Miami Beach approves North Beach master plan

Rendering of North Beach's 71st Street
Rendering of North Beach's 71st Street

The Miami Beach City Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved a master plan for the city’s North Beach neighborhood, which stretches from 63rd Street to 87th Street.

The plan, which was developed over the past year by town planners Dover Kohl, offers a set of specific proposals to revitalize the area which has lagged behind South Beach and Mid-Beach areas of the city in terms of development.   

The 189-page master plan calls for five big ideas to revitalize the area: the creation of a town center along 71st Street, more walkable streets, enhancing neighborhoods through the creation of local historic and local conservation districts, the creation of more parks and upgrading construction to withstand the challenges of sea-level rise.  

Jason King, a project director and town planner at Dover Kohl, who oversaw the creation of the master plan, told commissioners “our job is to create the economic revitalization of North Beach.” Jeff Oris, the city’s economic development director said the plan offers a “consensus over how to move forward to the future.”

While the commission approved the master plan, City Manager Jimmy Morales cautioned that while “the plan is a map that goes forward, parts of it will come back through the budgeting process.”    

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Many aspects of the plan will require ordinance changes and approval from the city commission. Commissioners have already given preliminary approval to raising height limits from 75 feet to 125 feet along 71st Street and parts of 72nd Street in a move to create a town center for North Beach. They have also created a new overlay district for the Ocean Terrace Historic District between 73rd Street and 75th Street where developer Sandor Scher could build a new 235-foot high condominium or a hotel along Ocean Terrace.

Also on Wednesday, commissioners voted 7-5 to approve the creation of a short-term or extended stay rental district along Harding Avenue from 87th Street south to 73rd Street. The ordinance will allow for short-term rentals for weeklong periods in buildings that front Harding Avenue.

Both developers and preservationists supported the measure, saying there were no incentives for owners of the 75 buildings covered by the ordinance to preserve them because they are not suitable for multi-year rentals and rental income derived from the buildings was not sufficient to cover the high costs of maintaining the aging structures – especially increasing insurance premiums related to the costs of sea-level rise. Commissioner Ricky Arriola said, “the idea is to allow buildings to be used lawfully and allow owners to spruce them up.”   

Commissioners took no action on whether to support a recommendation made last week by the city’s historic preservation board to create two local historic districts in North Beach. The commission has 60 days from October 11th  to either support the measure or amend the proposed boundaries for the  local districts.

Local historic designation would require the historic preservation board to review any plans to alter or demolish buildings within such a district. Preservationists support the creation of the two districts but some developers say many of the low-rise buildings in North Beach are not sustainable because of sea-level rise and any move to preserve them won’t work. The city’s land use committee is expected to discuss the issue next week and make further recommendations to the city commission.