Silvia Coltrane wins design approval for North Beach hotel, tied to power line promise

She agreed to relocate overhead power lines at a cost of $1.5M

Jan.January 03, 2017 05:15 PM

Silvia Coltrane’s 10-story North Beach hotel project will move forward after the Miami Beach Design Review Board unanimously approved variances that included allowing the construction of two new power transmission poles as little as seven feet away from the future building.

“I feel wonderful, excited. This is really exciting,” Coltrane told The Real Deal after the vote on Tuesday. “I feel very happy for North Beach, very happy for the community.”

When completed, 72+ Collins Hotel will be the first hotel to be constructed between 63rd and 87th streets in Miami Beach in more than 50 years, said Neisen Kasdin, Coltrane’s attorney and a former mayor of Miami Beach. The 129,337-square-foot project will be built on 1.7 acres of land on a city block at 7118-7140 Collins Avenue that includes three vacant parcels, a surface parking lot, and five retail buildings. When complete, 72+Collins will include 179 hotel rooms, a 134 seat bar lounge, 23,754 square feet of ground floor retail, and a 141-space second floor parking garage.

Three of the five existing one-story retail buildings will be demolished while two of the structures will be incorporated into the project, including the existing Denny’s at 7140 Collins Avenue.

Tyler Nielsen, the project’s landscape architect, said the project will also include outdoor plazas lush with native vegetation with “romantic lighting and water features.”

And then there are the power lines. Currently, Florida Power & Light has above ground transmission power lines dissecting the vacant portion of the future hotel’s development site just west of the Denny’s. Those lines, Kasdin said, supply electricity to North Beach and neighboring Surfside. They’re also an obstacle to development.

FPL would only allow the transmission lines to be placed underground along a 3-mile stretch of city-owned property between 69th and 72nd streets on Harding Avenue. Such an undertaking would take too much time and cost Coltrane $15 million, Kasdin argued.

“We would all love, in an ideal world, to have the lines underground, but it’s not feasible and it is cost prohibitive,” Kasdin said.

So, instead, Coltrane wants to relocate the overhead lines to the Harding Avenue side of the property. At a cost of $1.5 million, the developer will build two new storm resistant 75-foot tall poles on her land. Those poles will be located 17 feet and 9 feet away from the future building. However, those poles will be dwarfed by the 124-foot tall hotel complex and be designed to match the design scheme. “You won’t even notice they are there,” Coltrane told the board.

But the city’s planning staff recommended against granting the variance that would enable the poles to be built. “Staff is concerned with the visual impact that these high voltage lines will have on the street and would recommend that they be further studied,” Planning Director Thomas Mooney wrote in a January 3rd memo to the design review board.

At the very least, planners wanted the opportunity to find out why FPL won’t allow the transmission lines to be placed underground for just a 1-block area near the development site. Principal Planner James Murphy said his office tried to reach the FPL engineer related to the project but he was on vacation.

Kasdin countered that he already had affidavits from the FPL engineer declaring the company’s opposition to putting the wires underground for just one block. Coltrane also didn’t wish to delay the project at least another two months when FPL already declared its position. “Every day of construction delay for development is very costly,” she said. “I think North Beach is waiting for [this project]. If you deny this application, it may make other developers think twice [about developing in this area.”

Four North Beach residents spoke enthusiastically in support of 72+ Collins. They argued that Coltrane’s project matched the city’s town center development plan for North Beach.

“When many of us moved to North Beach, we were told that the area was on the cusp of change. Well, I have been here for over 10 years and we are still on the cusp of change,” said Judith Bishop, an Ocean Terrace resident. Bishop argued that the area finally attracted a “first rate developer with a first rate plan.” But if the design review board refused the variances “that would kill the project and that would drive the developer away. It would leave the residents of North Beach sad, frustrated, confused and demoralized and leave us with another empty, useless lot.”

Miami Beach Design Review Board Chair Carol Housen said she owns property in North Beach and that she would hate to see this project derailed due to a “technicality with the poles.”

Kasdin said the board could always reconsider the variances if FPL engineers agreed to putting the lines underground within the development site. Kasdin added that his client wouldn’t be opposed to burying  the transmission lines if it wasn’t cost prohibitive.

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