Developers seek leases for historic Olympia Theater, Fort Dallas

Two developers have submitted unsolicited bids for contracts to restore and redevelop historic downtown sites owned by the city of Miami.

On Tuesday, Miami commissioners will consider offers to privately finance improvements at the Olympia Theater on Flagler Street and Fort Dallas on the Miami River. Both offers were sent this summer to Miami’s real estate office independent of any official solicitation for bids.

In the case of the Olympia Theater, Related Urban Development Group, the affordable housing arm of condo builder Related Group, is offering to renovate the historic theater at 174 E. Flagler St. Opened in 1926 as a Paramount movie house, the 1,567-seat venue, while open for business, is estimated to need millions in improvements that Related Urban is now offering to finance.

The financial carrot for the affordable developer, however, is the potential of turning 80 apartments currently located above the theater into as many as 300 affordable and workforce units.

Albert Milo, Related Urban senior vice president, said in a May 9 offer sheet that the developer would lease the land, secure construction loans and financing, and maintain sole control over the property, which is currently managed by the nonprofit Olympia Center. In exchange, Related would return a percentage of its profits under the condition they be reinvested in the operations of the theater, which would be managed by a nonprofit of Related Urban’s choosing.

In an unrelated proposal, Sanctus Spiritus, a hospitality firm led by Luis G. Esqueda, is offering to build a 250-seat restaurant at Fort Dallas on the Miami River and restore the historic Palm Cottage, the last known building in the city directly associated with railroad magnate Henry Flagler. The rest of the property — which drew no interest last year following a formal solicitation — would be demolished and rebuilt.

The site, located on the north bank of the river west of the James L. Knight Center, once operated as Bijan’s restaurant but has been closed for years. Esqueda, on June 30, offered to cut the city in on 10 percent of his gross sales.

The proposals are before commissioners Tuesday because, under a law they passed recently, administrators must seek their permission to move forward with unsolicited proposals. Should commissioners wish to consider the offers, the city would have to give other interested businesses at least three weeks to come up with competing offers.

Following that process, the city would potentially select a winner and negotiate a final agreement.