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Commercial Real Estate
Business Observer Friday, Aug. 30, 2019 1 year ago

Patient developer tackles several challenges in latest project

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Mike Miller uses a bend-but-not-break approach.
by: Beth Luberecki Contributor

A little give and take can go a long way toward moving a development project forward. Just ask Mike Miller, who has found that a useful strategy for getting his Porto Vista condo development in Venice off the ground.

There has been discussion about building condos on the Fisherman’s Wharf site along the Intracoastal Waterway for years, going back to the early 2000s, when the late entrepreneur John Konecnik owned the property. In 2016, area developer Miller entered into an agreement for a seven-year lease with the right to purchase the property — which he recently did, for $8 million, once his rezoning requests were approved.

On the zoning, Venice city officials, after several hearings, approved a change earlier this year from marine park to commercial for the submerged land, about 4 acres. Officials approved a change to commercial intensive for other parts of the property.  

‘It’s a fabulous location, and you can walk to downtown Venice. I don’t really see any challenges to selling them.’ Jerry Strom, Porto Vista, Strom & Strom Realtors

After zoning, as with most development projects in the region, there’s always some opposition to overcome. To do that, Miller — who’s partnering with area entrepreneur and developer Frank Cassata on this 40-condo project — identified the challenges and then worked at addressing them, one-by-one.

“We found out what the objections were, met with each of the entities and proposed solutions that were win-win,” he says. “And at the end of the day, it all came together — but it took time.”

Miller, for starters, needed to work with FDOT to fix drainage issues at the site. The new development will include porous concrete parking areas, which reduces runoff by allowing rainwater to pass through it. “From a keep-the-water-clean basis, it’s going to be a hell of lot better when we’re done than it has been,” he says.

More compromise: He devised a solution to ensure that emergency vehicles could easily access the nearby Harbor Lights community and also agreed to beautify the neighborhood’s entryway adjacent to the Fisherman’s Wharf site. He gave local law enforcement access to the water, who in return gave him a parcel farther upland.

Work has begun to shift the site of the public parking lot for the businesses already at Fisherman’s Wharf, which includes Dockside Waterfront Grill. The restaurant will get an addition that’s in line with its existing Old Florida look, and other businesses, like Waves Boat & Social Club and Florida West Scuba & Charters, will eventually relocate from their existing space to a new marina building that will be constructed as part of the project.

Courtesy. There has been discussion about building condos on the Fisherman’s Wharf site along the Intracoastal Waterway for years.

After the parking lot shift is completed, work can begin on the first of Porto Vista’s four condo buildings, which will each have 10 two-bedroom, two-bathroom units starting in the $700,000s. The condos will be set back from the water, with lanais offering views out over the 62-slip marina that offers monthly and yearly rentals plus overnight stays.

Making sure the public can still easily access the site is an important part of the project for Miller. He also wants to create additional public parking spaces under the North Bridge to the Island of Venice, as he did under the Venice Avenue Bridge when he was developing his nearby Tra Ponti residential project, which is almost fully sold.

“Retaining that access for those public operations is what makes the whole environment there, and the businesses won’t do well if the public can’t get to them,” he says. “And it’s good for future residents too because they can use those public amenities without the full-time cost of them. They don’t have to buy a boat; a boat is right there for them [available to rent].”

Miller already has reservations for the 10 units in the first building. “We didn’t know we’d have 10 right out of the bat; it takes a lot of faith to buy in in advance,” he says. “But that’s encouraging, and once we really start the buildings, people will believe it’s going to happen. A lot of people want to wait and see if it’s really happening and what it looks like.”

Miller has been in that position before, wait-and-see, having overseen a handful of successful projects in Venice, including other condos, single-family homes and a golf course. His partnership with Cassata includes Cassata Square, a mixed-use project in downtown Venice. 

Meanwhile, Jerry Strom with Strom & Strom Realtors is working to find buyers for the rest of the units. “I think they’re a good bang for the buck,” he says. “It’s a fabulous location, and you can walk to downtown Venice. I don’t really see any challenges to selling them.”

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