BY ELAINE WALKER, DOUGLAS HANKS AND HANNAH SAMPSON
PETER ANDREW BOSCH / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
Genting Group's Chairman KT Lim (center with glasses) was hosting a reception to meet Miami's civic and business leaders to talk about plans for Resorts World Miami. It's the beginning of a campaign to win community support for the project, this was Thursday, June 16th 2011
After considering architects from around the world, Genting Malaysia Berhad decided to choose one of Miami’s own to design the $3 billion mixed-use project Resorts World Miami.
Genting Group Chairman and Chief Executive KT Lim announced the hiring of internationally known Arquitectonica to create the master plan during a Thursday evening reception for more than 200 business and civic leaders at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
The event is part of a broader effort by Malaysia-based Genting, Asia’s third largest casino company, to quickly assimilate into the local community just three weeks after paying $236 million for the 13.9 acres of waterfront land occupied by The Miami Herald and previously owned by its parent, McClatchy Co.
“I believe Miami is destined to become one of the greatest global cities in the world,” Lim said Thursday evening.
Genting — part of the Genting Group, valued at $45 billion — plans to move quickly on its Miami luxury resort. The company has said it hopes to one day include a casino, although Florida law currently forbids it. Political and community support can only help Genting in its quest to get gaming approved, a process that could take years.
Thursday evening, at least one politician voiced his support for the group’s plan.
Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado told The Miami Herald he was briefed earlier in the day by Genting officials and supported plans to put a casino on the ground level with a resort area above to appeal to non-gambling vacationers.
“The way they have presented it,” he said, “I do support that .. . What they’re trying to is here is smart: bringing tourists to the resort. If you want to go to the casino, fine.”
Regalado said he has been a longtime advocate for expanding gaming beyond tribal lands.
Whether or not the law changes, Genting has said it is moving forward on a mixed-use project that will create thousands of jobs and remake the northern edge of downtown Miami. The mix is expected to include restaurants, shopping, residential towers, entertainment and other commercial facilities, with an initial master plan draft due by the end of August.
“There’s no greater honor than to do something in your hometown of this great importance,” said Arquitectonica co-founder Bernardo Fort-Brescia at the reception. “This is bound to be one of the greatest economic drivers of our history. It will change the tourism, entertainment and real estate picture of our city.”
Thursday’s invitation-only reception drew a cross section of political and business leaders, including Penny Shaffer, chair of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and market president for Blue Cross Blue Shield; realtor Jack Lowell, chair of the Beacon Council economic development agency; lawyer Mike Eidson, chair of the Arsht Center, and most of the Miami City Commission.
Several dozen of Miami’s most prominent business leaders also were invited for a more intimate dinner with Lim and the Genting team.
While Miami didn’t know much about Genting until a few weeks ago, parent company The Genting Group has been doing business in the U.S. for 25 years and 11 years ago acquired Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line. The Genting Group currently owns 50 percent of NCL.
Lim highlighted the NCL purchase as he described a history with Miami that dates back to his university days in London 40 years ago, when he first visited South Florida.
“I enjoyed all that Miami could offer to a young man and I fell in love with Miami and have come back many, many times,” he said. “I always feel at home.”