The Real Deal Miami

Lennar CEO Stuart Miller’s Star Island home gets design board OK

Board will take up 20K-square-foot Miami Beach home's setback, variances in April

March 03, 2015 02:45PM
By Erik Bojnansky

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Lennar CEO Stuart Miller and 22 Star Island Drive

The prospect of new legislation governing future development on Star Island motivated Lennar CEO Stuart Miller to move, rather than demolish, his circa-1928 waterfront home at 22 Star Island Drive, his attorney told the Miami Beach Design Review Board during a meeting on Tuesday.

Lennar Corp. CEO Stuart Miller’s design plans for his Star Island home, which include the construction of a new 20,000-square-foot home designed by Domo Architecture + Design on the site, were unanimously approved by the board during the Tuesday meeting. Setback and height variances requested by Miller will be discussed by the board on April 7th.

Miller had previously sought to demolish his 7,000-square foot home that was once part of the Star Island Yacht Club in the early 1920s, owned by Colonel Edward Howland Robinson Green, according to a report written by Planning Director Thomas Mooney. Those plans caused an uproar among preservationists, including the Beach-based Miami Design Preservation League. Under Miller’s new plans, the 1928 home will be moved “from its current northwesterly location to a new position along the south side of the property, allowing for the new construction to occupy the former footprint and achieve the vistas of the bay offered from this viewpoint.”

What motivated Miller’s change of heart?

“What happened was that [Miami Beach] Mayor Philip Levine called Stuart Miller and asked him to consider saving the home in some way,” explained Michael Larkin, Miller’s land use attorney from the firm of Bercow Radell & Fernandez. “And, in response, [Miller] said he’ll consider it, but they both agreed that Star Island is a unique place and there could be some adjustments to the RS-1 regulations.”

Larkin quickly added that neither he, nor any of Miller’s representatives have met with officials regarding proposals on how to change those regulations, “but we intend to do so in the very near future.”

Those regulations mainly have to do with base flood elevation for new construction, said Todd Glaser, a single family home developer who is Miller’s “owner’s representative” on the 22 Star Island Drive project. Right now, new homes on Star Island must be raised 10 feet from the flood elevation to prevent flooding. The City of Miami Beach is contemplating legislation that will raise the elevation to 13 feet. Glaser said he and Miller would like the elevation to be raised to 15 feet.

Future sea level rise effecting Miami Beach is part of the motivation for the request, Glaser said.

“Everyone is telling us that the world is ending and Miami Beach is going to flood, and we are going to build a $60 to $80 million house and there are other new homes coming on to the market,” Glaser answered. “And if somebody is telling you there is going to be a flood…. I’m going to raise it even higher.”

At the same time, Glaser said he doesn’t want to be penalized for being proactive. The height limit on Star Island, without variances and measured from the elevated  ground, is 28 feet for a flat roof home and 38 feet for a “peak roof” home, Glaser said.

The desired legislation, however, won’t affect Miller’s immediate application, which asks that the proposed 13-foot elevation be considered — a topic that will be addressed on April 7 when at least five board members can vote on the issue. (A minimum of five “yes” votes must be obtained by the DRB prior to a zoning variance. Since one DRB member had to recuse herself, only four members were present for the item.) Asked if Glaser and Miller, who heads one of the largest home building companies in the nation, will be building additional homes on Star Island in the future, Glaser answered: “We are doing a lot of stuff.”

Their current project, 22 Star Island Drive, envisions the construction of a main two-story home built above an underground garage. The original home will be rotated 225 degrees and also enables the home to be raised ten feet. At the same time, the portico of the original home will need to be demolished during the move, said John Pistorino of Pistorino & Alam Consulting Engineers.

In other developments, Shay Kostiner, owner of another 7,000-square-foot home at 44 Star Island, deferred his request to demolish the circa-1935 home that was once owned and occupied by Star Island creator John Levi. Kostiner originally wanted to destroy the Levi home to clear the way for a new 24,000 square foot house. Now, Kostiner wants to examine ways to save it. “It’s an exciting prospect, said Daniel Ciraldo, historic preservation officer for MDPL.