The UEL Board held an informal meeting Monday, 8-7-2012 on the subject of the Coconut Grove Waterfront and the future of the convention center site. Board members present were: Paul Schwiep, Grace Solares, Tony Garcia, Jennifer Garcia, Greg Bush, Corinna Moebius, Karja Hansen and Barbara Falsey.
Ron Nelson from Commissioner Sarnoff’s came to the meeting to discuss the controversy surrounding the convention center and the “Burn Notice” production as they relate to the implementation of the Coconut Grove Waterfront Master Plan. “Burn Notice” has been operating on a three year lease that allowed for several one year renewals. The lease is over at the end of October 2012 when the program will finish filming for this season. The production company approached the city to renew the lease and the city has been in negotiations to keep the production at the current facility for one more year so as to keep the film industry in the City of Miami. These discussions are still underway and no final agreement has been reached.
Should the program be continued for another year, the City is contemplating another one year agreement at the convention center for an increased rent. The current rent is well below market level at $20,000 and the revenue is distributed evenly between the City’s general fund and a fund for implementation of the waterfront master plan. To renew the lease, the City would seek $500,000 for one year (still below market) and Commissioner Sarnoff would like to see the entire amount designated for park improvements anticipated in the master plan. There is currently $1.8 million set aside for the park which Ron stated would cover demolition of the convention center and basic site improvements (turf and pathways). Grace Solares reviewed the city’s estimate for demolition of the current facility and converting to a green space and questioned whether the amount currently earmarked would be sufficient for site remediation.
Ron briefly discussed other issues related to the master plan, including minor changes to the actual siting of the dock master’s building and the possibility of an agreement with the National Parks to locate the Biscayne National Park Visitor’s Center in the footprint designated in the Master Plan as a community center. The goal would be for the visitor’s center to serve as a community center as well – including meeting spaces. He reported that he is aware that a letter of intent from the Park to the city is under review in Washington. If the letter is forwarded to the City, the public will be included in any discussions. He also reported that the long-term lease for the area that now houses Scotty’s Landing is over. The terms of the agreement require that the site be re-bid for a casual waterfront dining space. Since there were issues with the bidding process that was recently completed, the process will begin again. He suggested that the additional time will allow for more attention to parking issues and circulation. Ron also briefly responded to questions on Virginia Key.
The Board did not take any action on this issue and will continue to monitor both the Burn Notice question and the larger issue of implementation of the Coconut Grove Waterfront Master Plan.
After the meeting, several of us went to Scotty’s for drinks, snacks, summer evening breezes and good conversation.