The Miami Beach Planning Board late Tuesday endorsed plans for a mixed-use residential, retail and hotel development along Ocean Terrace in the North Beach neighborhood.
The project is the latest from developer Sandor Scher, who has spent more than $70 million dollars recently buying up largely derelict properties with the goal of transforming a two-block area that many residents describe as “blighted” into a vibrant “walkable” neighborhood, anchored by retail and a new luxury condo and hotel designed to bring new residents and visitors into the neighborhood. Before he can do that, Scher needs Miami Beach voters to approve zoning changes — something the planning board endorsed on Tuesday.
The board voted to send two land-use ordinances on to the Miami Beach City Commission, which will decide on July 8 whether to place a measure on the ballot in November asking 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 200,000 square-foot development depending on lot size. The proposal would also increase the maximum height allowance in the overlay district to 250 feet or 22 stories for residential uses and 125 feet for hotel uses from the current 75 feet or eight stories.
If the commission approves putting the measure on the ballot, it will be the first time that voters have been asked to make an exception to a 1997 ballot measure that placed limits on the height and size of buildings on Miami Beach.
If voters approve the legislation, Scher’s Ocean Terrace Holdings plans to build a 250-foot–high, mixed-used residential, retail and hotel along Ocean Terrace. It would be 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 and between 150 and 170 hotel rooms.
Scher said the project will feature enhanced storefronts along Collins Avenue with a breezeway between Collins and Ocean Terrace. He said he has long been interested in revitalizing the area, but to do so he needs the zoning changes that would make the project economically feasible. Planning board members largely agreed, saying attempts over the years to revive the once-vibrant area have failed because of restrictive zoning.
Scher has been praised for maintaining preservation standards in his many projects, but preservationists oppose his latest. Daniel Ciraldo of the Miami Design Preservation League warned the board against “opening a Pandora’s box,” if it supported zoning changes for the area. Kirk Paskal, a neighborhood activist opposed to the project, said any zoning changes should be addressed in a so-called “master plan” for North Beach, which is scheduled for completion next year. But homeowners groups in the area, representing more than 1,000 homes, as well as many residents from the adjacent St. Tropez condominium, voiced support for the project.
While the planning board endorsed the project, a bid by Ocean Terrace Holdings to increase the project’s floor plate limitation from 10,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet would have to be decided by the city’s Historic Preservation Board after the voters decide on whether to approve zoning changes for the area.