It was billed as the project that would spark development in North Miami Beach.
But for about a decade, prime waterfront land — which had to be cleared of existing buildings — lay vacant due to a failing housing market and community concerns.
Now, the project formerly known as Marina Grande has taken on new life.
Under its new name, Marina Palms Yacht Club & Residences, affiliates with the Plaza Group and the DevStar Group are set to develop the property into a luxury condo/marina community.
Once finished, the 14-acre site near the 17200 block of Biscayne Boulevard will boost two condominium buildings, consisting of 234 residences in each tower, along with a full-service marina with 112 slips.
The gated community will offer amenities including butler service, an infinity-edge pool, a gym and a children’s playroom, according to a media release.
George Helmstetter, a principal with the DevStar Group, expects Marina Palms to become a landmark development in the city.
“There is no real sense of arrival when you cross the border into North Miami Beach,” said Helmstetter. “This will be an icon that defines the entrance into North Miami Beach.”
The two-, three- and four-bedroom residences are available and start in the low $600,000s, with prices starting in the low $300s per square foot.
The first tower is slated to be finished sometime next year, while the entire project is scheduled to be completed in 2015.
About 150 reservations have already been made.
“I think it’s a miracle the property still exists and is able to be developed,” said Neil Fairman, president of The Plaza Group. “I am proud to be able to develop this waterfront into something that will be a landmark in North Miami Beach.”
In 2004, Boca Developers had set out to develop the property but were met with opposition from residents.
Residents filed lawsuits against the developer and also challenged the city’s interpretation of its zoning code in court.
In its interpretation, the city included submerged land in its calculation of total landmass to determine proper density on the site, according to Darcee Siegel, attorney for the city.
She said the court ruled that the city’s interpretation was improper and found for the citizens.
The city later amended its code.
The project was resubmitted and approved in 2006.
But by the time the lawsuits were settled and they were cleared to move forward, the economy had started to turn.
In 2009, Fremont Investment & Loan, the original lender on the project, had its commercial lending business purchased by iStar Financial, who subsequently foreclosed on Boca Developers.
After the foreclosure, iStar Financial partnered with the DevStar Group, whose affiliate is developing Marina Palms with an affiliate of the Plaza Group.
This time around, things are looking more positive.
Last year, the council gave the developers a timeline they had to meet for the project.
Parts of the timeline — such as building a sales office — have been meet, and developers have paid the city about $200,000 in fees and other contributions, with more expected to come in as the project continues.
“The money that this project and all other development and redevelopment provide goes straight to providing services to the city, like additional police protection, parks and upgrading infrastructure,” Mayor George Vallejo said.
He said he thinks that Marina Palms will prove that North Miami Beach is an attractive market and that the city has changed its attitude toward development.
"I view Marina Palms as the spark that is lighting the fire of redevelopment in our city,” Vallejo said.