90 Qualified Bidders, No Offers for Mango’s Development Site in South Beach

Ocean Drive

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

90 Qualified Bidders, No Offers for Mango’s Development Site in South Beach:

Global inquiries but owners say too much uncertainty around Ocean Drive

More than 100 Inquiries came in from around the world and 90 bidders were qualified but, in the end, there were no offers for a redevelopment site that included the Mango’s property on Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive and three contiguous parcels behind it on Collins Avenue. The Wallack family which has owned the Mango’s site at 900 Ocean Drive for 65 years placed the three properties on Collins Avenue under contract and hired CBRE to market the assemblage as a redevelopment site. But their vision, as the City seeks to “reimagine” its South Beach Entertainment District, “may have been a little too early,” Josh Wallack told RE:MiamiBeach.
 
The Mango's site and three Collins Avenue parcels assembled for redevelopment


Wallack said inquiries came from Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, and Australia. While they don’t know for sure what caused the lack of bids, Attorney Monika Entin said, “We think it’s a multifaceted issue” including viral videos of fights and criminal activity on Ocean Drive. “We live in a virtual world where everything gets uploaded instantly [and] things are seen internationally.”

Anyone looking at the opportunity had to ask themselves, “Is this a good investment or is it not a good investment,” she said. In addition to the viral videos, Entin noted uncertainty over potential new regulations for the Entertainment District that are being discussed by the City Commission. Those proposals include punitive regulations as well as development incentives to change the nature of the businesses located there – a “carrot and stick” approach as Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber refers to the efforts.

Among the questions investors ask, Entin said, “Is development being encouraged in that area or not? What’s happening and what are we getting ourselves into?” The answers “play a big part in if someone decides to take the leap or not.”

Right now, she added, “The answer is nobody knows.”

One of the proposed items, allowing multi-story rooftop additions on Collins Avenue and encouraging connections to properties across the alley on Ocean Drive, was proposed by City staff as a way to generate interest in good hotel development while taking pressure off of Ocean Drive traffic by creating areas for drop-off, pickups, and deliveries to occur on Collins Avenue. That proposal, which would have applied to the Mango’s redevelopment site, has not gotten traction. 

“From a development perspective, there is instability in the area and an expectation of when there’s instability and the conditions that we have, the prices in the area will go down,” Entin said. “Why pay top dollar now” when they can pay less in the future?

Mango’s Tropical Café opened on Ocean Drive in March 1991 when Josh Wallack was 13 years old. Prior to its opening, it was an adult living facility. Wallack says it is now one of the longest running live music venues in the country made possible by Tony Goldman’s vision to revitalize the area with the restaurants, outdoor cafés, and nightclubs that transformed it following its last downturn during the 1980s “Miami Vice” days.

 
UFC’s Rashad Evans (left) with Josh Wallack at Mango’s


With Mango’s closed since last March due to the pandemic, Josh and his father, David Wallack, who started the nightclub, looked at the current state of Ocean Drive and what could be next to lift it up. The thought of selling the property was hard, Josh Wallack said, “because we both love Mango’s so much and Mango’s is so important to the City.” Watching other businesses like the News Café close was hard, too, but with the City’s hiring of Zyscovich Architects to conduct a land use, mobility, and economic development study of the South Beach Entertainment District – the area Mayor Gelber suggested be renamed the Art Deco Cultural District – Josh Wallack said he and David saw an opportunity to move things forward by offering the redevelopment opportunity.

To him, it was an opportunity to play offense as well as defense. Wallack said he appreciates the efforts the Police Department is making but, using a sports analogy, he said, “You can’t just stop the other team from scoring all the time, you have to put points on the board, too.”

Instead of focusing only on prevention, he wants to see the City move on initiatives that, like what Tony Goldman did so many years ago, will move Ocean Drive forward. That is a long-term effort, he said, one that could take 10 to 12 years as Goldman’s efforts did.

“It’s sad but it’s certainly not over,” Wallack said. “It’s early in the game and there are miles and miles of green pastures ahead for Miami Beach. It’s looking long through the right lens.”

Though things are “bad” now, he said that’s often when you can make the most change. “In a lot of times, it’s easier to go from bad to great than from good to great… When things are good you get complacent. When they’re not going so well, [people] are willing to do more to be great.”

He’s concerned about the blame being placed on all businesses in the Entertainment District, businesses like his that have been mostly closed during the pandemic yet the bad activity continues out in the street. Looking back, he thinks the beginning of the “slide” occurred when the City stopped allowing businesses to hire off-duty officers which kept behavior in check.

“Chief Clements is definitely doing a lot more, but nobody’s a miracle worker,” he said. “It took years to get this way. It’s going to take time to have the next upward trend.” In the meantime, he’s looking forward to the Zyscovich “master plan.”

“Ocean Drive is our identity, so we need to nurture it, not call it a cancer. We need to figure out how to make everything work, not tear it all down.”

Regarding the redevelopment idea for the Mango’s property and adjacent parcels, he said, “At least it was some kind of master plan and vision. Was it all thought through with the City? No. Was it timed up with their GO Bond [funding]? No. Did it go through Zyscovich? No. It was from our hearts because we love Miami Beach. We love Ocean Drive and we’re in this unprecedented situation… with COVID-19” which has “devastated” the hospitality industry.

The interested bidders all came back with questions, he said. “What’s going on there? What can we do, and we didn’t have an answer for them.”

The discussions and proposals for the area have “good intention,” Wallack said. “There’s good potential energy” but no answers, yet. While they figure it out, Mango’s will reopen at some point in the future when it can be opened “responsibly.” That means getting more insight into the vaccination rate and after Spring Break.
 
“We are going to play music. We are going to sing and dance,” Wallack said. “We are going to do what we can do and what we are permitted to do… People want to be happy again… People want to dance.” Miami Beach needs its “glamor” back, he added.

 


In the meantime, he’s looking forward to the new hotels opening on Washington Avenue which will grow an ecosystem of coffee shops and bakeries and other retail around them, he said. Pointing to The Betsy at one end of Ocean Drive and the soon-to-open Celino Hotel at the other, Wallack said his question is “How do you daisy chain these together and create a district of clean and safe?”

The Wallacks’ proposed development won’t be part of that chain for now. They will let the contracts on the three Collins Avenue parcels expire at the end of the February. “There’s no point in closing on them,” Wallack said.

That said, he emphasized, “We feel a tremendous sense of optimism even though it doesn’t look like it.” Difficult times “lends itself to the right leaders. Let’s see what we can do if we put all of our heads together and put together a master plan.”

“We want to have our tourists back, but we also want to have our locals back,” he said. 

RE:MiamiBeach reached out to CBRE but a spokeswoman said the firm could not comment at this time.

Photos courtesy Mango’s and CBRE
 

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