First look at the hotel planned at Jungle Island

By Brian Bandell

The owners of Jungle Island in Miami have submitted plans for a hotel, which they plan to make one of the few hotels in South Florida geared toward families.

City voters approved a referendum in August to allow ESJ Capital Partners, owner of the animal adventure park, to amend its lease with the city and build a hotel on Watson Island. The developer must still go through the site plan process.

Its initial submission to the city shows a 300-room hotel with 30,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and event space. The hotel would sit atop the parking garage, which would also have green space on its roof, instead of the surface parking that’s there now. The hotel would have six floors, including space for retail and a rooftop restaurant.

There would be a waterslide from the lobby of the hotel into the amusement park so guests could go play.

The hotel was designed by EoA, led by Malcolm Berg. The developer is working with construction management firm Amicon Management.

“We are very excited about submitting this concept to the city of Miami,” said Arnaud Sitbon, CEO of ESJ Capital Partners. “We have invested a great deal of time and resources to develop something special for residents and visitors of Miami, a project that will be a valuable source of pride for our community as a whole.”

ESJ Capital COO Elie Mimoun said the project would be less than 130 feet tall, which is the maximum height allowed under the amended lease. The narrowest side of the hotel would face neighboring condos towers on the Venetian Islands so as to minimize the impact on residents’ views, he added.

The existing parking garage at Jungle Island would be torn down, and a new parking garage would start four feet below ground level, Mimoun said. While construction is going on, Jungle Island visitors could park underneath the MacArthur Causeway Bridge and near the Miami Children’s Museum, and be shuttled to the park. Jungle Island also plans to host a stop for the new trolley service between downtown Miami and Miami Beach, he added.

“Our idea is to be the bridge between Miami and Miami Beach for families,” Mimoun said.

If the city, acting as a landlord, likes the plans for the hotel, ESJ Capital will apply for a land use amendment to rezone the property, Mimoun said.

This would be the closest hotel to PortMiami, one of the busiest cruise ports in the world.

Meanwhile, new attractions have been added to Jungle Island this year, including the Super Flight vertical wind tunnel, the Battleground Nerf foam dart challenge, and two escape rooms. Future additions are to include a man-made Crystal Lagoon and zip lines.