Seven acres of waterfront land in Coconut Grove next to Miami City Hall would get a much needed makeover if voters approve the public-private project.
In a city that borders the bay and yet has so few areas of public access to those turquoise waters, the mix of an open-air restaurant and two others that would have floor-to-ceiling views of the waterfront, along with a pedestrian walkway that would connect residents and visitors to Biscayne Bay and a new pier, is long overdue.
Add a 17-acre park as the new waterfront’s centerpiece — replacing the rundown Grove exhibition center — and a whole new vibe will emerge in this already bohemian part of town.
No question, the re-do of the waterfront would make the area more inviting and accessible to residents and visitors. That’s why the Grove Village Council, an elected advisory board, supports the Grove Bay project. The owner of Scotty’s Landing, which is being demolished along with the Chart House restaurant to accommodate the new design, also supports the project.
The marina traffic that now gobbles up much of the waterfront and pollutes the parking lots with oily goo would be redirected north, and many of the boats that use the marina would be stored at one of the historic Pan American Airlines hangars that are now being revitalized. Overall, the footprint of three new restaurants would be no more than what is now taken up by the two that have served the area.
Developers would invest $18 million to build the restaurants, add a marine store to one of the two Pan Am hangars and clean up the area. They would contribute $5 million to build a three-story city parking garage that would include 40,000 square feet of retail.
After dozens of open meetings on the plan, voters are being asked to approve it Nov. 5. Predictably, not all Groveites are pleased. Some boaters and residents want to keep things just the way they are. Some seem to hold old grudges against Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, whose district includes the Grove.
Truth is, this is a solid plan. The Grove Bay development group, which built the Fresh Market and Grove Harbour Marina project to the north, won the bid. It would develop the restaurants without any taxpayer money and pay an annual rent of $1.4 million to the city for a 50-year lease. It’s a win-win
On the question of leasing seven acres of waterfront land for 50 years, the Herald recommends that Miami voters mark YES.