Miami Beach voters approve North Beach mixed-use district, reject Ocean Drive alcohol ban

North Beach measure is aimed at revitalizing 71st Street

Rendering of North Beach development (Credit: Dover, Kohl & Partners)
Rendering of North Beach development (Credit: Dover, Kohl & Partners)

Miami Beach voters approved a measure on Tuesday that will increase density in the city’s North Beach neighborhood, and rejected an ordinance that would curtail alcohol sales on Ocean Drive.

The North Beach ballot measure was approved by nearly 59 percent of voters just two years after they rejected a similar density increase in North Beach. Miami Beach residents have consistently rejected any density increases since 1997, when a ballot measure was passed requiring voter approval for any increase in Floor Area Ratio or (FAR), the maximum density or allowable square footage of a structure.

Miami Beach voters also elected a new mayor and two city commissioners on Tuesday, and they soundly rejected a measure to close outdoor alcohol sales along Ocean Drive in South Beach at 2 a.m. from the current 5 a.m. The measure was vigorously opposed by some of the city’s biggest bars and restaurants, like Mango’s Tropical Café and the Clevelander, who argued that hundreds of people would lose their jobs and the city would lose tens of millions of dollars in tax revenues if the measure passed.

Unlike in previous years, a coalition of developers and preservationists joined to promote this year’s ballot measure in North Beach, which will allow for an FAR increase to 3.5 from the current 2.25 to 2.75 for the area between Collins and Dickens avenues to Indian Creek Drive between 68th and 72nd streets. With the increase, developers can now build a mixed-use “Town Center” district along 71st Street.

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The measure also designates two MiMo neighborhoods as “historic,” protecting them from large-scale demolition. Both initiatives were recommended in a master plan for the area developed by urban planning firm Dover Kohl & Partners, which commissioner Ricky Arriola said could provide the city a model for future development.

Preservationists like Daniel Ciraldo of the Miami Design Preservation League, who has long opposed high-density development in Miami Beach, said everyone benefits from the vote. “Yes, there will be a few new buildings that are a little bit taller, but we’re going to get these two really great neighborhoods, preserving working class MiMo neighborhoods,” he said.

Anticipating approval of the measure, investors and developers have already bought up numerous properties in the area affected by the FAR increase. In March, Pacific Star Capital paid $24.6 million for City National Bank’s North Beach branch. The firm has proposed a 110,000-square-foot residential and retail project for the two block area along 71st street anchored by a high-end supermarket with apartments and parking.

Matis Cohen, a North Beach developer and landlord who led the campaign to pass the measure, expects development to take off in the area. “Finally after so many years of contention, the community has spoken loudly and clearly that they want a vibrant town center,” he said. “It’s time to embrace responsible development defined in the master plan.”