Mixed-use project to revitalize North Beach moves forward

Miami Beach's North Beach
Miami Beach's North Beach

A proposal to create a mixed-use residential, retail and hotel development along Ocean Terrace in Miami Beach’s North Beach has moved a step closer to reality.

An ordinance to raise the allowable height limit and maximum floor area ratio (FAR) for a roughly two block area of North Beach was endorsed by the Miami Beach Land Use and Development Committee late Wednesday over the objections of preservationists and neighborhood activists.

The committee passed the motion on to the Miami Beach Planning Board, which will discuss the ordinance at its next meeting on June 23. From there, it is likely to move to the Miami Beach City Commission which must decide whether to include it as a ballot measure in November.

The measure would ask voters to approve an increase in the maximum floor area ratio (FAR) for a new Overlay District that is being proposed between 73rd Street and 75th Street, and between Ocean Terrace and Collins Avenue. The FAR increase would be from 2.0 to 3.0, allowing for a potential two hundred thousand square feet development depending on lot size. The proposal would also increase the maximum height allowance in the area to 250 feet or 22 stories for residential uses, from the current 75 feet or eight stories.

If the measure is approved by the commission, and eventually voters, it would allow Ocean Terrace Holdings to build a 250-foot-high mixed use residential retail and hotel development along Ocean Terrace, adjacent to the St. Tropez condominium, a 28-story 91-unit building, built in 1999 under a provision that grandfathered it into the Ocean Terrace historic district created in 1996. The project is projected to have 55 residential units.

As reported by The Real Deal in March, over the past few months, Ocean Terrace Holdings has bought three North Beach hotels adjacent to each other along Ocean Terrace. Developer Sandor Scher has been involved in some of the biggest renovation and development projects in South Beach over the past decade including the Standard, the Raleigh Hotel, Soho Beach House and the Shelborne, among others.

Scher has been praised for maintaining preservation standards, but his latest proposal to build a 250-foot-high mixed-use residential, retail and hotel development along Ocean Terrace is raising hackles among preservationists and neighborhood activists. Kirk Paskal, who has been organizing North Beach residents against the measure, said no renderings have been made available to the public, so few people are aware of the proposal.

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“We enjoy the neighborhood, we want improvement, but we’re not desperate. We did not ask for a 22-story building,” he told the committee.

The proposal is supported by several Miami Beach commissioners, including Jonah Wolfson, vice-chair of the Land Use Committee. He said that without incentives like raising height limits and FAR limits on the block, little can be done to revitalize what many call a blighted stretch of North Beach that contains many noteworthy older buildings. “Without incentives to make money you are not going to get buildings saved,” he said. “These guys are going to renovate those buildings.”

Scher defends his project, saying his vision is of a project that will benefit and support all of North Beach.

“We are trying to accomplish a beautiful mixed-use development that becomes a world-class destination for everybody in Miami Beach and specifically for the people in North Beach who have been so underserved for so long,” he told TRD.

Scher said that his company is committed to maintaining “the unique character and vibe” of Ocean Terrace and has already begun renovating some of the older buildings he has bought recently, including the old Broadmoor Hotel. But to move forward, he said he will eventually need voter approval.

“The first thing is getting on the ballot, so that is what our focus is right now,” he told TRD. “We need to go to the commission and ask the commission to put it on the ballot.”