Galbut to mostly demolish two Washington Ave sites to build new hotel

Rendering of 947 Washington Avenue
Rendering of 947 Washington Avenue

Miami Beach developer Russell Galbut is looking to build a seven-story hotel on the site of two retail buildings on 9th Street and Washington Avenue. Late Tuesday, the Miami Beach Preservation Board voted 6-1 to grant permission to Estis LLC, which is managed by the Crescent Heights CEO, to substantially demolish the current buildings, which were built in 1935 and 1942, respectively.

In its place, Galbut would construct a 25,989-square-foot building with 63 hotel rooms, along with a 40-seat restaurant and 1,300 square feet of retail space on the first floor. The preservation board is only requiring that the primary facade of the building at 955 Washington Avenue be retained.

Galbut’s company acquired the two properties for $2.1 million in 2014 and $120,000 in 1986. The site totals 13,000 square feet.

“We are pleased with the design of the new tower,” said Miami Beach design and preservation manager Deborah Tackett. “We think it is very exciting.”

Daniel Ciraldo, historic preservation officer for the Miami Design Preservation League, also hailed the design for the new hotel. “This is the first revitalization project on Washington Avenue,” Ciraldo said. “Because of that, we wanted to give it a lot of scrutiny. We believe it is a nice tower. There is something very Miami Beach about it.”

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However, preservation board member Jack Finglass, who was the lone ‘no’ vote, cautioned his colleagues that approving Galbut’s hotel would lead to more towers along Washington Avenue.

“This begins the death knell of one and two story buildings on Washington Avenue,” Finglass said. “That is not historic preservation. That is redevelopment. I am very much opposed to the entire idea.”

The other board members disagreed. “To me, it’s a good example of preserving what we have and honoring the low scale on Washington Avenue,” said Wyn Bradley. “It pays homage to Miami Beach.”

Added Stevan Pardo: “I think you set the bar that will be very high for others to follow.”

Washington Avenue is experiencing a new wave of redevelopment, amid the city’s approval of new measures that 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.