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Guest Opinion: Plastic Tents a Blight on Waterfront

Please note that the following is the opinion of neighborhood advocate David Osgood. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Jamie Whitaker.  I do appreciate the opportunity to share others’ viewpoints on topics relevant to Rincon Hill neighborhood residents.

by David Osgood

Will the restaurants at Rincon Park ever stop expanding?  Epic Roasthouse is hoping to permanently cover half its large patio with one of those temporary-looking plastic and metal structures that are popping up along the waterfront (see pictures below).

Epic Roasthouse’s proposal will be reviewed at the Rincon Point-South Beach CAC meeting this coming Monday (1/23/12) at 5 PM at the South Beach Harbor Services Building’s Community Room between Pier 40 and AT&T Park.

They are labeling this addition as a “canopy.”  But “canopy” is defined as the top of something (e.g.: canopy bed), and this structure would also have that ugly plastic siding that rolls up and down.  I’m told it would be down most of the time.  The renderings that the Port has been showing conveniently omit the plastic siding.

To their credit, the CAC nixed an earlier proposal for a brick and mortar expansion, but it seems that a permanent plastic and metal tent would look even worse.

If the restaurants are short on space, this appears to be a problem they brought on themselves.  According to a prominent law firm that studied the development of the restaurant complex, the original plan was for a single 8,000 square foot restaurant.  This was expanded to a generous 12,000 s.f. in the Port’s formal Request for Proposals (RFP) which also made it clear that two-stories would not be allowed.  After winning the RFP, JMA Partners then asked to build two restaurants.  They were also allowed to expand to two-stories and over 18,000 s.f.  If they had stuck to the RFP, they would have plenty of space.  JMA is still the primary leaseholder.  The Port needs to stick to its plans.

It is being hinted that the one restaurant is not doing as well as the other, but isn’t that always going to be the case?  The overall economic vitality of both restaurants should be considered since there is one operator.  Besides, it is difficult to understand how an expansion would help.

I have asked if the operator is promising no further expansions (there must be four other patios and balconies), but I was told they are making no such commitment.

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