Plans for two new waterfront restaurants on the Miami River met resistance on Monday from the public agency overseeing development along the waterway. The Miami River Commission delayed its vote on both proposals until January 23.
The first involves the River Arts Building property at 131 Northwest South River Drive that was once owned by city pioneer Mary Brickell. Cory Offutt, owner of Biscayne Towing, which is next to the River Arts lot, objected to his neighbor’s application seeking permission to build a restaurant and yacht club complex, claiming it doesn’t belong in such close proximity to his boat salvage yard.
“You guys have a major responsibility to protect water dependent property for the use of water dependent businesses like mine,” Offutt told commission board members. “This is going to be a huge impact on my business. We are only two feet away.”
Last June, Shahab Karmely and Alex von Furstenberg paid $5.4 million for the River Arts land, which includes three vacant buildings that they want to redevelop into a private yacht club with a sales and rental office, as well as a restaurant with an outdoor dining section.
Karmely, founder and principal of New York-based KAR Properties, told the river commission board his company is partnering with Yachtlife, a mobile application company, to run the yacht club where visitors and tourists will be able to board large pleasure vessels for sightseeing tours and other boating activities.
“The moment I saw this property, I knew it’s the perfect place to create a destination that speaks to the fact that [Miami] is a marine city,” Karmely said. “People can come by boat or get picked up by boat and same time they can eat and drink.”
Iris Escarra, a Greenberg Traurig shareholder representing Karmely’s Tasal LLC, the applicant, told the board members her client is seeking a “process warrant,” a type of non-zoning waiver, from the river commission that would allow for the development of the yacht club and restaurant on industrial land. She also said the restaurant will be an ancillary component to the yacht club.
However, Offutt and his lawyer Tucker Gibbs argued Karmely’s application does not adhere to river commission policy of limiting commercial development next to industrial properties on the Miami River. Gibbs said the restaurant, which will have roughly 2,000 more square feet than the yacht club building, could have a potentially negative impact on Biscayne Towing’s operations from patrons complaining about boat work being done so close to their dining experience.
“They have not shown that the yacht club brokerage is the principal use,” Gibbs said. “The principal use is for the restaurant, which is 5,186 square feet that does not include the outdoor dining. When you bring people to sit outside they are going to be impacted by the allowed industrial uses in that neighborhood.”
When river commission board member Manny Prieguez noted Biscayne Towing is already near restaurants such as Seaspice and River Yacht Club, Gibbs argued that the shorter distance between his client’s property and Karmely’s land would lead to neighborly disputes that the developer with deeper pockets would win. “The concern is that my client will be encircled by landowners who want to build restaurants,” Gibbs said. “This is just the beginning. If you don’t protect your port on the Miami River, then soon you are not going to have a port.”
Both properties are located on the south side of the river and across from Lummus Park, less than a mile away from Karmely’s planned One River Point, a 60-story luxury condominium designed by architect Rafael Viñoly.
The Miami River Commission also delayed a decision on Henry Greenberg’s plans for a restaurant at the former Anchor Marine property at 961 Northwest Seventh Street because he still had not met conditions requested by a commission subcommittee, including proof he has secured offsite parking for his project.
Greenberg recently told The Real Deal that he and his Russian partner, Max Dyakov, plan to convert one of two buildings on the property into an 8,000-square-foot, 300-seat restaurant with a large outdoor terrace and covered boat slips. The site currently has nearly a dozen boat slips. Following redevelopment of the first building, Greenberg and Dyakov plan to convert the second, two-story structure into a supper club and lounge or nightclub featuring a helipad on the roof. The project also includes Babba Joshua Yesharim, who owns the 20,750-square-foot property, which he paid $1.535 million for in June 2013.