City Oks Proposal For Watson Island Yacht Marina
Written by Paola Iuspa on December 21, 2000
By Paola Iuspa
Miami city officials will begin seeking proposals on Jan. 8 for construction of a mega-yacht marina and other water-related projects on the northwest quadrant of 86-acre, manmade Watson Island
The city will send out formal requests for proposals on Jan. 8. After a committee and the city manager reviews the submitted plans, Miami voters will have the final say in a Nov. 6 referendum.
In a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Arthur Teele dissenting, Miami city commissioners last week decided a portion of the highly contended island should become the site of a marina suitable for vessels 65 feet and larger. Commercial fishing, charter services and a fish market might be included in the marina design, according to the proposal.
"This RFP (request for proposals) sends a message that the city is back," Commissioner Joe Sanchez said. "A mega-yacht marina is a golden opportunity to attract capital."
The ability of the new proposed project to boost city revenues would play a key role in enticing approval, commissioners said.
Besides the mega-marina on the northwest quadrant, groups planning to move to other parts of the island are Parrot Jungle and the Miami Children’s Museum.
"We want to see a marina and other facilities that will bring the most money to the City of Miami," Commissioner Wifredo Gort said.
City documents suggest possible uses for the island include entertainment, educational or cultural buildings; a hotel; restaurants; theaters; retail; privately owned or operated playgrounds, parks, beaches or art galleries, and auxiliary facilities such as parking and professional offices.
The developer needs to propose a waterfront urban design with parks, plazas, walkways and access to the bay, according to the city’s request.
The developer will get a 45-year lease with two 15-year renewal options.
There was some disagreement about the request among members of the city’s waterfront advisory board before the document was submitted to commissioners, said Robert Parente, head of the eight-member board.
"Some of the reasons were the need for a new master plan for Virginia Key," Mr. Parente said.
He said it was important to wait to see what would be built on Virginia Key before deciding on a mega-yacht marina.
"Another member said it would be better for the city to build and manage the marina, instead of giving it to somebody else. Another member thought they shouldn’t build a marina at all and should keep it open."
Other members, he said, complained that development on Watson Island would bring more traffic to the MacArthur Causeway. About 80,000 cars traverse the island via the causeway every day, according to city documents.
Once proposals are submitted, a review committee will study each proposal and make recommendations. The manager would then decide which ones go before commissioners for a final vote, said Carlos Gimenez, city manager.
Some commissioners didn’t welcome the selection procedure.
"We would like to see all of them," Mr. Gort said of the proposals.
Commissioner Tom s Regalado also wanted to defer the Nov. 6 referendum after labeling the coming mayoral elections "politically charged."
Raphael Diaz, city attorney, said the referendum needed to take place during a mayoral or commission election, according to the charter, and that the issue would have to wait until 2003 if not acted on in November.
For a copy of the Watson Island request, developers need to submit a letter of interest and a $300 non-refundable fee. An earnest money deposit of $100,000, refundable to developers not selected, is required to accompany the submittal of qualifications and conceptual proposals.
An additional $25,000 non-refundable deposit is required from the developer chosen to start exclusive negotiations.
A pre-bid conference and site visit is scheduled for 10 a.m. Feb. 20 at the City of Miami Riverside Center, 444 SW Second Ave. Requests must be be submitted no later than 4 p.m. June 4.