Miami Beach OKs Washington Avenue ordinance

Washington Avenue in Miami Beach (Credit: Pedro Szekely)
Washington Avenue in Miami Beach (Credit: Pedro Szekely)

Miami Beach commissioners approved a new ordinance on Wednesday designed to bring hotels, fine dining and new retail to the city’s faded Washington Avenue.

The ordinance comes 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.

The ordinance allows for height limits to be raised to 55 feet from the current 50-foot limit, and taller for larger buildings. It also allows for reducing, or in some cases eliminating, parking requirements for hotels and businesses. 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.

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 minimum 35-foot setback from the street. The proposal is designed for larger buildings that have open space on the sides of their buildings, which developers say is needed for the economic viability of hotels that require 100 to 115 rooms.

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On Wednesday, the commission did create a height variance, which could allow up to nine properties with less than 200 feet of frontage to build up to 75 feet. The variance is restricted to properties within 250 feet of the Wolfsonian Museum on the east side of Washington Avenue.

The variance is in recognition of the importance of what the Wolfsonian brings to the area, Gross told The Real Deal. “The idea is to try and support the main cultural institution on Washington Avenue and the immediate vicinity around it,” he said.

Still to be resolved is the issue of parklets – parking spaces converted to temporary patios for outdoor dining – and a location for a new parking garage on Washington. Gross said the parklet issue is currently being reviewed by city transportation officials, and several property owners have been identified as potential developers for a garage, which he said will have a 55-foot height restriction.

With the expectation of change, property listings, sales and retail leases on Washington Avenue are booming. This week, a 4,500-square-foot-building at 1331 Washington Avenue traded hands for $2.7 million. One of the buyers, Jason Weisman of JAW Commercial, also purchased a 6,200-square-foot retail building last month at 1413 Washington Avenue for $4.55 million.

And in June, Miami Beach-based investment firm Turnbridge Equities bought a string of buildings between 601 Washington Avenue and 685 Washington Avenue on the east side of the street for $36 million. Andrew Joblon, managing principal partner of Turnbridge Equities has said the new ordinance benefits the entire city and not just Washington Avenue stakeholders. “Hopefully we can now forge forward because it is one of the most beautifully laid out streets in Miami Beach that has been held back for a long time,” he said.