The Watson Island Strangler


The Watson Island Strangler

Watson Island

Euphemistically named "Island Gardens" by its private developer this monstrosity should realistically be named "The Watson Island Strangler" It looks beautiful on paper. But, this twin-towered 50 and 35 story hotel complex with 605 rooms and over 350,000 sf of shopping mall activity, and a base alone the size of the American Airlines Area, will dwarf everything around, and block the sight lines of everyone on the bay from South Beach to downtown Miami.

In general, life in Downtown Miami gets better every day...but also more challenging.

Every new element of public infrastructure or private development creates ripple effects near and far. 

A little over ten years ago, Downtown Miami consisted of some scattered office buildings, bedraggled retail stores, sketchy dining establishments, and hardly any residential offerings.  Today the area is bursting with dozens of new public and private buildings, brilliant architecture, and a burgeoning full-time population. 

Some ideas - first advanced many years ago - may no longer make sense given the new reality of Downtown Miami.  Island Gardens was selected 14 years ago to develop a mega project on Watson Island. It might have been a good idea - THEN.

But decisions made by the City of Miami in recent years, in many cases using highly questionable procedures, could cause unimaginable traffic congestion impeding the flow of traffic between Miami-Dade's two major economic hubs - South Beach and Downtown Miami. This nightmarish image of traffic on MacArthur illustrates what COULD happen on a regular basis if we do not act to prevent it now.

Concerned residents and businesses are invited to explore the enormous risks to their economic interests and quality of life. 

As local media organizations – newspapers, magazines and TV news staffs – grow smaller, it is increasingly difficult to stay informed about local issues. 

As a result, many major real estate and infrastructure developments move along quietly, out-of-sight and unknown to the public.

For example, many people living and/or working in Downtown Miami and/or South Miami Beach do not know that the City of Miami is about to give the go-ahead to the long-stalled Island Garden development on Watson Island. 

Nor are they aware of how this project could severely clog traffic on the already overburdened McArthur Causeway.


The  COALITION AGAINST CAUSEWAY CHAOS seeks give the public a better opportunity to learn about the flaws in this project and the suspicious process by which the City has allowed it to move forward. CACC believes that development must proceed in accordance with all applicable state and local laws, through a transparent process in which the citizens have input with the local government after obtaining current and accurate information from the City and the developer. In the Island Gardens case, those principles have not been  followed in virtually every important respect. If interested citizens do not take action to hold their local government officials accountable for these failures, then we have abandoned the very notion of democracy and accountable government.

To do this, we need YOUR support.

Latest Developments

Latest Developments


Miami Beach, January, 2017

The Coalition against Causeway Chaos (CaCC) believes that on September20, 2016, City of Miami Beach (CMB) officials announced a dangerously incorrect conclusion to a series of traffic studies involving the impact of the Watson Island Flagstone Island Gardens project on Miami Beach.

The process was launched with a great sense of urgency on January 14, 2015 with the unanimous approval of the Mayor and Commission. Nearly two years later –20 months to be exact –a final report was issued. A report marred by inaccuracy and incompetence.

CMB now concludes that the impact of the Flagstone project is minimal. In reality, when examined by independent experts, the opposite conclusion is inescapable: The Flagstone Watson Island project poses great economic,lifestyle, and public safety threats for the businesses and residents of MiamiBeach.

Despite the actual dangers produced by the studies, City officials failed to take appropriate action to mitigate the damage expected from the Flagstone development; failed to act in a reasonable timeframe, further putting Miami Beach at risk; and have wasted at least $210,000 of taxpayer funds.

To avoid what CaCC believes will be serious damage to residents,businesses and the economy, we request that the City of Miami Commission invoke the State’s Inter-jurisdictional Mediation mechanism and enter into negotiations with the City of Miami to mitigate the negative impacts of the Watson Island Flagstone project.

Further we urge that this mediation be conducted in public so that City ofMiami Beach Officials may earn the trust of their residents in the conduct of the process which poses a threat to their health, safety, quality of life and economic livelihoods.

What is wrong with the City’s Conclusions?

The following represent key failings of the studies undertaken by CMBand the conclusions CMB has drawn from those efforts.

a. The City Manager’s Conclusion.  

