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Front Page » Top Stories » Restaurant complex plan meets Miami River’s grit

Restaurant complex plan meets Miami River’s grit

Written by on September 20, 2016
Restaurant complex plan meets Miami River’s grit

Champions of the Miami River appreciate that the city has a working river, with vibrant marine-industrial uses up and down both banks. A working river means imports and exports, jobs, tax base and more – including noise and smells.

As the building boom continues and the river becomes more attractive to developers, a balance has to be reached, say the men and women guiding the river’s future.

The Miami River Commission is considering a plan from developer Shahab Karmely to transform a trio of old warehouses into a dining and event space called River Arts Complex.

The property is less than half an acre at 125, 129 and 131 NW South River Drive. It’s a key location as it faces a redeveloped Lummus Park on the river’s north side, just northwest of the West Flagler Street Bridge.

While the property is zoned for marine-industrial uses, a restaurant would be allowed with special permission.

But next door at Biscayne Towing & Salvage, owner Cory Offutt has serious concerns about a restaurant operating beside his business.

The River Arts Complex proposal was reviewed Sept. 14 by the river commission’s Urban Infill and Greenways Subcommittee.

Mr. Offutt said his business is loud, smelly and operates around the clock. He said a restaurant next door is incompatible with his shipyard and he’s worried he will be regulated out of business.

His emergency marine towing business deals in heavy towing and launch work. It services ships in distress and tows them into the shipyard for work. Mr. Offutt also has a contract with the county to collect and dispose of derelict vessels on the river and Biscayne Bay.

“My belief is that a restaurant is incompatible with my business … we’d be unable to exit in harmony,” he said.

“I want to stay in business,” he said. “I don’t want to move.”

“We have to acknowledge it’s a working river,” said Iris Escarra, an attorney representing Mr. Karmely.

The developer sees the river as the “jewel of the city,” she said, noting that he’s also the developer of a major mixed-use project downriver.

Mr. Karmely, CEO of KAR Properties, is the man behind One River Point, planned dual 60-story condo towers connected at the top with a private club and at the bottom with a giant waterfall.

“He likes the edginess of a working river,” Ms. Escarra told the committee.

“We always consider the neighbors,” said Committee Co-Chair Jim Murley, “but our job is to find a balance.”

Phil Everingham, a commission member, asked why Mr. Offutt was worried about being displaced or forced to move.

“I’m a small fish in a big pond,” said Mr. Offutt, and he’s afraid so many complaints would be lodged against his business for noise and disruption that he’d be “regulated” out of business.

“We want to co-exist with the working river,” said Ms. Escarra.

The committee gave Mr. Karmely’s team a month to meet with neighboring property owners, tweak the plan to create a wider public riverwalk and better access from the street, and design a sound buffer abutting the shipyard. The plan is expected to reach the full river commission in November.

3 Responses to Restaurant complex plan meets Miami River’s grit

  1. Frank

    September 22, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    I don’t appreciate how this reporter states his opinions as facts! Bad job. “Champions of the River”, what does that mean? So people investing money into the river who are new aren’t champions of the river? Who is a Champion of the River? There are great walkable rivers in every mega city, why not here in Miami? The river was totally under utilized and heavily polluted. Why do we need an industrial river? Why do we need to exclude the public from the river and allow boat yards exclusive control and dominion over it? BTW, was it really Ms. Escarra who used the word “coexist”? No, it wasn’t! I’m tired of ‘so called’ activists and preservationists trying to thwart the growth of the city at the expense of the next generation, who are dying for more walkable areas in the city. Nothing was mentioned about the horrible crime in the area, the lack of property care, the waste byproducts from the ship yards, or how across the street the area has long been vacant and is zoned for 8-12 story buildings. What about when those parcels are developed, what about the noise and pollution then? By right those parcels are going to be huge residential developments. Do we want such toxins so close to the people? Why would this guy get regulated out of business? Complaints don’t create a violation or a fine unless there is a legitimate issue. WHO EDITS THESE ARTICLES?!? Give a balanced view of the issues, not just some knee jerk bs about how the river is becoming more residential and less industrial.

    BTW, isn’t that why we’re doing more to expand and drudge the port of Miami, so that more import and export can occur there at the port and not further pollute the river? How about a better more in depth article that actually puts a real spot light on whats happening. SHAME ON MIAMI TODAY, this is horrible one sided reporting!!! You don’t even mention who the men and women are who “guiding the river’s future”. At least identify more of the key players instead of posting this awful article.

  2. Jose

    September 26, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Miami definitely needs more walking area. I love to run, and run every weekend in the Brickell area because really there’s not many places to run in Miami where you get to experience the beautiful view this city has to offer. How about less condo towers and more green. More parks and a boardwalk sorrounding both sides of the Miami River sure would be nice.

  3. FJ P

    September 27, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    Frank, while I understand your argument for ‘progress’ and growth, as you say, there are two sides to every story.

    First, you, rightly so, complain about the press. This, sadly and with respect, is a bit naïve, since we no longer have an objective press in this country.

    Secondly, you assume that ‘progress’ in our home town will be undertaken in a balanced and methodical fashion; history bears out that this will not be case, unless you are talking about Coral Gables. Lincoln Road – gentrified to the point that the quirkiness that first made it interesting is all but gone. Brickell? One of the world’s premiere waterfront urban development districts built out in such a haphazard fashion that you cannot even tell it is on the shore of one of the prettiest bodies of water in the world, lacking parks, human scale of any sort and devoid of any meaningful planning.

    The Miami River is full of history (which we here have historically had little respect for). The city takes it name from the river (‘Sweet Water’ in the Tequesta language). It has been a working river for over 100 years. What is attracting people to it now, besides its location, is its quirkiness. So, are you proposing we ‘Brickellise’ the river now too? It doesn’t take that much imagination to envisage a river with one high rise after another on both sides for miles, does it? Running? Sure, just like trying to do so down Brickell Avenue.

    I do not disagree with development (been in the real estate world for thirty years)or progress. But I do when a community’s history can and most probably will be swept aside for ‘progress’. If we aren’t careful, we will simply turn it into yet another concrete canyon, one that just so happens to have a river running through it.

    As to the shipyard polluting (I deal with seaports daily), I can tell you that the laws on the books now, if adhered to, will address this.

    Finally, as to ‘activists and preservationists’, keep in mind that without them, there would not be the largest Art Deco Historic District in the world right here (which in fact created value for all the property owners there), or any of the great ‘walkable’ cities of the world either eg, Paris, London, Washington DC, most boroughs of NYC, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Singapore, etc; most of which have historically enjoyed rather healthy property markets.

    So, in my opinion, the key to all of this is, striking the proper balance. Just a few thoughts.