The long-discussed redevelopment of the old Chalks Airlines Miami Seaplane Base on Watson Island is finally moving forward after a rezoning of the southwest corner of Watson Island where the base is currently located, from its previous zoning as park land. A new base in an art deco tower is slated for the site.
The existing base is a one-story structure with walls covered in aeronautical memorabilia that is currently under a 30-year lease to Nautilus Enterprises, the owner of Chalks. To give an idea of the seaplane base to come, company owner Ignacio "Nacho" Vega presented a preliminary design for an art deco tower with postmodernist air-and-sea motifs. A nine story cylindrical podium containing terminal and hangars on the ground floor, restaurants, retail, and office space above, a hanging garden on the fifth floor followed by a steakhouse above, and observation deck on the ninth floor, is topped by what looks like a full-size lighthouse. The architect was not named in a Miami Herald article on the zoning decision. The whole thing would rise to a height of 341 feet, in the middle of Biscayne Bay. “We’re going to start doing an amazing seaplane base serving Miami and all our visitors and friends who come to Miami. We’re looking forward to it,” Nacho said, while one of his lobbyists promised the commission that they could scale back the design if necessary.