After more than a decade of consolidating adjoining lots and an election referendum, big plans to convert a section of Miami’s waterfront into an entertainment district are underway. Work is set to begin this year on Riverside Wharf, a $185 million, 1.5-acre, twin-tower development slated to open in 2025 that will include a 165-key Dream Hotel, half a dozen restaurants and nightlife venues and a private marina. . The site, co-developed by Alex Mantecon and Emi Guerra, includes Wharf Miami, an event space that includes a collection of vendors and regularly hosts pop-up businesses, and neighboring plots cobbled together through multiple transactions from 2010. Voters of Miami approved the redevelopment of the industrial area as an entertainment and hospitality district in 2016. Travel Weekly’s hotel editor Tovin Lapan recently spoke with Mantecon about the project.
Q: What about that area of Miami that caught your eye as a development opportunity?
A: If you think of this section of the Miami River, it’s sandwiched between the two most densely populated neighborhoods in the state of Florida. You have Brickell and Downtown, and the river is basically what separates them. And it’s a shame the river was never really built, it was always an afterthought.
The river still retains its functional character, but you don’t want your industrial uses to be inside your city event zones from a town planning perspective. So the industrial uses will remain in the middle and upper parts of the river, and we are in the lower part of the river. The vision here is for it to become a place with lots of walking opportunities and lots of entertainment and dining options.
Q: Why was Dream Hotel Group the right partner for this project?
A: It really has to do with the overall vision of the project which has always been about the best entertainment and restaurants. And we don’t mean best-in-class like Miami’s most expensive and flashiest. We mean best-in-class simply as the best. And condominiums and offices don’t really integrate well with restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, so a hotel was a natural fit to bring some density to the neighborhood — to give restaurants a better crowd.
So we started looking around at all the different hotel brands that are out there and came across Dream, which is just one of the last few independent lifestyle brands that really fits with what we were trying to achieve. …. They also have a very strong creative backbone with great deals at each of their destination hotels.
Q: What details can you share about the two towers?
A: They are two separate buildings, but everything will look like one building. What we try to do is make sure noise is not an issue at the hotel so we have all the entertainment, food and drink in one building and the hotel next door.
From a programming perspective, the current Wharf Miami will occupy the ground floor of both buildings. The hotel’s main lobby and some amenities will be on the second floor, and the hotel will have a rooftop swimming pool.
The other building will be the main dining and entertainment site, with Wharf Miami on the ground floor and restaurants on the second floor. The floors are constructed at double height, so 28 foot ceilings with a spacious and airy feel and balconies overlooking the water. Then above there will be a ballroom for events like weddings and parties. Then there will be a rooftop nightclub and day club.
Q: Are there any plans to connect to the region’s past?
A: We plan to keep the Garcia Fish Market on the ground floor. There is a lot of history and nostalgia with this place which was on site for 50-60 years, a proper commercial fishing operation until a few months ago. We will have the fish market, fishermen will be able to come and unload their catches, and it will be accessible to the public but will also supply the various catering establishments.