Private development to bring construction boom to Miami River

By Jeff Lennox

MIAMI (WSVN) – Big changes are around the bend for the Miami River waterfront, as private development in the area is paving the way for a construction boom.

Paul George, a professor and local historian, has been giving tours up and down the Miami River for years, so he is in a unique position to know how the area will change. “It’s a special place for anyone who has been in Miami for a very long time,” he said.

George recently gave local developers an idea of what’s in store. “I see increased commerce on the river, especially as relations grow closer to normality with Cuba,” he said. “I think there is going to be more business back and forth. If and when that embargo is lifted, there’s going to be a flood of vessels relating to Cuban business in the river.”

In recent years, the river, which winds its way through the heart of Downtown Miami, has already seen an increase in retail, residential and business construction. But new plans approved by voters in mid-March call for a $30 million; 58,000-square-foot complex that includes an expansion of the public Riverwalk, an outdoor plaza and several outdoor restaurants.

The city, in turn, would receive a minimum annual rent payment of $195,500 from the developer. “The Miami River is becoming more populated then it has ever been,” said David Restainer, managing director at Douglas Elliman Commercial Real Estate. “When you look at some of the great cities around the world, most of them develop around rivers.”

With residential high-rises popping up in the area, real estate developers are hoping this trend flourishes. “What we’re looking at is creating a walkable waterfront,” said Alex Rhodes, a partner at Grant Thornton LLP, “a true neighborhood where people can live work and play, all in one place.”

The future site for the new restaurants is the north bank of the river, the land on the west side of Interstate 95. Part of the land being re-imagined has been leased by Garcia’s Seafood Grille & Fish Market for decades.

But that will all soon change, and the upcoming Miami Riverfront has earned George’s seal of approval. “I see nothing but positive stuff for the river in the next 15 years or so,” he said.

This project is still in the early framing stages. Developers believe they’ll break ground on the riverfront sometime in 2017 or 2018.

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