Miami Jewish Health Systems seeks to redevelop campus with residences, hotel

Marc Agronin and a rendering of the project
Marc Agronin and a rendering of the project

Miami Jewish Health Systems executives laid out redevelopment plans for the non-profit’s sprawling elderly care campus in Miami’s Buena Vista neighborhood at a community meeting Thursday evening.

Mat Robie, the organization’s vice president of business strategy and development, told The Real Deal six of the 10 existing buildings would be demolished and replaced with new structures that include a three-story complex for housing Alzheimer’s patients and accompanying garage, as well as a 10-story, 140-key hotel and conference center.  

“We want to revitalize some of the campus,” Robie said. “We really have some aging buildings.”

Reaction from Buena Vista residents was mixed. They praised plans for the Alzheimer’s facility, but objected to the placing of the future hotel on Northeast Second Avenue and 52nd Street.

“Most of the project looks great,” homeowner Wendy Stephan told TRD. “It’s just the added intensity. We are doing everything we can not to be swallowed up by towering buildings.”

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During his presentation, Robie informed Buena Vista residents in attendance that Miami Jewish Health Systems is seeking city of Miami approval for a special area plan, a mechanism allowing property owners of nine or more abutting acres to develop a master plan that includes rezoning that allows for taller structures in exchange for improvements to public and private infrastructure, including quality streetscape designs. Miami Jewish Health Systems would implement the project in four phases, with the last one being completed by 2036.

Robie and other health system officials primarily spoke about the first phase, which would be finished in 2018. The non-profit wants to build the Miami Jewish EmpathiCare Village on North Miami Avenue between 52nd and 53rd streets. In addition to housing 66 patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, the facility would include a store, spa, wellness center, cafe and art center. A three-story garage is also planned for the first phase.

Mark Agronin, Miami Jewish Health Systems’ medical director for mental health and clinical research, said the goal is to create a place that feels less institutional. “If you go to a typical nursing home, it looks and feel like a hospital,” Agronin said. “In putting together this plan, we wanted to create a world where individuals have free reign and it felt as vibrant a life as possible.”

Robie added Miami Jewish Health Health Systems will build a small linear park on Northeast Miami Place and 50th Terrace as part of the special area plan.

However, residents questioned the location of the hotel, noting it would be across the street from single family homes. Stephan said the plan may look great on paper, but fears the end result will not. “All the height has been pushed there to tower over what is a really beautiful, leafy green residential neighborhood,” she said.

Robie told TRD that locating the hotel on Northeast Second Avenue and 52nd Street would have the least negative impact on its residential neighbors. “These type of projects are all about balance,” he said. “No matter how we structure it, there will be some difficulty one way or another.”