Miami River committee wary of adding more waterfront restaurants

From left: Renderings of Henry Greenberg's planned restaurant and Greenberg, and the Kar Properties site with Shahab Karmely inset
From left: Renderings of Henry Greenberg's planned restaurant and Greenberg, and the Kar Properties site with Shahab Karmely inset

Plans for two waterfront restaurants on the Miami River continue to meet resistance from the public agency that oversees the city’s historic shipping channel.

On Tuesday, the Miami River Commission’s urban infill subcommittee recommended denial for one project and recommended approval for the second, but on the condition that the developer demonstrate the site will have a primary marine use.

The full commission will vote on both proposals at a Jan. 23 emergency meeting.

In rejecting Henry Greenberg’s plans for a 300-seat restaurant at the former Anchor Marine property at 961 Northwest Seventh Street, subcommittee members cited a need to protect industrial marine properties along the river. “I am not dissuaded from my original recommendation of denial,” said subcommittee chairman Jim Murley. “They have not met the burden of proof.”

Greenberg, managing director of Longmore LLC, is seeking what is known as a warrant, a type of waiver that would allow him to build the restaurant on his property, which is zoned for industrial use. However, in order to obtain a warrant, an applicant must show that the site will continue to provide water dependent services as the primary use, according to Miami River Commission Executive Director Brett Bibeau.

The Anchor Marine property includes two buildings and a marina with nearly a dozen boat slips that Greenberg and his partners plan to convert into an 8,000-square-foot, 300-seat restaurant with a large outdoor terrace and covered boat slips. Greenberg is partnering with Babba Joshua Yesharim, who bought the 20,750-square-foot property for $1.535 million in 2013. He also owns the Miami River properties leased by restaurants Seaspice and Crust.

Omar Morales, the project architect, argued the commission should be flexible in accommodating different uses on industrial properties as the river continues to evolve into a more residential and commercial neighborhood. “The idea that this site or any other site should be or must be marine industrial I think erroneous,” Morales said. “I can’t imagine that we as a city want a 100 percent working river.”

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However, Miami River resident Karol Boynton told subcommittee members that Greenberg’s proposed redevelopment does nothing to further the marine industry. “What can you do to reduce the percentage expended on the restaurant in order to increase marine business?” Boynton said.

The subcommittee also took up a proposal by New York-based KAR Properties to build a private yacht club and restaurant on three industrial properties at 125, 129 and 131 Northwest South River Drive. The developer is partnering with mobile application company Yacht Life that will offer luxury boat charters to tourists and visitors from the site. Like Greenberg’s project, KAR, led by Shahab Karmely, needs to obtain a warrant in order to build the accompanying restaurant.  

However KAR’s plans are being opposed by Cory Offutt, the owner of Biscayne Towing, a boat salvage company located next door to the proposed redevelopment site. During the subcommittee hearing, Offutt again voiced his objections after initially protesting against the KAR project at a full Miami River Commission meeting last week.

“I would just like to re-emphasize how important it is to me that my industrial waterfront site is not regulated out of business,” said Offutt, who participated via phone. His lawyer, Tucker Gibbs, argued that KAR’s plans show that the restaurant is not an ancillary use to the proposed charter operation. “This property is part of the port of the Miami River,” Gibbs said. “The city is required to protect the port from non-water dependent uses.”

According to a memo prepared for the subcommittee, the KAR property currently has no boat slip rights and would need to get approval from Miami-Dade County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management for limited boat slip rights.

Should the full Miami River Commission reject both projects, Greenberg and KAR can appeal to the Miami Planning and Zoning Appeals Board and the city commission.