Grove Seeks Ideas For Sailing Club Convention Center Site
Written by Eric Kalis on September 21, 2006
By Eric Kalis
Coconut Grove interests say they are trying to expedite resolutions to longstanding issues on the area’s waterfront — including the future of the 60-year-old Coconut Grove Sailing Club.
The City of Miami’s Waterfront Advisory Board was to host a forum on the club this week with candidates vying for the District 2 City Commission seat. The board hopes it will offer solutions for the sailing club, which has operated on a city-owned mooring field at Dinner Key without a lease for five years, and ideas for uses of the Coconut Grove Convention Center site.
While the sailing club, at 2990 S. Bayshore Dr., offers sailing classes for children and adults, some residents feel it serves the needs of only its members, said T. Spencer Crowley, chairman of the advisory board. Without a lease, city officials have negotiated with club management on a month-to-month basis, he said.
Some residents prefer a private-public partnership for the club, he said, to give the city more oversight of its amenities and operations.
"We have not been able to kick this perception," Mr. Crowley said. "The club does not have to be used for public purposes, but I think the experience of having a private club on public land works against" the club’s management.
The advisory board has not taken formal action on a lease, but club founder Stuart Sorg said the club has prospered without a contract. The club generated about $500,000 annually at the turn of the decade, he said, but additional membership revenue and sailing programs have boosted its annual income to $1 million in recent years.
"Coconut Grove is one of the premier locations in the world," Mr. Sorg said. "People come from all over to be on the water. The sailing club is a huge part of that."
A lack of parking — only 48 spaces are on site — limits the club’s ability to reach non-members, Mr. Sorg said.
Sailing club members occupy about 240 moorings at Dinner Key, a 50-year-old state-run field city officials want to manage and expand, Mr. Sorg said. Proponents of a city-managed mooring field say the city is losing out on potential revenue from marine businesses that would rent boat slips or moorings and could better regulate cruising traffic.
City officials are pondering what to do with the Coconut Grove Convention Center building and surrounding land at 2700 S. Bayshore Dr. Commissioners voted in July 2005 to close the center to accommodate development along the waterfront.
The city hired planner Sasaki Associates Inc. to draft a master plan for the waterfront. The firm is expected to submit findings, which would include recommendations for the sailing club, mooring field and convention center land, in October.