The Wharf, a new outdoor pop-up eating, drinking and gathering spot, has enlivened a previously empty lot alongside the Miami River.
Problem is, residents who live nearby say the happening hangout has gotten so loud that they can’t sleep. Bass-heavy music that the DJ cranks up as the night goes on drifts across the river and through walls and windows.
“The vibration from the bass assaults you and causes your windows to shake,” said Michael Jensen, who lives in a house near José Martí Park on the south side of the river. “It could be a cool place for the entire community if it was not so ridiculously loud.”
Jensen, who recently moved to Miami from Seattle, has been a city-dweller for decades so his ears are calloused by urban noise. But never has he heard music this loud outside a nightclub.
“I don’t expect it to be bucolic here. In fact, we’re living beneath a flight path,” Jensen said. Nor does the sound of the First Street drawbridge bother him. “And I don’t want to cast aspersions on the type of music. I like music. But this is just intolerable. It ruins your life.”
Guillermo Garcia, who lives in an apartment building in the working-class East Little Havana neighborhood, said the music plays until 2 or 3 a.m. on weekends and sometimes until midnight during the week. The banging repetitive beat gives him a headache, he said.
“Why can’t they just turn down the volume?” he said. “It is incredibly unpleasant and inconsiderate.”
Wharf owner Alex Mantecon said the last thing he wants to be is a bad neighbor. He has fielded a few complaints but responded to them immediately by reducing the volume, he said. He’s also redirected the speakers to point downward and concentrate the music within the tented area.
“One night the DJ had his system pointing the wrong way and we corrected that,” said Mantecon, who added that he hired a sound engineer who actually lives a block away in the Flagler On the River tower. “We’ve done sound studies in order to be proactive. We want this to be a nice environment for everyone to enjoy. We’ve even got families here with pets. We do not want to be a nuisance.”
Mantecon was setting up the Wharf on Monday for a cocktail-mixing special event. He’s proud of the 30,000-square-foot venue, which used to be a derelict, somewhat seedy expanse on the north bank across the street from a storage facility he owns and a homeless encampment. Now, filled with food trucks, a seafood grill run by Garcia’s, a bar, big-screen TVs and lawn chairs, the open-air Wharf is part of the blossoming scene along the formerly ignored Miami River. Patrons can drive up in their boat and park dockside. Within two years, the pop-up space at 114 Southwest North River Dr. will be deconstructed and replaced by Riverside Wharf. Mantecon won approval from the city and voters to develop two parcels of public land and some of his own into a $30 million dining, nightlife and fish market complex.
“The whole idea was to activate a neighborhood that was dead,” he said. “I have been across the river while we’re open and I hear car stereos that are louder than anything you’d hear from us. We just want to provide good beats, good sound and a good vibe. We also want to be cognizant of residents’ wishes.”
Noise complaints throughout Miami’s downtown core have become more common as the area becomes more densely populated. Residents who live on Biscayne Boulevard between Museum Park and the nightclub district mounted a campaign last year to reduce the intrusive levels of music emanating from clubs whose DJs play sets 24 hours a day for marathon dance parties. In a major policy change breakthrough, they managed to get the city to implement a night shift of code enforcement officers who roam downtown, respond to complaints and cite violators of the noise ordinance.
Jensen, whose complaints were echoed by residents of Neolofts and Roam Miami — a co-living, co-working space on Southwest South River Drive that used to be the Miami River Inn — is still waiting to hear back from code enforcement after calling several times. Mantecon urged residents to call the Wharf directly.
“We could coexist,” Jensen said. “I just don’t get why it has to be painfully loud. I have a friend who was planning to go over there but she said she’d have to wear earplugs.”