North Beach charrette offers ideas for master plan

A bird's-eye view of North Beach, taken from the Akoya Condominiums in 2008 (Credit: Marc Averette)
A bird's-eye view of North Beach, taken from the Akoya Condominiums in 2008 (Credit: Marc Averette)

A week-long design charrette on how to revitalize Miami Beach’s faded North Beach neighborhood has found broad support for the creation of a new “Town Center” running from the Normandy Isle neighborhood, east to Collins Avenue, along 71st Street.   

The charrette, which was open to the public, was conducted by town planning firm Dover Kohl & Partners, which has been selected by Miami Beach to produce a master plan for the area.   

North Beach, which stretches from 63rd Street to 87th Street and westward to Biscayne Bay, is largely underdeveloped when compared with South Beach and the Mid-Beach area.  

Jeff Oris, economic development division director in the city’s Office of Tourism, Cultural and Economic Development, told The Real Deal that North Beach has been largely “stagnant” over the past 20 or 30 years, but now “there are a number of people looking around and looking at the opportunity here. There are real estate investors that are looking and starting to assemble land, kind of waiting to see what the city is going to do, as well as waiting for that pioneer who comes in and does the first project to show that it can be done,” he said.

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Plans last year to develop the Ocean Terrace historic district between 73rd Street and 75th Street were put on hold after voters rejected an FAR increase for the area. Voter approval is necessary on Miami Beach for up-zoning changes involving an FAR increase.  

Jason King, a principal with Dover Kohl, said interest in the charrette was overwhelming, with over 800 people visiting the design studio. What emerged was a “willingness to hear different sides and come up with compromise and consensus in the community,” he told TRD. “We were worried coming in after a very controversial public referendum that this was going to be a community too polarized for us to find consensus issues for us to address,” he said. “That hasn’t been the case at all.”

At a packed community meeting late Thursday wrapping up the charrette, residents polled by Dover Kohl said creating a Town Center along 71st street was their top priority. An economic analysis prepared for the charrette by Goodkin Consulting, says turning 71st Street into a pedestrian and bike-friendly neighborhood with retail and restaurants in mixed-use buildings would attract the two key demographic groups they say could benefit the area: young people and baby boomers. According to Jack Winston, a principal with Goodkin Consulting, the city should consider increasing height restrictions along 71st Street to a “suggested height” of 12 stories or 125 feet and increasing the floor area ratio from the current 2.75 to 3.5.

The proposal found support at Thursday’s community meeting. An instant poll found about three-quarters of those present supported using Transfer of Development Rights or TDR’s, which allow owners of historic or architecturally significant buildings to sell unused development rights to another property to increase height limits and density for a proposed Town Center.