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City hastens to resolve Virginia Key Marina redevelopment bid protest

Aabad Melwani contends the city’s rush to award the rights to redevelop the marina is what led to his bid protest
By Francisco Alvarado | July 10, 2017 08:45AM

Rendering of Biscayne Marine Partners’ proposed development

The city of Miami is still hoping to get redevelopment plans for Virginia Key Marina on the November ballot by moving up the date of a crucial bid protest hearing involving the second-place finisher. The city had originally scheduled the hearing for July 31, but it has since been moved to July 20.

Miami wants to revamp Virginia Key Marina with a state-of-the art dry dock storage facility, new wet slips and a commercial component. However, any redevelopment plans involving city-owned waterfront land must also be approved by voters – creating the need to get the proposal on the November ballot.

Three teams submitted bids for the multimillion-dollar redevelopment in May.

According to representatives of Biscayne Marine Partners, the team that filed the bid protest, the hearing was moved up so that the Miami City Commission can cast a vote on the winning proposal at its July 27 meeting in order to get ballot language filed by a Sept. 13 deadline. If the city commission doesn’t take up Virginia Key this month, it’s next meeting is not until Sept. 14.

However, Biscayne Marine Partners principal Aabad Melwani contends the city’s rush to award the rights to redevelop the marina is what led to his bid protest. “Had we not been under this tight deadline, it would have given them ample opportunity to vet these proposals for basic responsiveness,” Melwani said. “That didn’t happen and now we are dealing with this mess.”

Biscayne Marine Partners came in second place, losing to Virginia Key LLC, a team composed of Miami Beach-based RCI Marina Group and Suntex Marinas of Texas, by five points. The proposals were scored by an evaluation committee last month and City Manager Daniel Alfonso recommended Virginia Key LLC win the contract.

Miami officials fast-tracked the Virginia Key Marina redevelopment request for proposals after the city commission last year scuttled a previous competition that had also recommended RCI as the top bidder. During that contentious battle, Suntex was competing against RCI and filed a bid protest, alleging the Miami Beach Marina operator was unqualified for a host of reasons. Melwani, whose family has operated Virginia Key Marina since the 1980s, was part of another team that placed third.

Now, in its bid protest, Biscayne Marine Partners claims Virginia Key LLC should be disqualified because the RCI-Suntex team didn’t follow the rules. About 10 days before the bids were due, the city’s procurement office amended the RFP by removing 2 acres owned by Miami-Dade County that the bidders had included in the footprint for the dry dock storage facility.

Melwani said Biscayne Marine Partners tore up and redrew its design plan to exclude the 2 acres, but Virginia Key kept the 2 acres in its proposal. By eliminating the two acres, Biscayne Marine Partners was forced to reduce the size of its storage facility by 94 slips, which resulted in a loss of $27.6 million in revenue for the first 15 years of the lease, according to the company’s bid protest.

Meanwhile, Virginia Key LLC proposed a 750-slip boat storage building that is on most of the county-owned land.

Melwani contends by including the county’s 2 acres, Virginia Key LLC counted an extra 111 slips in its plan to inflate its revenue. He also claims the RCI and Suntex team did not account for $19 million in impact fees, maintenance dredging and seagrass mitigation.

“You can’t allow one proposer to use land that is supposed to be excluded and then penalize the other team for following the rules,” Melwani said. “I sincerely hope that Virginia Key LLC is not allowed to make a material change to their proposal after the fact.”

RCI Marina Group president Robert W. Christoph Jr. said Virginia Key LLC disagrees with Biscayne Marine Partners that its bid should be disqualified. “We will respond to their bid protest at the appropriate time,” Christoph said.

He added Melwani is simply trying to delay the award to maintain control of the marina. “He is highly incentivized to protest and sue because he keeps the property until it is all settled,” Christoph said.