Miami River Commission says no to waterfront restaurants on industrial land

From left: Renderings of the restaurant on the Anchor Marine site, Henry Greenberg, and Shahab Karmely on right
From left: Renderings of the restaurant on the Anchor Marine site, Henry Greenberg, and Shahab Karmely on right

Citing a need to preserve marine related businesses, the Miami River Commission dealt a serious blow to a pair of unrelated waterfront restaurant proposals.

At a special hearing on Monday, the commission voted to recommend that the city of Miami deny waivers being sought by two developers seeking to convert industrial land for commercial use.

The river commission first took up the 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. Board members voted 6-5 against the project despite KAR principal Shahab Karmely agreeing to make sure the site remains primarily used for a marine-related business and that the dock would connect with the Miami River Greenway.

“Our plan has always envisioned an experience of having a meal and enjoying the river intertwined with the marine uses of the river,” Karmely said. “We are committed to the river and our track record clearly demonstrates that.”

The developer partnered with mobile application company Yacht Life to offer luxury boat charters to tourists and visitors from the site. And KAR is also proposing a fish market where commercial boats can unload fresh catch to be sold to the public and in the restaurant, Kamerly explained.

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However, over the last three weeks, a neighbor who owns a salvage boat yard next to the KAR site lobbied commission members to oppose the developer’s request for a warrant, a type of waiver the city grants owners of industrial land on the Miami River allowing for commercial uses such as a restaurant and yacht club.

During the hearing, Tucker Gibbs, an attorney representing Cory Offutt, the owner of Biscayne Towing, told commission members they had a duty to protect the Miami River’s port related businesses. He said KAR’s proposal did not meet the commission’s guidelines for maintaining the site as a primary water dependent use.

Gibbs also noted that Offutt fears he will be forced to sell his land and move his business when future restaurant patrons raise concerns about the industrial and salvage work conducted by Biscayne Towing. “His position is no matter what covenant is offered, people will complain,” Gibbs said. “Pressure will be put upon him to move. You know this is what has happened on the Miami River constantly.”

Following the narrow rejection of the KAR proposal, the river commission voted 11-0 to also deny recommending a warrant to Henry Greenberg’s Longmore LLC. He wants to build a restaurant at the former Anchor Marine property at 961 Northwest Seventh Street. The land is owned by Babba Joshua Yesharim, who paid $1.535 million for the 20,750-square-foot property in June 2013.

Greenberg is proposing 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. Then, the second, two-story structure would be redeveloped into a supper club and lounge or nightclub featuring a helipad on the roof.

Greenberg and KAR can still obtain their warrants from Miami’s planning and zoning appeals board and the city commission.