For whatever undisclosed reason, the traffic impact study conducted by CMB completely ignored the effect of the project as originally approved by the City of Miami and, instead, chose to focus only on the effect of a pending request by the developer to add an additional 140,000 square feet of retail space.

i. In his report to the Mayor and Commission, CMB’s City Manager wrote of the proposed addition: “The Traffic Impact Study concluded that the increase in trips caused by the developments will not have a significantly adverse impact on MacArthur Causeway. The congestion observed in the model cannot be attributed to the proposed development.”

ii. The City ignored the data collected for their studies, saying: “It is worth highlighting that the traffic impacts of both the 2004 approved development and the 2015 requested approval [the additional 140,000 SF] were analyzed; however only the additional 140,000 SF of retail is open for comment.”

(Emphasis added.)

[The full letter can be found here]

b. The Coalition’s summary conclusions from the same set of data.

i. CaCC asserts that the data regarding Flagstone’s 2004 Plan, re-approved annually from 2010 through 2014, already put the MacArthur Causeway into a “failure” rating and that ignoring the impact of the planned structures violates all professional standards for traffic analysis.

To draw an analogy, the City in effect chose to conclude that adding 10 cigarettes a day (the proposed additional 140,000 square feet) to a two-pack habit would not have significant impact.

ii. But even that conclusion is wrong because just the incremental 140,000 sq. ft. of public space that Flagstone is currently requesting from the City of Miami does have a significant impact on MacArthur Causeway.

Not only is traffic adversely impacted by this mammoth project, there is likely to be a deterioration of the tax base from the drop in value of the residences on the Islands off MacArthur, near the intersection of MacArthur and Alton Road, and south of fifth.

iii. The City failed to insist that the City of Miami conduct studies meeting State standards.

iv. The City also failed in its own efforts to conduct studies relevant to the uniqueness of the economic health of the City and County and its dependence on the tourist industry.

v. CaCC believes that the original plan, compounded by the request for 140,000 sq. ft., puts the City of Miami Beach, its quality of life and economic well-being at an unacceptable level of risk.

vi. CaCC is concerned with how officials chose to ignore the original, base plan to obtain the result that it did.

vii. CaCC believes that the results of 20 months of machination and $220,000 of taxpayers funds flies in the face of observation by any one traveling on MacArthur or Venetian Causeways at peak tourist times as well as simple logic, and even simpler commonsense.

viii. CaCC’s conclusions are supported by experts in the field of traffic analysis. [For outside, expert analysis, see here.]

To download a PDF of the complete report, click here.


For the full version of the latest E-update, click here.

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More on Miami Beach’s Warning to City of Miami

The City of Miami Beach has threatened the City of Miami with legal action if it does not reply to the April 2015 request for data so that it may complete its own examination of the likely damage to Miami Beach (and the County’s entire tourist industry).

Click here to read the Miami Herald article "Miami Beach threatens Miami with legal action over Flagstone project".

Click here to read the letter from the City of Miami Beach to Miami.


The Coalition has been busy these last months. 

Final reply to the 3rd District Court of Appeal on standing to challenge the City’s violation of its charter and other issues has been filed. Awaiting a decision of the court. 

  • Final reply to the 1st District Court of Appeal on challenging the State’s decision-making process in approving the Flagstone process in May of 2014. Awaiting a decision.
  • New appeal filed from the Circuit Court’s failure to hold the City of Miami in contempt for knowingly withholding critical documents from the Commissioners and the public for nine months, six of which were after a specific court order to turn over the documents. 
  • Miami Beach has threatened the City of Miami with legal action if it does not reply to the April 2015 request for data so that it may complete its own examination of the likely damage to Miami Beach (and the County’s entire tourist industry).
  • An ethics complaint has been filed with the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Integrity. Not known for its aggressive posture, the Commission faces a conundrum because the evidence is clear, extensive and material that the Assistant City Attorney of Miami misled the Commission during its deliberations in May of 2014. Specific Commissioners’ comments made at the time of the vote, indicate had they been given the correct information by the Assistant City Attorney, the is likely to have been a rejection of Flagstone’s lease extension. 

Ready and eager to expand and intensify CaCC’s efforts.

While many of the Coalition’s projects are well underway, it is now we time to engage the public in support of the the final push to prevent the loss of Watson Island to a private developer, creating such chaos on MacArthur Boulevard and Venetian Causeway that will endanger the lives and lifestyles of our residents and push the entire County’s tourist industry past the tipping point of an appealing destination.

