City of Miami voters will decide next week whether a long-debated $115 million redevelopment of the Rickenbacker Marina should go forward under a plan that would waive competitive bidding. But a pending lawsuit is challenging the validity of the vote, and the ultimate fate of the project remains unclear.
On Tuesday’s ballot is the Marina PARC proposal, an abbreviation for Public Access, Recreation, and Community. It’s spearheaded by Key Biscayne resident Aabad Melwani, who currently runs the marina on Virginia Key.
The Rickenbacker Marina currently operates under a Public-Private Partnership, with its current leaseholders, the family-owned Rickenbacker Marina Inc., having operated it since the 1980s.
“The hallmark of the project is to shrink the boat storage footprint, to shrink the commercial footprint, and to open up new green space. Miami, for being a waterborne city, has very few places where the average person can access the water,” Melwani said in an interview. “We don’t want this to just be a place where the wealthy store their boats. We want this to be a launch-point for everyone.”
The outdoor boat storage would be replaced with an indoor, automated, and solar power equipped garage for 700 boats. The total number of boats that can be serviced would decrease, and the extra land would instead be used for boardwalk, green space, and two new restaurants. Boat slips would be widened, now able to accommodate boats up to 120 feet.
Environmental concerns are given emphasis in the proposal, with 10% of the proceeds from the lease be put into a Virginia Key Beach Park Trust for the construction of a black history museum at the park on the far side of the island.
Redevelopment of the site has been mired in contentious debates over the bidding process at Miami’s City Hall, with commissioners rejecting the highest-scoring bidder, Virginia Key, LLC, and opting instead to place the matter on November’s ballot.
That move led to a lawsuit from Virginia Key, LLC, which seeks to invalidate Tuesday’s vote and award the contract to it, alleging favoritism.