Coconut Grove developer changes project to focus on marina, dry docks at old Pan Am hangars
By Paola Iuspa
The developer of the proposed Grove Harbour Marina now plans a mostly marine-oriented project on Dinner Key, excluding restaurant and retail.
After a six-year wait, Felix Lima, a principal with Harbour Management Group, has control of the city-owned land at 2640 S Bayshore Drive and expects to start construction in few months. But with demand for restaurant and retail space drying up, Mr. Lima said his plan now calls for 265 dry-dock racks and an 89-slip marina on land his partnership is leasing for 40 years.
Revised plans for Grove Harbour Marina & Caribbean Marketplace no longer include the three-story restaurant, office, retail complex once proposed on Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove, he said.
The building design had been at the core of a legal battle between the developer and opposing neighbors. While the challenge ended in July in favor of Mr. Lima, changing times led him to switch gears.
"We realized the demand for dry storage for boats was greater," said Mr. Lima's son Alan, also a partner.
Marine industry representatives applaud the change. Frank Herhold, executive director of the 800-member Marine Industries Association of South Florida, said Miami-Dade County has a tremendous need for wet and dry storage.
"It is a smart move," he said. "There is a significant shortage of dry storage, especially for the larger boats. It will be a good use of the limited waterfront land currently available for the marine industry."
With 6.6 acres, Grove Harbour also will have a yard to repair boats up to 85 feet long and a fuel station, Mr. Lima said. That portion should open in 8 months, he said.
Some of the covered dry storage requires restoration of two 50-year-old hangars Pan American Airways once used and could take 18 months, he said.
Laurie Billberry, city asset manager and manager of the lease, said Harbour Management doesn't need city commission approval for the changes. City officials approved Harbour's original proposal, which included the restaurant, almost a year ago. But the group could not move forward because of now-settled litigation with neighbors.
For five months the developer has been trying to get financing, now in place with Citrus Bank, as well as recruit a marine operator with at least 10 years experience, as the city required. The group has hired Michael Brescher as marina operator, and Carl Straw and Tom Correll will run the boatyard, Ms. Billberry said. She made sure the group complied with the requirements.
"The developer is putting together a first-class management team," Mr. Herhold said. "They could not do any better. Mike and Carl have an excellent reputation."
The developers, a partnership with marine operator Straw, former Miami-Dade school board member Manty Sabates Morse and Antonio Zamora Jr., are to pay the city $300,000 rent the first year. The amount increases annually.