Ocean Terrace developers seek overlay district for Miami Beach neighborhood

North Beach in Miami Beach
North Beach in Miami Beach

The Miami Beach City Commission will consider a new ordinance at its next meeting on May 11 to create a new overlay district for the Ocean Terrace Historic District.  

The proposal would allow developer Sandor Scher of Claro Development to build a condominium up to 235 feet in height on Ocean Terrace between 73rd and 75th Street. The proposed ordinance would also allow the construction of a 125-foot hotel on Ocean Terrace, but both buildings could not be built to those maximum heights given current restrictions on FAR, or floor area ratio for Ocean Terrace, which is capped at 2.0.  

Currently building height on Ocean Terrace is limited to 75 feet although there is a 28-story-tall condominium that was built there in 1999 after being grandfathered into the historic district when it was created in 1996.

Last year, Miami Beach voters rejected a 50 percent increase in FAR for the area from 2.0 to 3.0. Scher had proposed building a condo tower and a hotel after he and his main investor Alex Blavatnik of Access Industries spent about $65 million buying most of the buildings on Ocean Terrace over a two-year period. Miami Beach voters have to approve any FAR increase.

Speaking to a community meeting Wednesday evening, Scher said he began assembling a new team in January with the goal of  “coming up with something we would all like to see.”

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He and his team have been meeting with residents of North Beach for several weeks, outlining the proposed ordinance. He said residents in the area had three main concerns that he said his new project would address: preserving the character of the neighborhood, improving east-west access to public beach area and developing an active pedestrian-friendly Ocean Terrace.   

Scher said he and his team have studied the area extensively and have come to the conclusion that “a thin vertical building is the only solution” when it comes to revitalizing Ocean Terrace, which for years has been the site of several abandoned buildings and budget hotels just steps from the ocean.

Scher, who has been involved in renovation projects at the Raleigh Hotel, the Standard and the Essex House among others, said he was committed to working with preservationists and said he plans to preserve the buildings on Ocean Terrace and Collins Avenue, creating a new retail corridor on both streets that would revitalize the area. He said the neighborhood would benefit the most from the proposed ordinance.  

While some North Beach residents at the meeting expressed concerns about the height of the proposed building, saying it could lead to other tall buildings being built in the area, longtime Miami Beach preservationist Nancy Liebman, who opposed Scher’s bid to increase FAR for Ocean Terrace last year, said she supported the proposed ordinance.  

Liebman said increased setbacks for the new building would reduce its pedestal significantly from an earlier model, and she said plans to preserve the old buildings on Ocean Terrace by “actively re-using them” as retail spaces would be a “gift” to the area.