In My Opinion

Fred Grimm: Super yacht project brings different sheen to Miami

We suck up to the rich.

Let other towns fret about how one percent of the world’s population controls half the world’s wealth.

Not Miami. We’ve not only come to terms with the stark inequities of wealth distribution, we’ve made it into a growth industry. We fawn, we grovel, we see to the whims of the super-rich.

We’re unfettered with the overblown ambitions of those cities who declare themselves “the next Silicon Valley.”

Us? We wanna be the next Dubai. (Or maybe Silicone Valley.)

Last week, the Miami City Commission, mindful of what we do best, gave unanimous approval to the long-stalled $600 million Island Gardens project on the southwest end of Watson Island, which (along with two luxury hotels and retail outlets) will provide billionaires 50 or so angled berths for their “super yachts.”

Once, less exotic folks drove to the island to buy fresh-caught snapper right off the boats, when the docks shimmered with fish-gut sheen in the afternoon light. A different sheen is coming. Billionaire developer Mehmet Bayraktar has promised to construct an exotic tableau along the lines of Monaco and St. Tropez.

Of course, the notion of dedicating valuable public-owned waterfront to the needs of the super rich might offend anyone still clinging to antiquated notions of an egalitarian society. Instead, we’re supposed to think of these cruise-ship-sized yachts as floating factories, spewing money out their bilge pumps.

A 2001 study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimated that super-yacht owners spend about 41 percent of their yacht’s annual operating budget in port. Annual budgets, by the way, run to about 10 percent of the ship’s purchase price — about a million bucks a meter. (Though Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, and we hope he’ll be sailing our way, spent twice that much for his 525-foot dinghy.)

Hopefully, the yachts’ 20 or 30 or 40 crew members will come ashore and spend their money like those proverbial drunken sailors. But mostly we want to bask in the auras of the super-rich and collect lavish tips as we see to their wants.

In March, Miami was ranked seventh among those so-called international cities who cater to that special new category of wonderfulness known as UHNWI — ultra high-net worth individuals — by Knight Frank, the London-based high-end real estate consulting firm. We’ve nudged out Dubai, Paris and Beijing. (New York was the only other U.S. city on the list).

A super-yacht marina will fit in nicely in a city enjoying a boom in luxury real estate, even as middle class ZIP codes remain mired in recession prices. We’ve jammed our waterside with luxury high-rise condos that actual Miami residents can’t afford.

We’ve got wildly expensive hotels and restaurants and night clubs with VIP rooms. Now we’re getting a marina designed to allow UHNWIs to angle park their boats. Because if you’ve ever tried to parallel park a 150-foot yacht . . well . . that’s just one of the many rich guy travails that Miami’s here to fix.

Read more Fred Grimm stories from the Miami Herald

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