The Sunny Isles Beach City Commission voted 4 to 1 Thursday night to approve a downsized condo development on the site of a Denny’s restaurant along the west side of Collins Avenue, opposite the towering row of oceanfront high-rises on the east side.
Vice Mayor Jeanette Gotto cast the sole dissenting vote, and said she wanted to wait for the results of a city-wide traffic study “before we move forward with this building.”
Mayor George “Bud” Scholl said a moratorium on development pending the city’s traffic study would be “impractical” and that the Denny’s at 17550 Collins Avenue generates more traffic than the condominium that would replace it. “The number of turns at Denny’s is going to be substantially more than [at] this development,” Scholl said.
Verzasca Group, a development group with Russian investors, downsized the condo design by reducing the height of the building and the number of units. Verzasca cut the number of residential units to 61 from 77 and the height of the building, including mechanical fixtures, to 204 feet from 210 feet.
Verzasca also dropped its original plan to put a restaurant on the ground floor of the condominium building and proposed developing the floor as commercial space instead.
Developers also withdrew their request to purchase transfers of development rights, or TDRs, from the city. Verzasca originally sought TDRs that would add 38,000 square feet to the permitted size of the condo project on the Denny’s site.
TDRs essentially amend the city’s zoning by transferring developmental density from one part of Sunny Isles Beach to another. Ethan Wasserman, a Greenberg Traurig attorney representing Verzasca, said it is clear that “the city wants to pump the brakes on TDRs west of Collins Avenue.”
Verzasca amended its project after the city commission voted on May 21 to defer action on the group’s original development proposal, mainly due to concerns about increased traffic associated with the project.
City commissioners generally agreed Thursday that Verzasca had responded to community concerns about the condo project since their May 21 meeting. Among other changes in response to negative reactions, Verzasca eliminated mechanical lifts from its project and altered the building design to improve the view from the nearby King David condominium.
“Our main concern is the [traffic] bottleneck on our thoroughfare, Collins Avenue,” Commissioner Isaac Aelion said. Aelion voted for the downsized Verzasca condo project.
Sunny Isles Beach has more traffic congestion than Golden Beach to the north or Bal Harbour to the south because, Aelion said, unlike its neighboring municipalities, Sunny Isles Beach has multiple retail plazas along the west side of Collins Avenue.
Verzasca’s condo tower is being designed by architect Luis Revuelta of Revuelta Architecture International.
Units will average 1,600 square feet, and will be priced at less than $1,000 per square foot, compared to $1,500 to $2,000 per square foot on the ocean, Gennady Barsky, executive chairman of the Verzasca Group, previously told TRD.