Venting about possible Alton Road rezoning

Alton Road is one of the busiest streets in on of the most intensely developed cities in Florida. But the potential exists for close to two million square feet more of development there, Miami Beach city planners said during an
Alton Road Corridor Workshop held Wednesday evening.

More than two dozen South Beach residents attended the meeting to give their
input on the future direction of the Alton Road Corridor — defined by city
planners as being between West and Lenox Avenues from Fifth Street to
Michigan Avenue.

The corridor has been a scene of much public and private investment
activity. The Florida Department of Transportation plans to invest $36
million narrowing streets and expanding sidewalks by 2016. The Berkowitz
Development Group is constructing a 185,000 square foot retail and parking
garage complex at Fifth Street and Alton Road. And developer Russell Galbut
wants to convert South Beach Hospital into a commercial project.

Already there is 180,775 square feet of residential and 1.6 million square
feet of commercial space existing within the Alton Road Corridor. According to a study by the Miami Beach Planning Department, current zoning will allow another 1.8 million square feet more.

That news made some homeowners at the meeting call for the city to clamp
down on developers.

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“This is frightening to the neighborhood, the idea that a million additional
square feet of development would be added to the area,” said Jack Johnson,
co-chair of the Flamingo Park Neighborhood Association.

But the idea of down-zoning did not sit too well with Andrew Frey, a real
estate attorney with the firm of Akerman Senterfitt.. Speaking as a South
Beach resident, Frey said the future density was important for “economic
development” that will provide jobs to the area.

Frey was also against the city designating additional portions of Alton Road
“historic,” arguing that regulations would prevent economic revitalization.

The Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board has asked city planners to
consider including the 600 and 700 block of Alton Road into the Flamingo
Park Historic District. The board also asked city planners to consider
creating a historic district along West Avenue between 13th and 16th

In January, the Miami Beach City Commission approved incorporating the east
side of Alton Road between 8th and 14th streets into the Flamingo Park
Historic District and opted to re-study making the 700 block of Alton Road
part of the district as well. However, developer Russell Galbut was able to
demolish two buildings on that block just prior to that vote.