A plan that proponents claim will make it easier for property owners and developers to build mixed-use, residential projects in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood while preserving its eclectic character cleared its first hurdle.
At its regular meeting last night, the city of Miami Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board unanimously approved a slate of changes to zoning and land use designations that would eliminate most industrial uses and allow denser residential developments on roughly 205 acres in Wynwood. The recommendations still need to be finalized by the city commission.
Currently, property owners and developers are required to file individual applications to change industrial designations for Wynwood parcels. About 104 acres would go from industrial to general commercial use, while the remaining acreage (which is already zoned commercial) will be permitted more intense residential uses.
The board also recommended approving Wynwood as the city’s first Neighborhood Revitalization District, which will encourage builders to create wider sidewalks, pedestrian walkways within large projects, provide financial incentives to developers who preserve warehouses, and make it easier to construct affordable housing.
Joseph Furst, Wynwood director for Goldman Properties, one of the largest landowners in the neighborhood, hailed the plan as a solution to the piecemeal rezoning requests that have taken place in the last two years.
“This is the most exciting thing to happen to the neighborhood that all of us poured our hearts into,” Furst said. “We have created incredible momentum. Now it’s time to create a place we can call home.”
Jonathon Yormak, a principal with Madison Avenue-based real estate investment firm East End Capital, told board members the zoning changes would allow his company to quickly move forward with two development sites he and his partners have planned in Wynwood. East End, along with Yellow Side Ventures, owns seven acres in the neighborhood and already broke ground on a 23,500-square-foot retail and restaurant project located on Northwest 23rd Street, just west of North Miami Avenue. East End and Yellow Side paid $5.3 million for the site last year.
“We believe Wynwood is destined to be a place where millennials will relocate and where knowledge based users want to be,” Yormak said. “We want to build affordable housing, but the existing zoning doesn’t allow you to do that.”
For the past 18 months, property owners and other neighborhood stakeholders provided input to members of the Wynwood Business Improvement, its consulting firm PlusUrbia, and the city’s planning and zoning staff on how to create the Neighborhood Revitalization District, said Steven Wernick, a Miami-based land use lawyer at Akerman LLP who assisted in the plan’s development.
During the development of the plan, they evaluated neighborhoods around the country and Canada that transformed from industrial uses to commercial and residential uses such as Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the Pearl District in Portland, and Yaletown in Vancouver, Wernick said.
“The goal is to allow for mixed use developments that will really help bring Wynwood to the next level,” he said. ‘These changes will allow for multifamily uses, offices, and a host of other commercial uses that will turn the neighborhood into a place you can live, work and play in.”
At the same time, Wynwood would retain its edgy aesthetic by giving developers incentives to preserve the existing inventory of properties. “It still encourages the arts and hosting events, keeping with Wynwood’s character,” he said. “This has been a model initiative in that the development community, the people in the neighborhood and city have come together to collaborate and compromise.”