The Real Deal Miami

Melo’s Sushi Samba restaurant building on Miami River hits snag

New building will house Sushi Samba and Duck & Waffle

September 14, 2016 12:00PM
By Francisco Alvarado

  • Print
A rendering of Sushi Samba and the Melo Group's Carlos, Martin and Jose Melo

A rendering of Sushi Samba and the Melo Group’s Carlos, Martin and Jose Melo

A city of Miami planning official threatened to stop construction of a new restaurant building being developed by the Melo Group, next door to the company’s Flagler on the River apartment complex.

David Snow, the planning department’s chief of urban design, told the Miami River Commission at its monthly meeting on Monday that recent site visits confirmed “inconsistencies in the approved plans and what was being constructed on the site.”

Snow said the planning department was prepared to halt construction or request that the building department not issue the final certificate of occupancy for the new four-story building until “the deviations are reconciled.”

At the previous meeting in July, Miami River Commission members expressed outrage that the project did not conform to a plan the city board approved in 2014 to build the restaurant consistent with Miami 21 and the city charter requirements for a public riverwalk with at least a 14-foot width. Recent architectural drawings show the width was reduced to 12 feet and an unobstructed circulation zone was cut from more than eight feet to less than five feet, the minimum to meet ADA requirements.

The new building is located at 20 Southwest North River Drive, the former East Coast Fisheries site, and will house Sushi Samba and Duck & Waffle.

Snow said Melo had to make more space for an electrical room, put in an additional landing, an entrance garden and the width of a stairwell was increased from 25 feet to 75 feet, which resulted in the contraction of the riverwalk. Despite assurances from Melo architect and Itec Design President Arturo Griego that the new layout would not hamper pedestrian traffic on the public riverwalk, commission members and its executive director, Brett Bibeau, insisted it needs to be constructed with a 14-foot width as originally approved.

“If we took a vote today, you would not walk out happy,” Miami River Commission Chairman Horacio Stuart Aguirre told Griego. “Other people are going to come back and say, ‘you held us to very stringent standards. Why did you give these guys a break? How many free waffles did you get?’”

Representatives for the Melo Group did not respond to a request for comment.