Coconut Grove

Court deals blow to lawsuits challenging Grove Bay project

A 3D model showing the new parking garage (right) next to two renovated hangars and three restaurants on the water (left).
A 3D model showing the new parking garage (right) next to two renovated hangars and three restaurants on the water (left). Miami Herald Staff

The Third District Court of Appeal issued two rulings Friday that dealt blows to lawsuits seeking to stop a planned redevelopment of Grove Key marina and Coconut Grove landmark Scotty’s Landing.

The court — ruling just days after Grove Bay Investment Group notified the city of Miami in writing that it plans to take control of the city’s eight-acre, waterfront property next to City Hall — denied motions to rehear two lawsuits by Grove businessman Stephen Kneapler, who sought to block the $18 million redevelopment project the city awarded to Grove Bay. The court also declined to clarify a previous ruling against a third suit filed by activist and city commission candidate Grace Solares.

The plaintiffs — who lost appellate decisions in May — are expected to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. But Friday’s orders were an important victory for developers Eddy Garcia and Giraldo Leyva Jr., who in 2013 secured a city deal to build three new restaurants, renovate two historic Pan Am hangars and add in a public baywalk and pier.

“This is now the third time that a court has rejected the unfounded allegations of the plaintiffs who have attempted to undermine the will of the voters in the city of Miami,” Grove Bay attorney J.C. Planas said in a statement.

In an email to the city, a different attorney for the developer said that Grove Bay intends to take over the property Oct. 15. He would not say whether or when the redevelopment project would begin, but Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who represents the area, said demolition is expected to begin before the end of the year. Beloved bar Scotty’s Landing, however, will remain open until a new, casual restaurant is built, contrary to reports that it would close by mid-October.

Sarnoff said Friday’s rulings pave the way for a Dinner Key master plan crafted years ago after public input. The plan lays out a new vision for Coconut Grove’s waterfront, with more public access and newer, more organized facilities.

“Finally, a master plan gets implemented,” said Sarnoff.

When Grove Bay signaled it plan to take over the property earlier this month, some, including the current tenant and longtime Scotty’s owner, Scott Wessel, were surprised that the developer would do so with lawsuits still hanging over the project. But Kneapler suggested they already knew the outcome.

“I plan to take advantage of whatever the law affords me the opportunity to do and will pursue that opportunity,” he said. “The day that any citizen is denied the right to sue the government for an act that was illegal is a sad day for us all.”

Along with the Grove Bay project, the city is expected to open Regatta Park across the street next month. The developer is also contributing close to $5 million toward a municipal, four-story, 333-space parking garage along South Bayshore Drive.