Marc Buoniconti is a hero here in Miami. His father, Nick Buoniconti, played on the legendary '72 team that went 17-0. After Marc's own career was cut short in 1985 when he was paralyzed while playing football for The Citadel, he and his father raised $350 million to start the University of Miami's Project to Cure Paralysis.
But Buoniconti is now being blamed for what critics say will be a blight on Coral Gables: a giant boat warehouse proposed for pristine Matheson Hammock Park.
"I've been coming to Matheson Hammocks since I was a kid," says local Charlie Girtman. "This would ruin it. It's going to happen over my dead body."
UPDATE: Bruce C. Matheson -- grandson of the park's namesake, William Matheson, and head of the family trust -- says that he opposes the project. "My family and I are against the construction of the boat warehouse in Matheson Hammock Park," he tells Riptide.
Plans for the warehouse first surfaced in 2008 as part of an even larger Dockmaster's Building. But the proposal was rejected by the City of Coral Gables in February of 2009.
The idea stubbornly resurfaced like a turd on the water, however, last December when Buoniconti and developer Aqua Marine Partners (AMP)
Aventura Marine Products presented warehouse designs to Coral Gables officials. Buoniconti did not return requests for comment. When he does, we will update this post.
Girtman says the warehouse, if built, will be a monstrosity: nearly six stories tall, 3.4 million cubic feet, with slips for 360 boats.
"It's huge," he says. By his estimate, it would require dredging the shallow marina and tearing up at least three acres of protected mangroves.
Girtman isn't the only one concerned. Last week, the projects' three chief backers -- Buoniconti, Coral Gables architect Richard Heisenbottle, and lobbyist Dusty Melton -- tried to sell the plan to Gables By The Sea and Pinecrest By The Sea.
The condo associations both rejected the idea, arguing that the building would be an industrial sore on Mother Nature:
Our coastal communities of Coral Gables make a (plea) to all decision and policy makers to protect us from this unwanted and deleterious industrial usage that will so negatively affect the coastal areas of our City Beautiful and we further implore our City Officials to take the lead and generate and pass an immediate resolution to put anyone on notice that the City of Coral Gables will not support such objectionable usage so as to defuse and set clear policy to safeguard our communities and environment for all concerned.
"Can you imagine the noise, the water pollution
this thing is going to bring?" adds Gables resident Daria Feinstein. "And what will it do to birding? This is the only place left to see birds, macaws, in Miami."
It's unclear how close the warehouse is to actually being built. The project requires approval by several Coral Gables committees, including the Historic Preservation Board that rejected the more extensive plan in 2009.
But Gristman says that he fears construction could begin in 90 days, turning his childhood nature sanctuary into a fuel and exhaust-filled dock devoid of marine life. He and several other Gables residents -- supposedly including Heat president Pat Riley -- have chipped in to create a website against the warehouse, including an online petition drive.
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Here is the video against the project: