Miami commission to vote on developer incentives, Overtown apartment complex and two mixed-use projects

Incentives geared to spur developers to build more apartments catering to working class residents

Westdale Wynwood and 1515 Miami River LLC
Westdale Wynwood and 1515 Miami River LLC

Miami commissioners on Thursday will consider new rules that would award developer incentives to save historic properties as part of a jam-packed zoning agenda that includes approval requests for an Overtown apartment complex adjacent to David Beckham’s soccer stadium site and two mixed-use projects near the Douglas Road Metrorail Station and on the Miami River.

As luxury condos have dominated most of the new construction in Miami in recent years, city officials are looking for ways to spur developers to build more apartments that cater to working class residents. Under a proposed resolution, the city would allow for the developable density of historically designated sites to be transferred to projects located in a transit-oriented development zone, such as being near a Metrorail or Metromover station.

According to a fact sheet on the legislative measure, it is geared to help encourage the preservation of historic sites while at the same time giving developers incentives to create more housing in projects close to mass transit hubs. The fact sheet cites a study by the New York University Furman Center that shows that Miami is the least affordable city to the median renter out of 11 metropolitan areas studied.

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Arnaud Karsenti, managing principal of 13th Floor Investments, said it is a wise proposal. In 2016, the company and its partner The Adler Group won a ground lease from Miami-Dade County to develop a mixed-use project with 970 residences, a 150-key hotel, 70,000 square feet of retail space and a public plaza on a parking lot next to the Douglas Road Metrorail Station in Miami. “I think it’s a fantastic move by the city that protects historic property while incentivizing smart development,” Karsenti said via email.

The proposed resolution is similar to the transfer of air rights from historic sites to new projects. Since 2009, the city has allowed the owners of historic properties or properties in historic districts to sell the air rights above their buildings to developers. By acquiring air rights, developers could increase the height of their projects in other areas of the city where high density, high-rise buildings are allowed. It also allows for an increase in the floor-to-area ratio of projects and allows for building taller towers. In Miami the practice is called transfer of development rights, or TDRs.

Also on the agenda:

  • Omega Grid Development wants to increase the allowable height and density of two properties in Overtown in order to build East River Residences, a 15-story multifamily building with 194 units and 150 parking spaces. About 20 percent of the units would be reserved for people earning up to 50 percent of the area’s median income. The rest of the building would also be marketed as “workforce housing.” Omega Grid is under contract to buy the two lots at 1136 and 1146 Northwest 8th Avenue and 1145 and 1157 Northwest 11th Street Road.
  • Westdale Real Estate Investment Management wants to rezone 19 duplexes and single-family homes for commercial use so the company can develop Westdale Wynwood, a 202-unit apartment complex with some office and commercial space. The properties are located about a block north of Northwest 29th Street between Northwest Second Avenue and Northwest Third Avenue. In November of last year, the city’s planning and zoning appeals board recommended denial.
  • Another mixed-use project on the agenda is a proposal by 1515 Miami River LLC to redevelop a 1.75 acre site at 1515, 1529, and 1543 Northwest South River Drive. The development consists of an undetermined number of apartments and commercial spaces and features a pool deck facing the river, a club and spa, and a connection to the Miami Riverwalk.