Ex-tennis pro fails to ace bid for padel courts near Miami River  

A former professional tennis player failed to ace his bid to open padel courts near the Miami River — at least for now. 

Ex-tennis pro Patricio Hernandez-Pons and his project partner, Franco Ramo Alarcon, want to develop a padel facility with nine courts and a clubhouse offering food and beverages on an acre at 600 Northwest Seventh Avenue. The property is along the Seybold Canal that flows into the Miami River two blocks south of the site. 

On Monday, the Miami River Commission deferred voting on the project largely due to concerns over the project not including boat slips. The board will vote again on Oct. 2. 

“It’s a marine property. Obviously, your [padel facility] isn’t marine. You can’t just not have access to the water,”  said T. Spencer Crowley III, a board member.

Hernandez-Pons and Alarcon are leasing the site and are asking the city’s permission to open the facility under a temporary use permit. It would allow them to operate it as padel courts for up to seven years, or for an initial term of three years and then four one-year extension options. They are asking for a temporary permit to bypass a current site restriction against high fences that prohibits the 10-foot-plus fences common at padel courts, Alarcon told The Real Deal

State corporate records show the owner is an entity led by Roberto Camilo Matarraz and Carlos Krigun. 

Crowley emphasized that it’s important to include boat slips in the project instead of waiting seven years until the padel courts are gone to resume the site’s marine use. 

Historically, the property had boat slips, but the marine operating permit (MOP) that allowed for the dockage expired, he said. If the padel facility opens without an MOP, then it could be harder to get the permit seven years later once the courts are gone. 

“The longer that timeline is between a valid marine use and proposed future marine use, it gets more difficult to resuscitate. It’s not impossible, but it gets more difficult,” said Crowley, a land use and development attorney at Akerman. 

The marine industry is a vital part of the city’s economic and social fabric, as well as a local employer, he added.  

“I am not trying to be a jerk here,” Crowley said at the meeting. “These are serious issues for the Miami River. … It’s not just cargo, it’s marinas, it’s marine repair, it’s boating activity, all these kinds of uses. If we continue to allow this [loss of boat dockage] over time at all these different properties, it could completely eliminate this industry for our area.” 

Hernandez-Pons and Alarcon told the board their lease doesn’t include the boat slips. The pair said they will contact the property owners to get their commitment to bring back the boat dockage. “At the end of the day, it’s their decision,” Alarcon told TRD

Currently, boaters are illegally docking at the site, either tying their vessels to trees or a fence, he said. 

This was at least the second time the Miami River Commission postponed a decision on the project. The board, which acts as an adviser to the Miami commission and planning board, deferred a vote on July 10, asking Hernandez-Pons and Alarcon to meet with residents of the nearby Spring Garden neighborhood and get their nod for the project. 

On Monday, Hernandez-Pons and Alarcon provided a record showing signatures from four residents. But the commission took issue with the document not providing a description of specifically what the residents signed off on. 

South Florida’s padel scene is growing. The sport, which traces its roots to Mexico, is played using different techniques and rules from tennis. 

At the SoLé Mia mixed-use development in North Miami, Boich Investment Group CEO Wayne Boich will open a facility next year at 2251 Northeast 146th Street. Boich, who leased the site from LeFrak and Turnberry Associates, plans 10 padel courts and two pickleball courts. 

Spanish retailer for padel equipment Pādel Nuestro plans to open its first U.S. store at 310-318 Northwest 25th Street in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood. 

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