Court ruling clears way for Grove Harbour Marina & Marketplace
By Paola Iuspa
After winning what appears to be the final court battle over an abandoned waterfront site in Coconut Grove, a developer can proceed with plans to build a restaurant, market, boatyard and marina.
The Third District Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a proposal by developer Felix Lima, shutting down neighbors' opposition. Tucker Gibbs, the lawyer representing the group fighting the project, said the legal war is over but his clients would closely follow development of the $9 million project as well as any other future proposals for Dinner Key.
Though Miami commissioners approved Mr. Lima 's project in March, members of the Coconut Grove Civic Club, a homeowners' association, challenged the legality of the lease and said the project was too massive for the waterfront and would not provide enough parking.
With that challenge removed last week, Mr. Lima has a 40-year lease with Miami to build on the city-controlled land at 2640 S Bayshore Drive. He won development rights in 1996 after the city selected his group through a competitive process.
But the developer still has some homework to do before he can start building Grove Harbour Marina & Caribbean Marketplace, which would sit north of Miami City Hall. The City of Miami wants proof that Mr. Lima has met at least 18 conditions such as lining up a lender's financial commitment, hiring an expert marina operator and obtaining an independent estimate of construction costs, said Lori Billberry, director of the city's asset management department.
Ms. Billberry requested the documentation in May, when both parties met to discuss the future of the private and public partnership.
The developer must provide an updated commitment letter from Ocean Bank after two previous ones expired, said Antonio Zamora, attorney representing the developer.
The lender will finance about 70% of the project, he said.
Mr. Zamora said Carl Straw, together with Marina Management Associates of Broward, will operate the 89-slip-marina. Mr. Zamora's son would be in charge of the marina as well.
The developer also needs to prove he has hired a historic specialist to oversee the restoration of two 50-year-old former Pan American Airways hangars, where the food market is planned.
The developer hopes six years of delays and obstacles have come to an end.
Harbour Management Group, Inc., headed by Mr. Lima, plans to take possession of the almost 14 acres of land on and under Biscayne Bay by September, Mr. Zamora said.
The developer will then start paying $300,000 in rent the first year, to be increased yearly, to share profits with the city.
Harbour Management partners are Mr. Lima's son, Alan; Mr. Zamora's son, Antonio; marine operator Carl Straw, and Miami-Dade School Board member Manty Sabates Morse, Mr. Zamora said.
Mr. Lima recently also settled a year-long legal battle with former partner Southern Cross Marinas, headed by state Rep. Carlos Lacasa and marina operator Robert Christoph. Southern Cross sued Harbour Management to collect on a $1 million buy-out deal.
Both parties have said they split because they had different visions for the project.