Voters to decide on new hotel at Jungle Island amid expansion plan

WATSON ISLAND, Fla. (WSVN) — Miami voters will get to decide whether or not Jungle Island will add a new hotel on its Watson Island property.

It’s been a popular attraction for decades, but the eco-adventure park wants to offer more to local residents and visitors.

“With this latest round of plans, we want to perfect the recipe for a really appealing eco-adventure destination, for both locals and tourists who come to South Florida,” said Christopher Gould, Jungle Island’s managing director.

On Aug. 28, voters in the City of Miami will decide whether the park will be able to move forward with the expansion. The plan is to build a 13-story hotel, with up to 300 rooms, on top of the site’s current parking garage.

But to make that a reality, voters have to approve the extension of its lease to 2099, with an option for a 15-year extension, and allow owners to build the privately financed hotel on the property.

Gould said this is all part of an even larger plan.

“We’re asking that they vote in favor of our lease extension and of the design elements that we’ve put forward for the themed hotel to support,” he said. “We’re already engaged in development of adventure attractions, zip line tours that are built into the trees, rope bridges that are in the trees, so it’s really soft on the landscape but an exciting way to experience being outdoors, being in the heart of the city and enjoying our beautiful climate.”

In other words, “a new Jungle Island,” as a website in support of the hotel bid reads. The website states the expansion would not cost the city a single penny.

Gould said they’ve taken discussions with neighbors into consideration.

“We’ve incorporated a number of those things that have come from fruitful discussions with neighbors, in terms of the scale of the hotel, the height, the orientation of it,” he said.

If the hotel is built, Jungle Island has agreed to contribute $700,000 for maintenance repairs at the neighboring park, as well as $750,000 to an affordable housing fund.

“We’re proposing in our plan that we would make significant contribution towards the city’s budget, to be able to improve, so that they’re able to do better at the same time that we are,” said Gould.

Opponents of the massive undertaking have created a website called “Jungle Island Opposition.” They have fought against the development, claiming it would be more harmful than beneficial to the city.

Others said they are concerned this could be another failed project.

But it has nevertheless made its way to the ballot. Now it’s up to voters to decide.

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