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MIAMI-Three development groups, backed by prominent local interests, are vying for bidding rights to develop a multimillion dollar mixed-use marina project on Watson Island, an 86-acre artificial island adjacent to the Port of Miami cruise ship-turning basin.

Two of the respondents propose construction of a mixed-use marina and hotel facilities, while the third envisions a tourism-related development.

Bids came from Flagstone Properties, a Celebration, FL-based company affiliated with Miami-based Continental Companies; Swerdlow Marine Partners, a Miami-based affiliate of Hollywood-based Swerdlow Real Estate Group Inc.; and Miami-based Watson Island Partners, an affiliate of Miami-based BAP Development Inc., Bermello, Ajamil & Partners Inc. and N.Y.-based Millennium Partners.

Interest in the development proposals was so intense last week that Miami city officials contracted with Kinko’s Inc., the photocopy service, to provide e-mail access to each of the development proposals, in addition to eventually posting limited information on the city’s Internet Web site (http://www.ci.miami.fl.us/).

Although only three groups submitted development proposals, nearly 50 commercial real estate, investment, banking and legal interests earlier this year paid for copies of the city’s official request for project proposals.

It is suspected by many in the local commercial real estate industry that several development groups backed away from the project because of stringent bureaucratic restrictions on the development process and concerns whether enough public support exists for the island’s redevelopment. Once approved by the Miami City Commission, the selected project must pass a public referendum.

Unlike the two other competing proposals, Swerdlow Marine Partners is proposing a plan that focuses more on tourism development and less on lodging and hospitality facilities.

“We want to bring people to the city to fill up the existing hotel rooms, not add to the inventory” Michael Swerdlow, tells GlobeSt.com. “There are few real entertainment venues in Miami. You have an oasis of tourism venues like Bayside and Miami Seaquarium, but Bayside is mostly shops and restaurants.”

By focusing on tourism, Swerdlow wants to complement two other development proposed adjacent to the Downtown development site. The operators of the Parrot Jungle, a popular South Miami tourist attraction, are relocating to a 60-acre site near the proposed marina development site, and the Miami Children’s Museum is building a 55,000-sf Youth Museum on an adjoining parcel.

Besides satisfying basic requirements for a marina and a fish market, the Swerdlow group is proposing development of an aquarium attraction in partnership with Canadian-based Ripley’s Entertainment Inc.; a year-round marine industry exposition and trade center in partnership with Marine Expo Associates Ltd., a division of Swerdlow Real Estate Group; and a 100-room hotel. The partnership team also includes Manny Alonso-Poch, Randie Koruglu, James Courbier, Darryl Sharpton and Randy Hill.

Officials affiliated with the two other development groups did not respond to a request from GlobeSt.com for comment about their proposals, though a public relations agent for Flagstone Properties did supply details about that group’s proposals.

The Flagstone group envisions the development of an estimated $281 million mixed-use facility that capitalizes on the reputation of locally based Continental Companies, a major hotel development company managed by Sherwood Weiser. The group is proposing development of a 225-room hotel managed by Conrad Hotels, a Hilton Hotels affiliate, and a 300-room hotel managed by Regent International Hotels.

Besides Weiser, the development team includes Mehment Bayraktar, Flagstone chairman and chief executive officer, and the project designer, Eric R. Kuhne & Associates. Other Flagstone partners include Camper & Nicholsons Marinas Ltd., a British-based marina developer and operator; and Jones Lang LaSalle, a New York-based hotel management and investment company.

The Watson Island Partnership is proposing development of a marina facility in partnership with French Riviera Ports Authority and construction of a Four Seasons Resort.

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