County approves dredging off Watson Island for yacht marina
By Yeleny Suarez and Samantha Joseph
Creation of a 50-slip yacht marina - part of a proposed resort off Miami's Watson Island - has passed another buoy.
Miami-Dade County commissioners Tuesday approved the dredging of 15.8 acres of submerged bay bottom for the creation of a mega-yacht marina.
A project proposed by Flagstone Property Group is to include 50 slips as well as luxury high-rise hotels and more than 230,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space. Turkish developer Mehmet Bayraktar plans other amenities that include gardens in a partnership with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and a maritime gallery with the Historical Museum of Southern Florida.
Miami voters approved the Watson Island resort project in 2001.
City Commissioner Johnny Winton attended Tuesday's meeting to encourage county officials to support the project. He said it would create 950 full-time positions and 3,000 construction jobs.
"This project will create an entirely new economic development subset," he said.
"Mega yachts, ships that are at least 100 feet long, typically mean big business for cities that accommodate them."
As part of its lease agreement, Flagstone would have to establish an education center to train the marina's employees in several areas such as hospitality, catering and dining.
The development would bring other public benefits, Mr. Winton said, including a 100-foot waterfront promenade, a fish market, a maritime gallery and $1 million to plan and develop the southern end of Watson Island.
Pending before construction can begin is a review by the US Army Corps of Engineers. There is no deadline for the review, according to Laura Billberry, assistant director of the city's economic development department.
Homeowners on Venetian Island have filed a lawsuit challenging the city's approval of a major use special permit. "We are waiting for the judge to set a date," said Flagstone project director Joseph L. Herndon.
Securing permits would pave the way for financing and hotel operators to move in.
Mr. Herndon said the project is going as planned and Flagstone is following the timeline it had already established.
The city is to collect $1 million in rent a year during the building phase and $2 million once the project is completed, according to the deal with the developer.
In a recent interview, Ms. Billberry said the lease agreement between the city and developers states that all conditions must be completed by Jan 1, 2007.
Mr. Winton underscored the city's interest in the project. Each ship to dock in Miami would reportedly generate about $500,000 in boatyard expenses, brokerage commissions, charter fees and maintenance and repair charges, he said.
"The economic impact on cities is dramatic when those vessels dock in our community."