Understanding your ballot: Riverside Wharf vote, explained

If you live in the City of Miami, your ballot will have the following:

Proposed lease of city-owned waterfront lands on the Miami River
Shall the City be authorized to lease approximately 0.73 acres of waterfront land on the Miami River to Riverside Wharf LLC, providing for 1) $195,500.00 of minimum guaranteed annual rent, and 2) an investment of approximately $7 million in privately funded improvements including the construction of restaurants and the continuity of the public Miami Riverwalk, for a thirty (30) year term with two (2) ten (10) year renewal options?

What that actually means:

On March 15, Miami voters will decide on the fate of Riverside Wharf, a project that would bring restaurants and a fish market to the eastern bank of the Miami River, between 236 and 298 SW North River Drive. That’s the stretch of land between the I-95 overpass and the SW 1st Street bridge.

While part of the project is on private land, you — being the engaged voter you are — will decide on 0.73-acre waterfront strip of city-owned property. It’s currently leased to the Garcia family, which runs a commercial fishing operation along part of the land. Riverside Wharf developer Alex Mantecon has partnered with Garcia’s principal Luis Garcia and together the two will turn part of the commercial fishing operation into a public fish market, according to Miami Today.

City commissioners back the project, and last December they approved bringing it to a referendum vote which will take place this week. While initially Mayor Regalado was against the proposal, thinking it would just be another restaurant on the river, he has since warmed up to it, the Miami Herald reports. This is partly because the $30 million project will be privately financed, and will expand a public boardwalk along the Miami River, which the city has been trying to make more of a public space for awhile now. As proposed, it will provide the city with $195,500 in rent annually and $7 million in investments for improvements to public land.

The project also includes 10,000 square feet of dock space, available for roughly 20 vessels to dock. Mantecon says two of the boat slips will be set aside for the unloading of seafood for commercial fishermen. The other 18 will be open to the public so they can dock their boats while walking along the wharf.

If approved, this will be one of the many proposed developments that could totally change the eastern part of the river, the Miami Herald reports. Other projects include the addition of a Sushi Samba by the Melo group, a family-owned development firm, and the renovation of the Miami River Inn, by Avra Jain, who previously worked to reopen The Vagabond Hotel along Biscayne Boulevard. And of course there’s David Beckham’s new soccer stadium a few blocks westward.

But, reminder: You’re only voting now on the Riverside Wharf project. The lease would last 30 years, with two 10-year renewal options.