53-story M-Tower wins approval from Miami’s design board

Tower would include 440 apartments, shared office space, retail and a pool deck

Jun.June 16, 2016 11:15 AM

UPDATED June 17 11:19 a.m.: The development of a 53-story tower in downtown Miami, which will include additional parking for the public but none reserved for its future residences, was approved by the Urban Design Review Board Wednesday, pending a couple of design improvements.

Called M-Tower, the future 637,000-square-foot project designed by Zyscovich Architects is slated to be built on top of a 16,718-square foot surface lot at 56 Southwest First Street.

A development partnership headed by Jorge Brugo of Axis Realty Trust and Ian Ludmir of Forse Holdings plan to build a 600-foot, 440-apartment tower with 25,000 square feet of shared office space, 900 square feet of retail, and a pool deck. Brugo told The Real Deal that the one-bedroom apartments will be leased at market rate for between $2.7 and $2.85 a square foot.

But Brugo and Ludmir aren’t just building an apartment building on a lot they purchased from the Miami Parking Authority for $1.35 million in 2014. As part of the deal to purchase the lot, they’re also investing more than $6 million fixing up the parking authority’s 50-year-old, 658-space parking garage at 70 Southwest First Street. They’ll add an additional 160 public parking spaces, and then delivering the improved parking facility back to the parking authority.

None of the project’s new spaces will be reserved for M-Tower’s residents. Instead, M-Tower dwellers will have to pay a monthly fee like most downtown area residents for the right to park in Miami Parking Authority-controlled garages. Ludmir said there will be a connection between the residential building and the next door parking garage, and the residents will have the opportunity to park in that garage through a deal made between the developer and the authority. 

That perplexed a couple members of the UDRB.

“They will have to pay even if they live in the building?” asked design review board member Anthony Tzamtzis. “Wow.”

“I’m just questioning the economic decision to put close to 500 units without parking in a city where residents are not really comfortable yet without leaving their car,” member Neil Hall said.

Rolando Tapanes, the MPA’s director of parking and development, pointed out that buildings in Miami’s Central Business District aren’t required to provide parking under the city’s Miami 21 zoning code. That’s because it’s served by transit systems such as Metrorail and Metromover. “I was born and raised in this city and…. In [recent years] we have been moving toward a more walkable city,” Tapanes said.

And the young professionals who are moving into the downtown area are embracing transit, Uber, and even bicycles as a means of transportation, pointed out Suria Yaffar of Zyscovich Architects. “We installed showers because a lot of people are coming into our offices on bikes,” she said.

UDRB member Fidel Perez was more worried about aesthetics. In fact, he wanted to remove 10 parking spaces from the current garage’s top deck in order to add landscaping for the downtown Miami project. 

“Cars are going to be such a weighted use, I think there’s a possibility of using that space as a better space,” Perez said.

Tapanes objected. The reason MPA entered into an agreement with M-Tower’s developers, he explained, was to maximize parking for the public. By removing parking from the project for landscaping, Tapanes warned, “we will have to take the project back to the [MPA] board for approval.”

The developers agreed to improve the aesthetics of the garage’s rooftop, plus improve the connectivity between the proposed tower’s new spaces and the existing garage. Those plans will have to be approved by the city’s planning staff before the developers can move forward with construction.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the prices for the project’s apartments. Correct pricing is between $2.7 and $2.85 per square foot.

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