Melreese restaurant under study
By Risa Polansky
A banquet hall planned for the City of Miami's Melreese golf course could end up a restaurant as plans for new development at the course solidify, Capital Improvements Director Ola Aluko says.
The city is in the process of choosing an architect for the 13,000-square-foot clubhouse planned for the site, 1802 NW 37th Ave.
It is to include tennis courts, a pro-shop, locker rooms, administrative offices and a "restaurant/cafeteria" for 300 patrons, according to the project description provided to architect contenders.
After in March announcing the city had scrapped long-touted plans for a hotel on the site, City Manager Pete Hernandez said a new clubhouse would largely serve golfers, but in a banquet hall, "We feel we will have a very high demand for quinceñera parties, for weddings, for organizations that may have events."
Now, Mr. Aluko said, "designing it, it can either go as a restaurant or a banquet facility. That's yet to be determined, that's flexible."
Even as a restaurant, the facility would include a full kitchen with food-warming capabilities for catering events, as well as a lounge with seating for 15 to 20 patrons, according to the project documents.
Because "the city's not in the business to run restaurants" — or pro-shops — the city may seek a private partner to manage the operations, Mr. Aluko said.
This contradicts an assertion by city CFO Larry Spring in April that, because no outside operator would run the newly planned clubhouse and banquet hall, returns would be comparable to what the once-planned hotel could have generated.
"With the clubhouse, Melreese becomes a very profitable golf course," he said.
He did not respond to requests for comment on how the new options could affect expected revenue streams.
The project's cost is yet to be determined, though Mr. Hernandez said in March it would likely be $4 million to $5 million.
About $6 million in Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority funding has been earmarked for the project, Mr. Aluko said, though the project cost "could be more, could be less" depending on bids from contractors.
He expects an architect to be chosen this month, design work to begin in February and construction to begin in the fall.
The existing facility is to remain operational during construction of the new building but is set to be torn down to make room for four tennis courts and a golf-cart staging area, according to project documents.
Analyst Michael Cannon, executive director of Integra Realty Resources-Miami, warned in the spring that his company's studies have shown "the whole golf-course industry is going through a major change" and even "a fine facility such as the Coral Gables Country Club isn't financially feasible," he said. "Clubhouses on public golf courses and even sometimes private are not financially feasible. They don't generate enough revenue to justify operational costs."
He suggested building a new stadium for the Florida Marlins at Melreese instead.