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Miami panel weighs bids for marina, waterfront restaurant at Scotty’s Landing property in Coconut Grove

Could Scotty’s Landing, the low-key but popular Coconut Grove beer-and-fish joint, be replaced by a trendy ceviche restaurant in a tiki hut?

Or, perhaps, casual sidewalk cafés and bars housed in an old airplane hangar?

On Wednesday, five companies pitched different visions for the waterfront property. They are competing to develop and operate a higher-end project on the city-owned land, currently home to Grove Key Marina and the laid-back Scotty’s Landing.

The winning proposal gets a 40-year lease and a prime spot on Biscayne Bay.

The bidders include Scott Wessel, the current marina and restaurant operator, who is pitching an upgraded, two-story eatery and renovated boatyard.

“We want to maintain the Grove charm,” Wessel told The Miami Herald. “The residents don’t want some big development.”

Texas-based Landry’s, which runs the Chart House restaurants and several other national chains, also made a pitch. Other bids came from AAA Marine Group; David One, LLC and Grove Marina Ventures.

Miami began seeking a new tenant for the waterfront property this spring. Its 35-year lease with Grove Key Marina runs out this year.

City officials have made it clear they want an improvement. While Scotty’s is a neighborhood institution, getting to the restaurant requires a trek through the boatyard, and the menu is limited to bar bites and seafood.

The city is also seeking a new operator to run an upscale eatery on the site of the Coconut Grove Chart House restaurant. Landry’s was the only applicant for the contract. The group wants to renovate the boardwalk and walkway along the seawall, and give the place a “fresh modern look,” according to city procurement records.

A selection committee heard presentations from companies interested in the two projects Wednesday, but did not name preferred candidates.

The panel will reconvene 1:30 p.m. Friday to deliberate and make a recommendation to City Manager Johnny Martinez. The city commission will likely take up the proposal later this summer.

In the end, the decision rests with voters, who must approve any waterfront leases by public referendum. Miami officials are hoping to move quick enough to include the issue on the November ballot.

Wednesday’s meeting took place after a kerfuffle over who could sit in on the bid presentations.

Citing a state law amended last year, city officials ushered reporters and the public out of the meeting room before the pitches began. Moreover, Judy Marsie-Hazen, an employee of the public facilities department, snatched from a Herald reporter’s hands bid documents that had mistakenly been distributed at the beginning of the meeting.

Reporters and civic activists were allowed to return to the room only to hear the committee’s short deliberations.

Each of the proposals for the causal restaurant and marina has a different flair.

AAA Marine Group plans on turning a historic airplane hangar on the property into an indoor sidewalk café referred to in the plan as Fleat Streat. Scotty’s would be replaced with an outdoor restaurant called Clipper’s that would have an open raw bar and serve burgers and fish.

Arquitectonica and Berry Design Studio are listed as the architecture firms for the team.

David One LLC is proposing $4 million in marina improvements and $1.5 million in restaurant improvements. Its vision includes a tiki-hut themed restaurant serving seafood, meat, salads and ceviche.

The selection committee liked the design, but pondered whether it would pose a safety hazard.

Grove Marina Ventures wants to invest $10.2 million in the site, with $9.6 million going to marina improvements. The group would add 315 new dry racks and 28,500 square feet of retail space for boating supplies and accessories.

Landry’s has dreamed up a yacht-club-style atmosphere with a seafood restaurant.

Though Landry’s was considered an early favorite, its plan for a marina and casual restaurant may not have as much support as once thought. Committee member Henry Torre, who also heads the public facilities department, said he did not believe Landry’s was a viable candidate because its business plan would generate only $500,000 in annual revenue for the city.

The AAA Marine Group project, however, could provide as much as $2.4 million annually, he said.

Coconut Grove activist and attorney Michelle Niemeyer said she was disappointed that the selection committee did not include members from the Coconut Grove community. She also expressed concern that the project would contradict the 2008 Grove waterfront master plan, which seeks to open up public access to the bay.

“The city created a request for proposals that makes it impossible to effectuate the terms of the master plan,” she said.