When local developers Alex Mantecon and Guillermo Vadell bought the property at 123 SW North River Dr., they realized they had something of a logistical problem: The property had a prime location along the Miami River, but it was also sandwiched between massive, looming freeway bridges. "We kind of analyzed it," Mantecon tells Riptide. "Anything that you were to build -- a ground level or one, two, or three stories -- was basically going to be facing the underside of I-95."
Condos were out. Instead the developers came up with another idea: a rooftop restaurant, high enough above the freeway to offer unencumbered views of downtown and the Miami River. On top of a huge storage facility.
"Pretty much every developer who has done self storage" has essentially just put boxes in buildings that offer no other use, says Mantecon, who with Vadell manages MV Real Estate Holdings. "So we've taken that and joined it with different uses that would take advantage of the structure itself."
The building, which broke ground two weeks ago, will be nine stories tall with the rooftop restaurant and its 7,000-square-foot terrace clearing I-95 by about 70 feet. The first floor will be dedicated to retail, and floors two through eight will house the storage facilities, with possible office space on the seventh.
The structure, called the East Coast Building, will also display a 30-by-70-foot mural -- an abstract rendering of birds in flight crossing the Miami River -- that will be visible to southbound I-95 traffic. The art was done by FIU students as part of a collaborative project; Mantecon, an FIU grad, said his company has also donated $100,000 in scholarships to first-generation college students at the school.
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Building construction is expected to be finished around June or July next year. No tenants have yet been lined up, and there are no firm plans about what type of restaurant will sit atop the huge storage building just yet.
"Before it was just a concept," he says of the project. "And now it's real."