Big operators storm South Beach development

March 12, 2002 9:17 AM
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A showdown is looming over the proposed South Beach ­­Casino at Trop and Industrial.

Marvin Lipschultz’s plan to blow out the walls of the Golden Palm Casino and add a 24-story timeshare tower has run into opposition from Station Casinos and MGM Mirage. Citing concerns over traffic and congestion, the two gaming giants stalled the project at the County Commission last week.

Commissioners directed the two sides to take a 30-day timeout to talk through the issues before casting an April 3 vote. 

Lipschultz tells GamingToday he’s committed to moving forward. “I don’t understand why these lawyers are objecting when no laws have been broken. Besides, they don’t know anything about zoning,’’ he said.

The casino project has cleared all administrative hurdles, with county officials recommending conditional approval.

Greg Borgel, planning consultant for the art deco-themed resort, said the commission’s delay reflected a desire to keep the industry from “fighting.” The stakes apparently are so high that Commission Chairman Dario Herrera quickly left the chambers before the discussion began and returned immediately after the delay was approved. He did not comment on the proceedings.

Borgel maintains that Lipschultz’s plan for the three-acre parcel is appropriate ”” and that the opposition smacks of self-interest.

“If they want us to stay second-rate, crummy and small, we can’t accept that. If it comes down to them not wanting competition, we’ll never come to a resolution,’’ he said. “We haven’t done anything that isn’t done down on the Strip.’’

Station spokesman Lesley Pittman counters that the Trop-and-Industrial intersection isn’t on the Strip, and that the traffic concerns are different. “We’re not opposed to the activity, just the intensity of the activity.’’

But a preliminary analysis by traffic engineers indicates that the 300 timeshare units will have minimal impact, and that the addition of a right-turn lane will ease any additional traffic flow. Lipschultz has pledged to comply with all recommendations. “We’re actually improving a troubled intersection,’’ Borgel said

South Beach proponents say they are perplexed by Station’s intervention. The company, which owns the 255-room Wild Wild West Casino on the opposite corner, expects to announce its own plans for a major expansion in the coming months.

“If they’re saying this intersection is so bad, how can they turn around and justify that? Are they going to shoot themselves in the foot in public?’’ Borgel asks. 

County commissioners, acting as the Planning Commission, last month unanimously approved the $115 million South Beach blueprints submitted by Lipschultz, who operates the 150-room Howard Johnson hotel, an International House of Pancakes franchise and the 5,000-square-foot casino at the site.