Future of Mana Wynwood hits snag over power lines

Wynwood BID wants city to require Moishe Mana to place power lines underground or else reconsider development agreement

May.May 17, 2017 06:00 PM

Rendering of Mana Wynwood and Moishe Mana

A development agreement that would allow Moishe Mana to build up to 9.72 million square feet on more than 23 acres in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood may go back to the drawing board over the issue of power lines.

The Wynwood Business Improvement District’s board of directors on Wednesday approved a resolution asking that the Miami City Commission either require Mana remove and place underground all power lines along Northwest 25th Street between I-95 and North Miami Avenue in Wynwood, or that it reconsider its development agreement with Mana.

That may force Mana’s development team, Mana Wynwood, to come up with a new public benefits package for the Wynwood area, in exchange for generous zoning that will enable the construction of high-rises up to 24 stories in height near I-95. Wynwood’s Neighborhood Conservation District, which was championed by the BID, caps height at 12 stories.

Mana Wynwood Managing Director Dylan Finger had offered to remove all electrical poles and power lines “of the 138-volt line” within the Wynwood Business Improvement District, especially along Northwest 25th Street and Northwest 5th Avenue, as part of a development agreement with the city of Miami that was approved by commission on September 8th. If those lines weren’t placed underground within five years, Mana would contribute $7.2 million for streetscape improvements within the Wynwood BID outside of the 25 acres the developer owned in the area.

However, during Wednesday’s Wynwood BID meeting, Mana’s architect, Bernard Zyscovich, said it was logistically impossible to underground all the power lines and transformers in the BID, especially on Northwest 25th Street.

“The cheapest part is literally removing the poles. The poles are not our issue,” Zyscovich explained. However, the architect added, undergrounding the lines and transformers would require significant easements on privately-owned lands, and that would require a multitude of agreements with private property owners.

Jean Diaz, a Florida Power & Light engineer, said the undergrounding of power lines will require easements that are at least eight feet wide. “And that isn’t going to fit in the [public] sidewalk,” Diaz said. “It would require [property owners] to give us an easement and a lot of other stuff.”

Additional transformers will also likely have to be added, Diaz added. Otherwise, some buildings will experience intermittent power loss when other buildings crank up the air conditioner, he explained.

Zyscovich said Mana is still committed to undergrounding power lines whenever possible, but board members insisted that the developer’s representatives come back to the BID and present a new “public benefit” proposal for Wynwood. They said the developer has to fulfill his obligations or make another proposal. 

“My personal view is it would be cheaper for Mr. Mana if he [paid the $7.2 million],” said David Polinsky.

Initially opposed to Mana Wynwood’s massive project, which was 2.5 million square feet greater than what current zoning allowed, the Wynwood BID demanded $10 million in public improvements from Mana in exchange for its support. Instead, Mana agreed to give $7.5 million to neighboring Overtown at the behest of Commission Chairman Keon Hardemon. The undergrounding of power lines was offered to Wynwood as a “compromise,” Polinsky said.

As planned, Mana Wynwood would encompass 51,146 square feet of civic space, 3,487 residential units, 8,483 parking spaces, and a 2.5-acre privately owned park dubbed “Mana Commons.”

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