In the Wake of Area’s Storied Past, Marina Palms Launches New Era for North Miami Beach

NORTH MIAMI BEACH – When luxury yachts and pleasure boats began docking at Marina Palms Yacht Club & Residences earlier this year, their mooring marked the latest transformation along the Intracoastal Waterway and Maule Lake in North Miami Beach.

What today is Maule Lake was once a thick area of vegetation. Fueled by the dreams of pioneers in the 1920s, early development required mangrove marshes to be dug, dredged, carved and filled to form one of South Florida’s most vibrant destinations.

Today, it’s the site of the first luxury residential high-rise and full-service marina/yacht club development in Miami-Dade County in more than 20 years. Developed by affiliates of The Plaza Group and The DevStar Group, the two 25-story towers consisting of 468 residences border a marina and yacht club with 112 slips and mooring for yachts up to 100 feet.

Navigating to this point is a trip through the history of Northeast Miami-Dade County. Along the way, developers, snowbirds, and even characters from the Cocaine Cowboy era each staked a claim to the area – leaving a stamp on the city’s storied past.

In 1881, a Captain’s Arrival

Homestead of Captain Fulford, built of natural coral rock. (via www.citynmb.com)

The area that was to become North Miami Beach was settled by Captain William Fulford, who navigated the waters while on Coast Guard patrol during the Spanish-American War. When he first arrived in 1881, Fulford found an untamed wilderness of swamp marshes and mangroves.

He never left. Fulford acquired 160 acres on the banks of the Oleta River, historian and lifelong Miamian Seth H. Bramson writes in Farms and Fields to the Future: The Incredible History of North Miami Beach. A few decades later, newspaper magnate Lafe Allen purchased the land and named it Fulford-by-the-Sea. His plan was to build a “perfect city” in the place that later would become North Miami Beach, says Bramson.

The area certainly is home to eclectic development. Settlement took root along the Oleta River and Biscayne Bay in the 1920s. The area blossomed with the post-World War II explosion and Baby Boom. As Biscayne Boulevard wound its way through the area, by the 1950s and ’60s, up popped tourist stops. They weren’t motels, but “air cooled” cabins or tourist “courts” favored by weary travelers and tourists.

Yet, the waterfront remains the city’s lifeline. Historically, the body of water now known as Maule Lake had been mangroves. Maule Industries dredged the vegetation to haul out limestone rock that was used as rail beds for the Florida East Coast Railway and refined to make concrete used nationwide. In fact, the stony mound at nearby Greynold’s Park is a collection of old excavation equipment and vehicles from the 1930s.

Fast forward a few decades and the site that Marina Palms now inhabits became a well-known marina and the home of Tuna’s, a waterfront establishment popular among boaters and a well-known haunt for locals.

The Cowboys’ Arrival

Before Marina Palms

The area surrounding Maule Lake also became infamous for smugglers transporting illegal drugs in the 1980s. In the dead of night, the tight shoreline and tall mangroves provided ideal cover for drug runners coming north in their speedboats from the Bahamas and the Caribbean. The boats would clear “the front door” – drug runners’ code for Haulover Inlet – and make their way to Maule Lake Marina, according to the documentary Cocaine Cowboys.

Once moored, they’d offload their inventory for upland transportation and distribution. Other runners made the short trip to the narrow waterway called Thunder Alley, where the thunderous roar of powerboats filled the air as they raced to complete their drop off.

“There is mile after mile of unguarded shoreline where a boat can drop drugs undetected,” the filmmakers noted.

“It was a hell raising area, even without the drugs. It was kind of a free for all in that area,” Bramson says. “That was a pretty tough era, but not the defining era in Miami’s history.”

The next evolution of the marina occurred when it was acquired and transformed into Loggerhead Club and Marina. With its eventual closing, residents paying about $250 a month to moor their sailboats – or “live-aboards” – had to move on.

Some, like author and then-graduate student Melanie Neale, sailed on. Others just left their long-past-seaworthy craft behind, she recalls.

“We were the last bastions of true Florida live-aboard culture, including some boats that hadn’t run in 20 years,” recalls Neale, an author who lived at the marina on her 28-foot sailboat for five years in the 2000s. “There’s so much South Florida history there, especially in that little area.”

Building Marina Palms

Dredging begins at Marina Palms

Some of those watercraft surfaced anew in 2013 when crews began clearing the marina’s basin. Dredging removed those sunken boat hulls as well as a 50-ton boat lift, more than 100 rotted wooden pilings and some 2,000 cubic yards of sand and silt from the bay bottom.

Freshly dredged, the basin now ranges in depth from eight feet to 12 feet. Some 400 concrete piles driven 35 feet into the seabed support the floating and fixed dock system and are anchored to a pile seawall capped with a stout concrete bulkhead, similar to what marina general contractor Kearns Construction Company deployed at PortMiami.

“Like so much of this region, Maule Lake and North Miami Beach have a storied and colorful history,” said Anthony Burns, one of the developers of Marina Palms Yacht Club & Residences. “We are proud to be steering this corner of South Florida toward a new, proud future.”

Designed for vessels up to 100 feet in length, the new state-of-the-art marina and its new private boat club allow residents to experience an unparalleled waterfront lifestyle at one of South Florida’s most sought-after addresses – carved generations ago from a thick stand of mangrove marsh and pioneers’ dreams.

The development’s namesake marina is now open and offers a full service, high-speed fuel point with gasoline and diesel as well as a fully stocked sundry store that are open to the public.

For more information about how you enjoy the luxury waterfront lifestyle at Marina Palms, call 786-629-9670 or schedule a visit online.

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About Marina Palms

Marina Palms Yacht Club & Residences represents the first luxury high-rise and full-service marina/yacht club development in Miami-Dade County in more than 20 years. Developed by affiliates of The Plaza Group and The DevStar Group, the two residential towers each has 25 floors with a combined 468 condo units. The marina and yacht club offers concierge service and 112 slips with mooring for yachts up to 100 feet.

About The Plaza Group

During the past two decades, Neil Fairman, President and Founder of The Plaza Group, has successfully foreseen opportunities that result in world- class real estate developments. From hotels and high-rise, luxury residences to retail shopping centers and commercial space, their diverse portfolio of real estate projects has reshaped communities and spurred real estate trends. Successful projects include The Palms in Fort Lauderdale and Ocean Palms in Hollywood Beach.

About The DevStar Group

The DevStar Group is a development and investment firm headquartered in Miami, FL that focuses on the high-end residential condominium market. DevStar principals have spearheaded the redevelopment and sales efforts of some of South Florida’s most exciting luxury condominium projects including the 47-story Paramount Bay located in the Edgewater District of Miami and Ocean House South Beach, a collection of boutique oceanfront residences located in the exclusive South of Fifth neighborhood. The principals of The DevStar Group are Anthony Burns and George Helmstetter. DevStar is partnering with iStar, a $7 billion dollar finance and investment company focused on real estate and traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol STAR.