Competing plans for Watson Island developments ready for evaluation
By Paola Iuspa
Three developers this week presented competing proposals to build a mega-yacht marina, fish market and hotel on the northern tip of Watson Island.
After a selection committee reviews the plans, City of Miami commissioners need to choose one by Sept. 17 in order to put the proposal on a Nov. 6 ballot for public referendum, said Dena Bianchino, assistant city manager.
Flagstone Properties proposes a marina with 48 slips for yachts 80 feet or longer. The developer would retain Casablanca, Pescaderia and other fish markets open on the island and build a 225-room hotel to be managed by Conrad Hotels and a 300-room hotel to be managed by Regent International Hotels.
Boutiques and more than a dozen restaurants would turn that portion of the island into an international resort destination, a representative for the developer said. The complex would be named Island Gardens, according to a document.
Swerdlow Marine Partners wants to build Miami Yacht Harbor, where the marina, the hotel and the fish market would be paired with an aquarium and marine industry exposition and trade center. Michael Swerdlow, a major South Florida commercial developer whose recent projects include the Dolphin Mall, heads the partnership.
Watson Island Partners, a team of Millennium Partners and BAP Development, also proposes a marina, fish market and some type of hotel use by the Four Seasons Resort. Millennium of New York is developing a $379 million Four Season Hotel & Tower on Brickell Avenue. The 222-room hotel is to be complemented by luxury condominiums and retail space. BAP is a local commercial developer.
Watson Island - an 86-acre, manmade island in Biscayne Bay between downtown Miami and Miami Beach - is used by about 80,000 cars daily. About 10.8 acres of land above water and 13.4 acres of land below water are available for development.
The winning bidder is to hold a 45-year lease with options for two 15-year renewals.
Ms. Bianchino said more than 50 developers from across the US had registered to participate after the city started accepting proposals in February.
"I think we had an excellent response," she said, "because the project requires an immense amount of capital to undertake and the proposal was expensive for developers to put together. They had to hire architects to design it, prepare a market feasibility study and come up with a plan and a program.
"Because the proposal includes a marina," she said, "developers needed to have an expert as part of their team, with understanding of how a mega-yacht marina works."
The developer would plan, design, build, lease and manage the marina, fish market and any other building related to the project.
Other public-private developments planned for Watson Island include Parrot Jungle & Gardens, now under construction on 16 acres, the Greater Miami Regional Visitors Center & Aviation Building on 5.5 acres and the 55,000 square-foot Miami Children's Museum.
The city manager appointed 11 members to a selection committee. The group meets to evaluate the three proposals using established criteria and is asked to make its recommendation by Aug. 7.
Meetings are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. July 24; 8 a.m. on July 31; 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 2 and at 11 a.m. Aug. 7 at Miami Outboard Club, 1099 MacArthur Causeway. Meetings are open to the public, said Craig Robins of Dacra Development, chairman of the committee.
Mr. Craig said the development of the island is of "extreme importance for South Florida."
Steven Bogner, city marina manager and also a committee member, said the group was "a nice blend of professionals" with expertise from investing and financing to marina operations and real estate.
Members of the selection committee from the private sector and their business affiliation are Frederick Burns, Investment Corp. of America; Tom Correll, International Marina Resources & Consultants; John Hall, Peoples Bank of Commerce; Adolfo Henriques, Union Planters Bank; Robert Parente, Parente Productions, and Craig Robins, Dacra Development.
Members working for the city are Mr. Bogner; Javier Carbonell, assistant director in the building department; Linda Haskins, director of the budget department; Robert Nachlinger, assistant city manager overseeing city finances, and Enrique Nunez, landscape architect in planning and zoning.
Details (305) 416-1428.