2017 is the year the Miami River ‘district’ will finally come alive, the Commission says

We’re spending this month making the city’s movers and shakers nail down some resolutions and predictions for their work in 2017. This week we’re talking development and neighborhood change. You can see all of the resolutions here.

Horacio Stuart Aguirre is the chairman of the Miami River Commission, which is the official clearinghouse for all public policy and projects connected to the Miami River. We’ve lightly edited this interview for clarity and length. For the purpose of this interview, we’re pretty much talking about the shoulders of the Miami River, plus a block or two inland, from Biscayne Bay to about NW 22nd Street.

When we talk about the Miami River, we’re probably talking about one of the most exciting, changing, improving areas in all of Miami-Dade County. Most of Miami-Dade County is pretty stable – which is a polite way of saying nothing big is happening.

All of the restaurants

Lots of stuff is happening. A lot of it will be coming into fruition in 2017, but in reality it’s stuff developers, city leaders, and the Miami River Commission started a year or two ago. I can think of like four projects that are going to be ribbon cut this year.

The former East Coast Fisheries, a family-owned, pretty famous place, has a brand new three-story building that includes a Sushi Samba and Duck and Waffle House. I drove by all that maybe a week ago and they’re about 90 days from a certificate of occupancy. You’ll see that before May opening up.

Kiki’s on the River is another riverfront restaurant. Now there are five restaurants – Crust, Kiki’s, Seaspice, Casablanca, and Garcia’s – in a row there.

When you add up all the restaurants currently open on the river, there’s 21. There’s another 20 in the making. We’re all going to get so fat eating on the river, we’re just going to have barges to roll us up and down.

All of the walking and boating

I think we’re going to be making a big, big leap with the greenway walkway. That’s the walkway that will allow you to meet your boyfriend somewhere at the mouth of the river and walk until you’re tired as far as you want on one side of the river, sort of like you have in Savannah and San Antonio. Six of 10 miles are complete, but the six miles that are done aren’t continuous yet. We’ll be working real hard in the next 12 months to fill them in.

You’ll be able to go to Lummus Park, have a wonderful picnic afternoon with your boyfriend or husband and children, and walk back to where you left your car. Fresh air, fabulous views and a wonderful, clean, safe experience.

Another thing that’s going to be really changing is that we’re looking for new incidental docking opportunities on the river. That means your friend calls you up and says, “Come to my boat at Dinner Key,” and then you’ll pull into one of the restaurants on the Miami River, and then leisurely ride up and down the river. Basically incidental short term docking. Then we make the river even more attractive to boaters with family and friends and money.

All of the change

If River Landing comes out of the ground and is built as promised and as we approved it, that is a significant and exciting contribution to life on the river. That’s a classic mixed-use with residential, food and beverage, retail, and a movie theater.

There’s something fabulous about the waterfront. If you go, for example, to Lummus Park and you look to your immediate east and then you let your eyes come in an arc to your immediate west, every 10 degrees your eyes are scanning the arc, you’re seeing a totally different thing on the banks of the Miami River. It’s not a boring view, it’s a continuously changing view.

We run about 20 or 24 boats up and down the river for free on Miami Riverday. We always ask, “How many of you live in Miami? For how many people is this the first time you’re on the River?” It’s a huge number. We say, “Raise your hands if this has been totally different than what you thought it would be.”

What’s different is it’s clean, it’s fresh, it’s lively, it’s vibrant, it’s new.

All of the high rises

Are we killing the single-family homes? No, not at all. We’re going to make sure there are enough high rises where high rises belong that there is no encroachment on the single-family homes on the river. It’s like at a zoo, when you make sure the animal gets enough hamburger so when people walk in the cage, they are no longer hungry.

We already have some great neighborhoods, single-family residential neighborhoods. What I do foresee is property values of those single-family residential neighborhoods will begin to escalate. It’s inevitable.