Miami Beach commission gives support to Washington Avenue makeover

Washington Avenue (Credit: Pedro Szekely)
Washington Avenue (Credit: Pedro Szekely)

Miami Beach city commissioners on Wednesday offered support for an ordinance that is designed breathe new life into faded Washington Avenue.

Commissioners said they welcomed plans that would allow height limits to be increased to 55 feet from the current 50 foot limit for most buildings, and higher for larger buildings, reducing or in some cases eliminating parking requirements for hotels and businesses and adding parklets  parking spaces converted to temporary patios for outdoor dining.

The proposals come out of the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Panel for Washington Avenue, chaired by former commissioner Saul Gross, president of Streamline Properties, and a longtime business owner on Washington Avenue.

They are designed to increase hotel space and retail and dining opportunities on the street which lags far behind Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive in attracting first tier retail, dining and hotel venues.

To increase foot traffic during the day, the ordinance calls for new nightclubs with a maximum of 25 feet of frontage on Washington Avenue, to provide some kind of active use during the day.

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To encourage hotel investment, height limits for buildings with more than 200 feet of frontage will be increased from the current 50 feet to 75 feet with a 35–foot setback from the street. Gross says the proposal applies only to larger buildings that have open space on the sides of their buildings, and it is needed for hotels, which require 100 to 115 rooms to be economically viable. Parking requirements for new hotels will be waived until 2020, and current parking space requirements for offices will be significantly reduced.

Preservationists largely support the ordinance but have expressed concerns about some property owners who have called for 75-foot height limits for buildings with as little as 100 feet of frontage. The commission approved a first reading of the ordinance on Wednesday, but the height limit issue is expected to come up again at a meeting of the Miami Beach Land Use and Development Committee, possibly as early as next week.

The commission is expected to enact the ordinance after the Land Use Committee approves it; something Saul Gross says can’t come soon enough for Washington Avenue.

“I think it’s extremely important the whole entertainment district from South Beach almost up to Dade Boulevard needs to compete and refresh and revitalize itself in creative ways, ” he told The Real Deal. “We think this is giving Washington Avenue the tools to compete in that way.”