A plan to revitalize the Miami River has put the marine industry on a collision course with developers.
A plan to revitalize the Miami River has put the marine industry
on a collision course with developers.
From the mouth of the Miami River, where rows of condo towers are rising fast on both banks, it doesn’t take long to reach the gritty industrial core of the city’s marine industry. Fishing boats unload their catches, recreational boaters tie up for fuel and repairs, and tugs maneuver rickety cargo vessels loaded with used bicycles, mattresses and other second-hand goods bound for the Caribbean.
For decades Miami’s marine industry flourished quietly in the growing shadow of the city’s skyline. The river ranks as the state’s fourth-largest port, moving about $4 billion in goods a year and generating 6,700 jobs and an annual economic impact of $805 million.
But high demand for waterfront property and local growth policies that promote development in the city’s urban areas are pushing fishermen, cargo haulers and other marine users farther upstream. Some say their businesses are threatened. Since 2000, according to marine industry officials, roughly half of the land zoned for marine-industrial use along Miami’s portion of the river — Miami-Dade County controls a small portion — has been lost to residential development. Surrounding property values are skyrocketing.
“We’re losing out to condo mania,” says Fran Bohnsack, executive director of the Miami River Marine Group, a cooperative of cargo haulers and related industries on the Miami River. The group has three lawsuits pending against the city, alleging the city violated its own land-use regulations when it approved zoning changes allowing high-density residential projects on land once reserved for marine use.