Miami-Dade County

March referendum set for Riverside Wharf

Miami voters will decide in March whether to grant a developer permission to build a 58,000-square-foot restaurant and entertainment venue on the Miami River after city commissioners approved the project Thursday.

Alex Mantecon wants to build Riverside Wharf, a $30 million complex of four restaurants on the north bank of the Miami River between Interstate 95 and the Northwest First Street Bridge, where the Garcia family currently operates a commercial fishing operation. He and partner Guillermo Vadell proposed the project in response to a city solicitation this summer to develop three-quarters of an acre of riverfront land.

Mantecon and Vadell were the only bidders to respond. They proposed building four restaurants across both the city’s land and land their corporation owns next door. They’re working with local commercial broker Koniver Stern to fill the space, although one restaurant will be a raw bar run by the Garcia family, whose fishermen will also continue to service a fish market incorporated into the new project.

“This is a transformational project,” said Willy Bermello, whose local architecture firm designed the project.

Miami’s city manager recommended throwing out Mantecon’s bid and starting the competitive process from scratch last month due to what he said were problems with the fair market of submerged land where a lengthy dock will be built to allow boaters to arrive by water. But commissioners rejected his argument, kept the project alive, and on Thursday voted unanimously in favor of a 30-year lease with two 10-year options that will reap $195,000 a year in rent.

It could be the final piece of an area that's been blossoming for many years

Commissioner Francis Suarez

Miami’s charter, however, requires that the city’s voters have final say on long-term leases of waterfront land. So commissioners also approved ballot language for a voter referendum in March. In campaigning for support, Mantecon and Vadell will likely tout the extension of a public river walk, the preservation of the river’s commercial fishing industry, and the value of a new entertainment attraction on a river that is slated for a rush of development in the surrounding area.

“It could be the final piece of an area that's been blossoming for many years,” said Commissioner Francis Suarez.

In other action Thursday, Miami commissioners also approved legislation requiring registration for the flight of drones around stadiums and large gatherings, like the Calle Ocho festival. The legislation, sponsored by Commissioner Frank Carollo, was accompanied by a video of a drone roasting a turkey with a flamethrower.

The legislation, proposed as drones become increasingly common items for hobbyists, drew the interest of drone operators who fly the unmanned craft for shooting film and video for clients. Carollo said the legislation is a tool for protecting the public and for local authorities to address an issue currently regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration.