job builder," he says. "Whether it would bring millions of visitors, I don't know."

But those millions of visitors may be necessary to SkyRise's success. Berkowitz is promising a first-year revenue of $100 million and at least 3.2 million visitors a year. 

To make those numbers work, each visitor would have to spend at least $31. Otherwise, says prominent blogger and constant SkyRise critic Al Crespo of the Crespogram Report, the project could fail.

And if anything is too big to fail, it's SkyRise Miami.

"It's not like if you build a building and say 'well, gee, we had a good idea but it didn't seem to work so we'll just tear down the building and build something else,'" he says. "You can't easily tear down a 1,000-foot tower."

The SkyRise question is the third of three proposed city charter amendments on the ballot. It looks like it's about Bayside's lease with Miami, but it's really about a humongous tower that a wealthy developer says will brand the city and change it forever.

  Update: SkyRise Miami plans were approved by voters on primary election night.