Micro apartments could be coming to North Miami

City currently requires 750 sf, but if a new rule is adopted, it could drop to as low as 500 sf in certain areas

May.May 22, 2017 02:30 PM

Rendering of 950 Northeast 124th Street

North Miami may soon be joining other municipalities in South Florida that allow developers to build micro apartments.

If approved by the city council in June, micro apartments could alter the character of the city, experts say. North Miami could go from a suburban, bedroom community to one that is more urban and able to attract younger residents.

Land use attorney John Dellagloria told The Real Deal that micro units are needed because more people are remaining single today. Plus, renters often must spend 40 percent to 50 percent of their salaries on rent alone. The micro units would be less expensive than larger apartments.  

The first step in the approval process came last Wednesday, when the North Miami Planning Commission approved the proposal to allow micro units in the city’s zoning code. North Miami is currently working on updating its land development regulations along with its zoning map. The updating of the code and land development regulations will make them compatible with the city’s comprehensive plan adopted in 2015.

Currently, North Miami’s code dictates that apartments built in the city must have at least 750 square feet. If the new code is adopted, that number will drop to 550 square feet. Plus, studio apartments will be allowed in six or seven special districts and could have a minimum of 500 square feet, although only 20 percent of the apartments in a multifamily building will be allowed to be studios.    

The only exception to the 750-square-foot rule today is at the future SoLe Mia, an 183-acre mixed-use future development on Biscayne Bay, formerly known as Biscayne Landing, where the city allows apartments as small as 450 square feet.  

Allowing developers to build smaller apartments will make financial sense for developers and boost affordability for users, architect Markus Frankel, president of Bay Harbor Islands-based Frankel Benayoun Architects told TRD. “For a developer to deliver a 500-square-foot studio, it will cost $300 per square foot,” he said. “This is because construction, land and soft costs like taxes and insurance have all gone up in the last four or five years.”

Frankel’s firm is working on a plan for a $40 million, four-building complex at 950 Northeast 124th Street that will have a 57-room assisted living facility, a 175-unit senior housing apartment building, retail and cultural arts’ space. The apartment component will consist of 20 percent studios, 30 percent one-bedroom units and 50 percent two-bedroom units.

Micro units appear to be the wave of the future in South Florida. In West Palm Beach, billionaire developer Jeff Greene received approval to build micro units for a proposed downtown West Palm Beach development slated to have 348 units. The Downtown Action Committee gave him permission to build units between 300 square feet to 549 square feet.   

Back in North Miami, the planning commission will review another chunk of land development regulations as well as the proposed zoning map on May 24th. Among the issues is updating parking standards. Many developers want the city to allow shared parking in mixed-use projects. The rationale is that spaces left empty during the day while residents are at work can be used by shoppers and office tenants. At night, the spaces are again available to residents.  

If all goes according to plan, Dellagloria said, the new ordinance and land use regulations will be adopted by the city council on June 23rd, when a final vote will be held.

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