Aug 17, 2022 - News

Breaking down Miami's Riverside Wharf ballot question

A rendering of a sleek, modern, glass-fronted hotel along a river.
Rendering courtesy of MV Real Estate Holdings and Driftwood Capital

Miami put a ballot question up to voters this Aug. 23 election to decide whether the city should extend a lease for Riverside Wharf, which real estate developers want to revamp into a massive waterfront hotel and entertainment hub.

Catch up fast: In 2016, voters OK'd leasing public land on the east bank of the Miami River for 30 years with options to extend to 50 years. A year later, the site became home to trendy nightlife venue The Wharf.

  • Now, developers are planning two 10-story towers, including a 165-room Dream Hotel, an event hall, a nightclub, and a rooftop day club. A revised version of the The Wharf would feature a seafood market, and there'd also be a deep-water yacht marina.
  • The project would take up two acres, part of which is owned by the city. Developers, who are requesting a 50-year lease extension, own the adjacent land.

What they're saying: Alex Mantecon, co-developer of Riverside Wharf, tells Axios the longer lease is needed to secure financing to build the $185 million project.

  • His group took over the city-owned site from a fishing operation that had been paying about $25,000 per year in rent, he said. The developers now pay over $200,000, and that amount would jump 50%.
  • "It's a parcel that, without having ownership of the property next door, it really becomes a non-developable site," Mantecon said. "We're trying to make something that's going to redefine what the Miami River is."

Yes, but: Allowing private entities to use public land is always a contentious issue.

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