North Bay Village rejects height increase – and 290-foot tower

Rendering of the proposed tower
Rendering of the proposed tower

UPDATED March 29, 2 p.m. After a public outcry that mobilized residents to swarm a village council meeting late Tuesday, North Bay Village commissioners failed to approve three ordinances that would have allowed for significant increases in height and density for Harbor Island, one of three man-made islands that straddle the 79th Street Causeway that connects Miami Beach to the city of Miami.

The ordinances would have allowed for building heights to go up from 240 feet to 340 feet on Harbor Island, and would have allowed the transfer of development rights from Vogel Park for the construction of a new condo tower. A third ordinance would have allowed for the construction of mechanical elevator parking spaces for the new building, some of which would have been made available to residents of the traffic-clogged island.

Last month North Bay Village‘s planning and zoning commission approved plans for P&O Global Technologies, a Malaysian-based company to build a 340-foot high luxury condominium at 7918 West Drive, by creating a new overlay district for Harbor Island and approving the TDR and mechanical parking measures. But residents opposed to the plans protested and earlier this month the village commission deferred voting on the measure, allowing P&O to submit new plans that scaled back the height of the building to 290 feet, and reduced the allowable width of the tower portion of the building from 60 percent of street frontage to 50 percent.

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Graham Penn, a lawyer for P&O told commissioners on Tuesday “it was a significant benefit to go with a new skinnier building.” Penn also said the village would receive about $2.2 million in revenues from the sale of TDRs at their current valuation of $40,000 per unit. P&O would have used the TDRs to build 36 units for the project, which is self-financed, and provide 30 mechanical parking spaces for lease to residents of Harbor Island.

Residents of Harbor Island in North Bay Village have been organizing for more than a month to oppose the project. Two Harbor Island residents, Ken De Loreto and Ritch Holben, submitted a petition with 259 signatures against the proposed overlay district. Holben told commissioners Tuesday that while P&O had agreed to reduce the height of the building by 50 feet, a proposed parking pedestal for the building still topped at out at 75 feet, which he said was higher than many buildings on Harbor Island. Holben also said the new plans didn’t remedy neighbors’ concerns about reduced side setbacks. He also said Vogel Park, used by many families on the space-limited island, could be closed for up to 30 months due to construction. De Loreto and other residents told commissioners that TDR valuations set in 2003 were currently “undervalued” with De Loreto saying the “developer was getting 54,000 square feet, worth $30 million,” out of the TDR transfer.

In a bid to boost development, a similar overlay district was created on the 79th Street Causeway in 2013, but so far no developers have moved to build on the five largely vacant waterfront parcels that line the causeway.

P&O, whose main business is security systems, paid $8.3 million in January 2015 for the site containing three lots. Current zoning on Harbor Island allows building heights to up to 240 feet, although the tallest building there tops out 170 feet. While P&O’ plans to build higher are no longer possible, Penn said that the company will likely move ahead with plans to develop the site. “Something will be built there.” He told The Real Deal.