Council approves golf course plan

Sports By Linda Trischitta, Editor Thursday, June 30, 2022

    The Miami Lakes town council has approved the $110 million plan for The Residences & Shops on NINE, a project at the landmark Miami Lakes Golf Course.

     The golf course will remain open for play during construction.

     Demolition of the shuttered Miami Lakes Hotel and Golf site (formerly Hotel Indigo), Shula’s Steak House and the clubhouse at Miami Lakes Drive and Northwest 77th Avenue could start in 2023, with construction beginning during the third quarter of that year.  

     But first, construction drawings and work schedules will be made. It will take up to 24 months -- to build a new clubhouse, driving range building, 278-unit apartment building and garage within it -- to open perhaps by 2025.

     The Graham Companies built the original property 59 years ago and said it is redeveloping it because the current uses are not financially viable.

Residents weigh in

     During a site plan review hearing on June 14, 24 residents spoke about the changes to come. 

     Some shared concerns about additional traffic or felt the seven-story apartment building was “not in character with the neighborhood.”

    Many speakers called designs by Roger Fry & Associates Architects, P.A. “beautiful” and “wonderful.”

    Retiree Michael Huffaker, a former business owner in town and former chair of the Economic Development Committee, said he was “astonished” at how light traffic was when he drove to the golf course to pursue his new hobby.  He also supports having the apartment building as part of the project. 

Eliminating flooding

     Development plans will include a new drainage system for the golf course, which is not playable on the back nine after heavy rains. 

     “If this golf course, which I think is a primary feature and characteristic of the Town of Miami Lakes, if it was owned by another developer that was losing money it would no longer be a golf course, it would all be apartments,” Huffaker said.

     “So in my opinion this addition, which will help offset the cost of maintaining that golf course, is a small price to pay to keep it a golf course and an integral part of our community as it is,” Huffaker said.

Road improvements

     According to the developer’s traffic consultants, there will be 93 additional vehicle trips per hour on Miami Lakes Drive from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 104 more cars per hour between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

     To help move traffic, the developers will put aside $300,000 to permit, plan and build two westbound turn lanes along Miami Lakes Drive. 

     Drivers on one lane will turn into the property and on the second lane will turn right and north onto Northwest 77th Avenue, pending approval from Miami-Dade County to build the lanes. 

Dining and retail options

     In addition to the building with one and two-bedroom apartments and the parking garage, The Residences & Shops on NINE will have a 4,000 square foot, two-story restaurant at its southwest corner and about 6,000 square feet of commercial or retail space.

Live, work and play

     Apartment residents will have a resort-style pool, dog grooming room, fitness center and conference rooms where they can work remotely. Many apartments will overlook the golf course.

     “When you live there, you literally can live, work and play right there in that building,” Luis Martinez, senior executive vice president of The Graham Companies told the council.

     Town staff said the project complied with code which would have allowed up to 902 apartments. The developers did not seek a higher occupancy for the apartment building nor did they require a variance for the project.

Designs and amenities

     The new clubhouse will have an elevated banquet hall that offers golf course views for up to 250 guests. A separate, small restaurant and bar will replace the existing Bull Pen restaurant.

     A new single-story driving range building will have doors that fold back and can be partitioned off for a classroom.  There will be 29 total indoor and outdoor practice bays, a bar/restaurant and private video teaching rooms.

     The developers will build a 10-foot-wide sidewalk along Miami Lakes Drive that will be 8 feet away from the road and will replace a sidewalk half that size. 

     It will be wide enough to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians. Existing shade trees will be saved. Low lighting and brick pavers are planned for the parking lot.

     Martinez said The Graham Companies had invested $9 million into Miami Lakes Hotel and Golf but it was not successful. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was closed along with Shula’s Steak House. 

     A hoped-for amenity is to bring the First Tee Miami youth golf program -- which teaches the game to children, provides tutoring and is free for many kids -- from the Melreese Country Club to Miami Lakes.

     That move will depend on, among other factors, when a soccer stadium is built on the Melreese site. 

   The council vote

    The elected officials approved the site plan 5 – 2.

     Councilman Josh Dieguez praised the widened sidewalks and enhanced public safety planned for along Miami Lakes Drive and said traffic was not a factor the council could consider to approve or deny the site plan.

     Vice Mayor Jeff Rodriguez said, “We have a company who has severely underdeveloped this site, they have the opportunity for 900 units, they cut it down to 278 because it’s what they need to cover the cost of a money-draining golf course that they want to keep in our town. … I believe it’s a very nice project,” he said.

     Rodriguez called the possible addition of the First Tee Miami and restaurants “the type of things that draw people into this town.”

     Councilman Tony Fernandez said the redeveloped property will turn an eyesore into something that will redefine the town entrance to drivers who arrive via the Palmetto Expressway.

     Mayor Manny Cid said approving the project was a “great, great opportunity” to have such a large investment made in Miami Lakes.

     Councilmembers Marilyn Ruano and Luis Collazo voted against it. 

     Ruano said beautification is the developer’s “No. 1 priority,” but objected to a single entrance and exit to the property and the height of the apartment building. Collazo agreed.