Grove waterfront may see big-buck improvements

July 9, 2008

Two plans that would bring millions of dollars in improvements to Dinner Key from Kennedy Park to Peacock Park are poised to move forward this month.

The Coconut Grove Waterfront Master Plan, nearly three years in the making, is set to be presented Tuesday to the city's Waterfront Advisory Board before going to the Miami City Commission for a July 24 vote.

Suggested changes in the plan include demolishing the Coconut Grove Expo Center and replacing it with park space and a natural amphitheater, and moving the Coconut Grove Sailing Club and U.S. Sailing Center to facilities near Dinner Key's south bulkhead.

In the past, the plan hit snags with the community and city. In June 2006, dissatisfied city officials threatened to fire consultant Sasaki Associates. And a year ago the plan was placed on the City Commission agenda, only to be pulled by City Manager Pete Hernandez, who said more discussion and tweaks were needed.

But as the city prepares to present the plan once again at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Dr., stakeholders and activists are feeling comfortable with what has been proposed.

''I think we're finally at a point where all the groups that had problems are now pretty happy,'' said Michelle Niemeyer, chairwoman of the Coconut Grove Village Council and the head of a group created to keep tabs on the plan.

Even the Sailing Club and Sailing Center, which have criticized the plan in the past because it proposes to relocate the organizations, have been comforted by a series of meetings held to address their concerns.

Jeff Rubin, vice president of the Sailing Center, said Wednesday that the organization still prefers to stay in its recently constructed facility, but the city has addressed all the organization's concerns about moving to a new location.

''They've shown their good faith to listen to us and we need to appreciate those concerns and proceed cautiously to make sure our wishes are granted'' Rubin said.

And the Sailing Club's administration has been comforted by a written commitment from the city that the club would not be moved before a new facility is ready, and ongoing negotiations to draft a new lease agreement.

''The big question now is, how will this all be paid for?'' said Marc Buller, past commodore of the Sailing Club and a member of its Future Development Committee.

That question is to be addressed Tuesday, as the city will unveil cost estimates for the project.

And as City Commissioners are poised to weigh widespread changes to the area, another long-sought Dinner Key project is moving forward.

Last week, the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a permit to allow the construction of a managed mooring field at Dinner Key Marina.

That permit could be in the city's hands within the next two weeks, said Daniel Newhoff, Miami's assistant director of public facilities.

''We're looking to start construction in October or November,'' Newhoff said. “That should take about three months, which leaves us opening in February 2009.''

The mooring field project includes the installation of 225 screw-down mooring buoys in Dinner Key's outer anchorage.

''This is going to provide a safe, secure and economical solution to the lack of available docking space in Miami-Dade County,'' Newhoff said.


by David Smiley – the Miami Herald July 8, 2008 

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