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The Disaster Known as Watson Island

Next Topic of Conversation: Watson Island. I’d like to hear what everyone else thinks about this touchy subject, so, please feel free to comment as much as possible below. I’ve also created a simple poll which can be found on the left sidebar…

The Dilemma:
The proposed use for Watson Island, the artificial island in the heart of our metropolis, has been the center of debate, lawsuits, and political agendas for quite some time now. It was formerly barren strip of land which was frequented by little more than the thousands of cars which traverse the Mac Arthur Causeway daily (Plus or minus a few crack deals by the bay, a handful of amateur photographers, and the people waving goodbye to their loved ones aboard cruise ships that are apparently sailing away to another dimension, etc.) Otherwise, the island is home to some of the most scenic views of the Magic city, the Bay, and the busiest passenger port in the World. Aside from the readily available space, Watson Island remains little more than a wasted opportunity to create something excellent at our city’s front doorstep.

The Project:
The current scheme for the Island will include the already built Parrot Jungle and Gardens and the extremely lackluster in design and content Miami Children’s Museum. Oh, and two massive hotels will also grace the property along with a marina slip for the private ships of the super wealthy. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not against tall buildings or development; I usually just push for it to be done appropriately and in the right settings. Typically, I don’t advocate placing 500+ ft towers next to a squat 30 foot tall museum on a solitary island in the middle of the bay. In addition to the 6 lanes of the Mac Arthur Causeway, the island may also feature the entrance and exits to a tunnel which would move trucks under government cut to the Port as well as the lanes of the Baylink Streetcar.

The Good:
The opportunities that such developments can provide to our city abound. The average owner of a Mega-Yacht spends over a million dollars a year on the maintenance of the vessel itself, so we can just imagine how much money they will spend when they stay in our city for extended periods of time. One of the Hotels, the Shangri-La will be the first of its kind in the United States and will definitely attract its share of Wealthy Asian Travelers and business to our area. Asia is quickly realizing that Miami is their easiest gateway to Latin America. Parrot Jungle moved from its digs in Pinecrest to the more urban location to become the city’s newest tourist attraction. Regardless of what other projects could have risen on the island, I can guarantee that any project would have greatly transformed what was essentially an unoccupied thoroughfare into a further bustling section of urbanized waterfront.

The Bad:
We are taking advantage of these opportunities at the expense of the public land, plain and simple. The new marina will restrict public access to much of the land. The developer has creatively cited “Anti-Terrorist Regulations” as the reason behind the gates and bars that will keep most of us away from the actual docks or seaside or most importantly Paul Allen, Larry Ellison, Roman Abramovich, or any other billionaire that can afford a boat as big as a Carnival cruise ship. In addition, the only heliport in the area was closed to make way for the impending development as well as a popular bait shop. Parrot Jungle has been a failure until now and owes vast sums of money to the County as rent payments. Apparently it didn’t occur to anyone that the nostalgia and lush tropical environment of the previous location was what kept so many local visitors interested in the park to begin with.

The Ugly:
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not crying foul about the project, but, at the same time, I don’t support it fully either. I think the land could have had better uses, especially if Baylink had been taken into account much sooner. I also have issues with those who chose to complain about the project as well. First off, just for clarification, the “blocked view” or “added traffic” lawsuits and claims are completely bogus. I hate to remind them, but, they purchased a home, not a view or the surroundings. Last time I checked, the MLS listings included square footage not vistas. My real question to the people who complained about the project is: Where were they before Island Gardens? And why weren’t they complaining about the lack of adequate use on public land when Watson Island was a barren wasteland? No comment. My best guess is because it wasn’t about the public use to begin with…

My Thoughts:
All in all, Watson Island could have served the community much better had the appropriate measures been taken ahead of time. Public Transit would have definitely alleviated many of the traffic concerns and would have presented a multitude of options which would have made the island more suitable to better public uses. The FTAA Secretariat home, an idea that floated around for a while (Small Building on the lower right), could have been feasible with better access and would have created a venue similar to the United Nations plaza in New York City or NATO Headquarters in Brussels Belgium

Update: Miami-Dade County Commissioners Deferred a vote yesterday which would have allowed dredging to begin in the Bay.

Your Thoughts:

Notable Quotes:

Walter Ward:
“With all the graft and unauthorized payments paid out it would more than be enough to keep watson island like it was. A sleepy little place to stroll, the old bait shop etc.”

Manola Blablablanik:
“So maybe it’s good for the economy if some fat dough-wad geezers park their boats there, but I don’t like the idea of limited public access AT ALL.”

“I’d rather that they weren’t building a mega yacht marina but rather a reguar marina for the RESIDENTS of Dade, but I’m all for the building of more hotels…I’m never wild about giving public land away especially when you look at the track record of Miami officals, but its this or leave it like it is. I vote for more hotels.”

“My main concern is with the design. Watson Island was the best piece of public real estate around at that time and it deserved buildings that people from around the world could identify as being in Miami.”

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