Developers want to raze historic East Coast Fisheries building
By Susan Stabley
The developers of River House Lofts want to tear down the former East Coast Fisheries building to make way for a dining attraction for their 32-story condo project.
First, Royal Bay Partners will need to get permission from the City of Miami's Historical Preservation Board, which voted 9-0 on Sept. 16 to protect the 1926 structure.
A request to allow a partial demolition of the Mediterranean-style structure at 40 SW North River Dr. was on the Historical Preservation Board's agenda for Tuesday, but a city official and one of the developers said the issue was not ready to be discussed and would be continued at a later meeting. The next Historical Preservation Board meeting is scheduled for Dec. 16.
Developer Carolyn Weiss said the building was unsafe and did not meet code when East Coast Fisheries closed in 2000. Her partner in the condo project, Peter Swartz, was the restaurant's last owner.
"All the concrete is powder," she said Tuesday. She said it would not be worth trying to save the building and that her company would be willing to replicate the fa┴ade according to original designs.
The building is one of the last remaining from Miami River's commercial-fishing heyday.
Opened as Miller's Fish Market in 1926, the business became East Coast Fisheries seven years later and was a restaurant and seller of wholesale seafood until 2000, according to Historic Preservation Board records.
The building's design does not work with the look developers plan for a new restaurant on the site nor the accompanying River House Lofts project, Ms. Weiss said.
If the fa┴ade is recreated, it would be adjacent to the new restaurant but not built into the planned three-level building, she said. Plans call for two open-air levels, including a rooftop terrace, and an air conditioned level for visitors to come by boat or along a public walkway that will be built into the project.
The restaurant and the condo tower are projected to cost more than $80 million, she said. River House Lofts - at Flagler Street and North River Drive near Interstate 95 would mix 172 units with nearly 20,000 square feet of commercial space and 75,000 square feet of retail, she said. She said about 58% of units are pre-sold.
Developers plan to landscape North River Drive between Flagler and the First Street Bridge - including the addition of two large decorative fountains, she said.
Royal Bay Partners plans to start the permitting process in about three months with delivery of the project planned for July 2005, she said.
The project was brought before the Miami River Commission several times for discussion this year. The commission unanimously recommended support in June, before plans to tear down the Fisheries building was announced. Brett Bibeau, managing director for the Miami River Commission, said his group is aware of the request to tear down the building but has not addressed the matter.