The shoreline at the former site of the famed Jimbo’s smoked-fish shack on a secluded Virginia Key lagoon will be restored to a natural state. There may even something in it for those who miss Jimbo’s: a new spot for food and drink, but without the old version’s oft-rowdy quirkiness.
That’s the plan under an agreement brokered by Miami Commissioner Ken Russell that appeared to settle a simmering dispute between conservationists and the city over how to restore the publicly owned site, occupied semi-legally for decades by the late shrimper James “Jimbo” Luznar, whose rustic old-Florida bait shack became an unlikely fashionable watering spot that drew celebrities and film shoots.
Russell persuaded city administrators and a state agency to bow to the wishes of conservationists and the city’s own Virginia Key advisory board. The city and a commissioner for FIND, the Florida Inland Navigation District, agreed to create a “living shoreline” consisting of a sloping, sandy beach along the piece of the lagoon where Jimbo’s sat until it was closed for health and safety violations and razed five years ago. The sandy shoreline will provide kayakers and canoers easy access to the lagoon, which has an opening to Biscayne Bay.
Under the plan, which Russell unveiled Thursday at a commission meeting, the city and FIND, which funds waterfront improvements along the Intracoastal Waterway, will forgo a reconstruction of the existing crumbling seawall at the site that environmentalists and park activists had opposed. FIND’s Miami commissioner, Spencer Crowley, agreed to fund the natural shoreline project they proposed instead.
“There will not be a concrete seawall,” Russell said.
Crowley called the plan “a great solution” and said he would recommend approval by the FIND board. No cost estimates have been developed for the natural shoreline concept, but Crowley said it would likely be less than the $2.8 million budgeted for the seawall reconstruction, an accompanying paved walkway and other improvements.
The agreement preserves a $1.2 million FIND grant for the project and will allow the city to proceed faster than if it had to reapply next year, Russell said. Sections of the short seawall are badly deteriorated and pose a safety hazard, the city says.
The soft-shoreline plan will not have mangroves planted at the Jimbo’s spot to preserve public access to the water, a requirement for the FIND grant. Russell noted the rest of the lagoon is ringed with thick mangroves. His plan also keeps a walkway along the piece of shoreline and calls for a floating dock to provide access to the lagoon for disabled paddlers, but not for use by motorized craft, he stressed.
Environmentalists argued for the living shoreline on the near-pristine spot, saying it provides habitat for fish and wildlife, filters runoff, controls erosion and would cost far less to build and maintain than a seawall. The precise shoreline design must now be developed, and the $75,000 cost will be added to the project, Russell said.
The old seawall will be removed entirely, Russell said. The sandy beach would be supported by rocky riprap and a filtering fabric material.
“The end result is an accessible natural beach,” Russell said.
City plans for the site envision a food-and-beverage element, Russell noted, raising the possibility of a Jimbo’s redux, though a version more in line with the place’s low-key natural ambience.
“Perhaps it becomes a throwback to the past,” he said, before adding: “In a cleaner version.”