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Front Page » Top Stories » City To Mull Controversial Miami River Residential Project

City To Mull Controversial Miami River Residential Project

Written by on April 22, 2004

By Susan Stabley
A controversial 1,072-unit Miami River residential development is to go before Miami city commissioners today (4/22).

The Hurricane Cove project includes three buildings – two-28-story and a 26-story structure – at 1818 and 1884 NW North River Drive. Original plans called for four buildings, according to city documents.

A 16-foot-wide river walk that would be open to the public during park hours is included in the plans, as are a seafood restaurant, a convenience store and improvements to the site’s 130-slip marina.

But the project’s rezoning threatens industrial activities on the 5.5-mile river, said Fran Bohnsack, executive director of the Miami River Marine Group, a non-profit organization of river businesses.

She said 687,991 square feet of marine industrial property on the river has been lost to rezoning – including 274,864 in March to make way for the Royal Atlantic project at 1001 NW Seventh St. Hurricane Cove would take another 379,230 square feet, she said.

"I understand the city wants to build residential housing," Ms. Bohnsack said Tuesday. "But it’s so shortsighted to lose the last little bits of working waterfront."

More than $4.1 billion in cargo moved through the Miami River in 2001, according to the Miami River Commission, a clearinghouse for economic and public-policy issues. Ms. Bohnsack and others have speculated that river use could dramatically increase if trade with Cuba is restored. And Gov. Jeb Bush said earlier this month that "optimal trade efficiency" along the corridor supports the city’s efforts to bring the Free Trade Area of the Americas headquarters to Miami.

Hurricane Cove would spell the demise of a public boatyard and "inhibit the access of boaters of more moderate means," Ms. Bohnsack said.

The threat to the boatyard and the high density of the project led to the Miami River Commission’s 6-4 vote March 1 to withhold support for the project, managing director Brett Bibeau said Monday.

The project does not fit with the commission’s Miami River Corridor Urban Infill Plan, which designates the middle stretch of the river as appropriate for mid-rise development, he said.

The debate over Hurricane Cove split the city’s planning advisory board, which failed to recommend approval of the project after a lengthy public hearing, according to city documents.

The city’s planning and zoning department recommended approval, as did the city’s zoning board, which voted 7-2 on March 22 to support the project.

At today’s planning and zoning hearing, scheduled to start at 3 p.m. at City Hall, city commissioners are to consider changing the city’s comprehensive neighborhood plan and the parcel’s zoning, both steps needed for a unified commercial site, necessary for Hurricane Cove’s application for a major use special permit.

River Marina Inc. – owned by James Griffin Jr., James Griffin III, John Griffin and Daniel McAlpin – owns the property. Balbino Investments Inc. of Miami is the contract purchaser and developer of the parcel. Balbino is owned by Tony Acosta, Armando Alonso and Roberto Vina, according to city documents.

Mr. Acosta said Tuesday that he would market his units to employees in the Civic Center area. His attorney Lucia Dougherty of Greenberg Traurig told the Miami River Commission on March 1 that units would start at $167,000, but Mr. Acosta said he was not sure about prices.

Costs of the project and its townhomes and his one- and two-bedroom condos and studio units are still in flux because "we’re still working on amenities," Mr. Acosta said.

This is his first high-rise project, he said, though he has built single-family homes.