Rickenbacker Marina future in question after Miami voters reject lease renewal

The Melwani family may have lost the vote, but they say their plans for the future of the Rickenbacker are still very much alive.

MIAMI – Miami voters on Tuesday rejected a proposal to extend the lease on the Rickenbacker Marina to the Melwani family for another 75 years.

The decision means other companies can now bid to make improvements to the space.

The Melwani family may have lost the vote, but they say their plans for the future of the Rickenbacker are still very much alive.

Aabad Melwani’s family has been operating the city-owned Rickenbacker Marina in Virgina Key for close to 40 years. He says he didn’t have enough time to show voters in crucial Districts 2 and 3 his vision for the space.

“If we would’ve had the opportunity to directly engage with them, show them we’re actually decreasing commercial density that’s here ... I think we would’ve made great strides there,” he said.

The measure failed by less than 6%. Melwani believes the stark ballot language was confusing to voters and didn’t properly explain what was really at issue.

“Does not give any color to the type of improvements that need to go in here, our history here, the financial benefit, the public benefit, and the robust civic and environmental programs that were here,” he said. “That I think was lost in the ballot language.”




100% of Precincts Reporting

(232 / 232)

The failed measure potentially opens the development of this valuable 27-acre property up for competitive bidding — a process that’s failed twice before in the past six years. Still, Melwani believes he has the vision for what is best for this environmentally sensitive land on fragile Biscayne Bay.

“I think Marina Parc is something the city truly deserves,” he said.

Melwani’s Marina Parc fits into the Virgina Key master plan and has been endorsed by environmental groups like the Virgina Key Aliance. Marina Parc would include the restoration of mangrove centric living shoreline, state-of-the-art fully automated dry stack with multiple launch points, two local restaurants, and lots of green space for the public to enjoy.

Melwani thinks voter turnout will make a difference and would like to see the question back on the ballot in 2022. The Miami City Commission has the power to do that.

“They answer to their constituents and the taxpayers,” he said, “so be it their will, and the will of the people I think we can have another shot at this.”

There’s no word yet if the city will in fact put this back on the ballot next year or if it will open the marina back up for competitive bidding by other developers.

About the Author:

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.