Public money in play for park at Crescent Heights 5th and Alton development site

City's acquisition of land would be part of deal to allow Russell Galbut's firm to build one of the tallest towers in South Beach

Rally photos
Rally photos

Some Miami Beach commissioners are open to the idea of using taxpayer dollars to buy a portion of Crescent Height’s Alton Road redevelopment site between 5th and 7th streets to build a park that combats sea level rise.

Any acquisition would be part of a deal in which Russell Galbut’s Crescent Heights would still be allowed to build one of the tallest residential towers in South Beach.

The Miami Beach City Commission’s land use committee on Wednesday instructed planning and zoning staff to study the feasibility of Miami Beach buying some of the land, as well as new proposals by Crescent Heights to build a taller tower than what is allowed under the development site’s current zoning.

“We should seriously look at it,” said commissioner Mark Samuelian. “Sometimes you have to spend money for the good of the community. We could get a game changing park for resiliency. That is an important alternative that needs to be explored.”

Over the years, Crescent Heights’ co-founder Galbut has presented various controversial plans for the redevelopment of a huge swath of land near the on and off ramps of the MacArthur Causeway. The latest proposal is no different, drawing opposition from a coalition of homeowner groups called The Gateway Alliance.

Yet some condo associations, such as the one for the Bentley Bay, at 520 West Avenue, and the Floridian, at 650 West Avenue, have reached a compromise with Galbut to support one of the three options Crescent Heights proposed for the 85,348-square-foot block that includes the former site of South Shore Hospital.

The Bentley Bay and The Floridian associations back the plan for a 36-story building with about 288 units. A second contemplates a 42-story tower with about 336 units. And the third would be a 50-story, 400-unit building for the property. Any of the three would be built on a parking pedestal.

The development would also include a five-story, mixed-use retail and residential building on the 600 block of Alton Road.

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As a sweetener, Galbut has offered to set aside roughly 3 acres for green space with porous elements that would help reduce flooding in the neighborhood. Crescent Heights is also willing to help the city build a pedestrian bridge that would connect to a baywalk south of 5th Street.

“We believe strongly this is a unique opportunity our community should not miss,” Galbut said. “Our tower is in the same scope and size of other towers surrounding it. It has a fairly smaller floor plate than every other tower in South Pointe, perhaps South Beach.”

Galbut also said the proposed green space would do a lot to combat rising seas and flooding. “We are a whopping 87 percent permeable surface,” Galbut said “That is true resiliency.”

However leaders for The Gateway Alliance claim Crescent Height’s application to vacate 6th Street and combine the floor plate ratio of the 500 Alton Road and 600 Alton Road lots would set a dangerous precedent. About a dozen alliance members held a rally outside Miami Beach City Hall prior to the land use committee hearing. They held up signs that read, “Our streets are not for sale,” and ”No developer giveaways.”

The alliance proffered a counter proposal in which the developer agrees to only building a 280-foot building with a parking pedestal taking up only half of the block and a floor plate that would only be about 6,800 square feet. The remaining open space on the 500 and 600 blocks would become a community park that incorporates resilient technologies to combat sea level rise.

Alliance founder and Miami Beach Frank Del Vecchio, along with other members, said they would even support the city buying part of the site from Crescent Heights.

“We are not just in opposition here,” Del Vecchio said. “We have a better idea: For the city to pay for 3 acres on the 600 block of Alton Road for a resilient passive park.”

Crescent Heights currently has been approved to build 60-foot to 75-foot buildings with up to 510 units.