Guess Who's Coming... to Dinner Key?

Now playing: A fight over a prime piece of Miami bayfront property. Will the city fo Hollywood or choose a tamer role for the old boat yard?

Kennedy adds: "This is not pie in the sky. This is a very doable thing. We are going to create another Sundance Film Institute, a production workshop, and we have the capital and the expertise to do it. The partners are ready to put their money where their mouth is."

In a cheery letter from Stallone to city officials, the muscled one notes that "Coconut Grove, as part of the City of Miami, with an established international reputation in commerce, trade, and tourism, is one of the few places on this earth where a venture such as this could work -- and work well!"

Stallone tries to explain exactly how the film institute fits into the studio scheme: "While the primary purpose of the [studio] is not exhibit-oriented, there is no doubt that the concept being introduced can easily incorporate and even enhance the opportunities for interpretive and interactive exhibits for historic and cultural exposure of the community."

Besides the studio and film institute, the Atlantic Clipper group proposes a new marina and fuel dock, a dockmaster's administrative office, a small repair yard for boats, an outdoor food and fish market, a bayside promenade linking city hall with Monty Trainer's restaurant, and a 1200-square-foot convenience store with sundries, fishing tackle, and marine electronics.

In all, the group plans to spend $6 million on capital improvements. An additional $2.4 million in federal hurricane funds will be spent by the city to rebuild a damaged sea wall and construct a portion of the marina.

In return for a 40-year lease on the site, the Atlantic Clipper promises to pay the city a minimum of $350,000 per year for the first decade, more after that. It reserves the right to pay only $100,000 per year in the event the city delays reconstruction of the marina.

The group expects the 53,000-square-foot studio to be by far the most profitable element of the new boat yard, returning $744,000 the first year and as much as $1.89 million by year ten. In contrast, the boat-repair facility is expected to lose money the first year and then become a modest moneymaker; the marina should generate about $180,000 starting off, then increase to nearly $500,000 in annual net income, they say.

The group's proposal contains an escape clause that would allow the partners to vacate the development after twenty years if business turns sour. Like the other bidders, Atlantic Clipper wants the option to expand into the adjacent Virrick Gym property. It also reserves the right to sublet any part of the boat yard it wishes.

Hugh Westbrook, an opposing bidder, is skeptical about the idea of a movie studio at Dinner Key. He says he and his partner, Miami admiralty lawyer Michael Moore, hired consultants to look into the same idea. "Their conclusion was that it was not a viable thing to do because of the costs associated with soundproofing the building, and also the point of view that it would close off the buildings from public access," Westbrook says. "What good is it to restore this hangar, and then not open it up and let the public come and look at it? I certainly believe that Miami needs production facilities. We think there would be other, better places for a film facility that would not tie up public waterfront land."

Bob Christoph, a partner in the third competing development group, confirmed he has met with Kennedy and Perry in a thus-far unsuccessful attempt to get them to locate the studio elsewhere in Miami and leave the boat yard to more traditional uses. Christoph continues his hunt for alternative studio sites, which he says could include the Miami Arena or, as a temporary solution, the Coconut Grove Convention Center. "The public needs to come to the surface on this," says Christoph. "They need to say, 'Sylvester, we welcome you with open arms, but this isn't the right place for a movie studio. Not here on waterfront land.'"

Christoph's group has a markedly more conservative vision for the old boat yard, one that emphasizes traditional maritime uses. The group wants to spend $1 million of its own money in addition to the city's $2.4 million in federal disaster-relief funds to create a snazzy new 144-slip marina. The larger seaplane hangar would be used as a dry stack -- a vertical parking lot -- for 140 more boats.

The group's proposal also describes a 40,000-square-foot Caribbean market that would sell food and other products from countries serviced by Pan Am's flying clippers in the early days of aviation. The market is designed to occupy the smaller hangar and spill out onto a bayside courtyard.

Christoph and his partners say their less glamorous land uses are also less risky since there's a demonstrable need for boat slips and marine services on Biscayne Bay. They say they can promise the city at least $300,000 per year and are willing to spend a total of $5 million on improvements.

In counterpoint to these two proposals, Hugh Westbrook and Michael Moore envision using the larger of Dinner Key's seaplane hangars as a walk-through public market. "We plan to leave the doors open during the day," Westbrook notes. "You'll be able to see all the way through the hall out to the water. It's going to be very much a pedestrian place, with multiple points of access."

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