The Coalition is currently updating HOAs and other interested groups about where we are and where we are going – and what citizens can do to help.

Given the chance to use our resources and accumulated expertise, CaCC will also be working with the “new management” of the City of Miami to open its windows and doors, let the sun shine in, and stop the corruption so damaging to all of us. 

We look forward to your involvement and help.


Miami Beach, January 12, 2016.  The City of Miami Beach yesterday took another major step in tackling the threat of strangulating traffic posed by the mega Island Gardens development on Watson Island.

For the past 9 months the City of Miami has ignored repeated requests from Miami Beach for information needed to complete a traffic impact study on the impact of the massive Flagstone project on area traffic. 

The first request was made on April 14, 2015.  When no response was forthcoming after 6 months, Miami Beach issued a second request on November 5, 2015. Two months later Miami has still not responded despite its promises to do so.

So yesterday, a strongly worded letter from City Manager Jimmy Morales and City Attorney Raul Aguila made crystal clear that the patience of Miami Beach has run out. 

"At this point, absent immediate compliance with our request", the letter warned that Miami Beach will "pursue all legal options" if Miami continues to ignore its requests for information needed to complete the traffic study on the Flagstone project's impact on area roadways.

Invoking the “Florida Governmental Conflict Resolution Act”” Miami Beach officials demanded that the City of Miami “cease ignoring the City of Miami Beach’s concerns, and address the legitimate inquiries that have been made. Alternatively, the City of Miami Beach shall pursue all legal options ….”

This move by the City of Miami Beach comes as part of its efforts to complete the traffic study on the impact of the Watson Island Flagstone project unanimously approved by the City Commission and Mayor on January 14th last year.

The City of Miami Beach has done us all a favor.

By taking off the gloves the City of Miami Beach has served a wake up call to the City of Miami.  No longer can its officials turn their backs and ignore the dangers that the Flagstone Watson Island development poses to the entire area.

Thank you City of Miami Beach.

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How You Can Help

How You Can Help

BE informed


Here’s How You Can Help.  Each of us must do our part:

  • Sign up to receive alerts and updates by clicking here
  • Get informed about how this project will affect your quality of life as a resident, your business, the economy of Miami-Dade. It’s all here on CACC.
  • Get informed about how the City of Miami has broken State and local laws to ensure that a private developer is getting special treatment, including subsidies and other benefits to make a profit from public land designed for public use. It’s all here on CACC. 
  • Get informed about how the City violated the State’s public records statutes to prevent the public from learning what was really going on with this development, and how citizens were required to bring lawsuits against the City to obtain crucial records revealing back-room machinations which disregared the law, City agreements, and the impact of the Project on the public. 
  • Stay informed of progress and developments by checking the website’s home page from time to time. 



Share the News About Watson Island:

Speak with your friends, neighbors, family members, and business associates – especially those who live and work in Downtown Miami or Miami Beach – about the City of Miami’s actions to permit this project despite its legal flaws and despite its potential to cause massive harm to businesses and residents for whom the traffic on MacArthur Causeway, Venetian Causeway, Biscayne Blvd, and Alton Road has become a real threat to their economic lifeblood and quality of residential life.   

Spread the word.  Please forward a link to this site to your friends, neighbors and colleagues--especially those who live and work in Downtown Miami or Miami Beach.  Alert them to  the City of Miami’s actions to permit this project despite the illegal actions behind it and despite its potential to cause massive harm to businesses and residents.  A real threat to their economic lifeblood and quality of residential life.

Share our news articles, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, see our videos on Vimeo, and ask your friends to do the same.



Please do your part …

Join with friends and neighbors to help stop the Watson Island Flagstone project by supporting legal action and citizen mobilization . 

The City of Miami and the developer are intent on bankrupting the citizen litigants challenging the project.  They have arrayed an army of expensive lawyers against those challenging their illegal acts.

We are devoting a major part of our efforts to raising the funds necessary to make sure the citizen’s voice is heard and the facts of the secret, backroom deals are exposed to judicial scrutiny.

Please help today.  Just click the "Donate" button below to make a secure online donation with your credit card.  

Thank you! 


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