A hotel and residential project that could transform the landscape at Blue Lagoon near Miami International Airport got an initial seal of approval, despite objections from a neighboring condo association.
At a Miami planning and zoning hearing on Thursday, city commissioners approved on first reading a zoning change that would allow the Weiss Group to develop six buildings that would house 888 residential units, 294 hotel rooms and 1,412 parking spaces. Kobi Karp designed the project.
The zoning change would allow Weiss Group, which is headed by Caroline Weiss, to increase the height of some of the buildings from the maximum of 12 stories to 16 stories. Without the height increases, the developer would still have the right to develop a project totaling 1.6 million square feet under the current zoning designation, Weiss Group attorney Miguel Diaz de la Portilla told commissioners.
“It can be a another run-of-the-mill project with the same exact number of units and the same traffic, but [Weiss] is going through this effort and this process that has lasted close to two years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to the city and the professionals to have a legacy project,” Diaz de la Portilla said. “By right we can do the same exact density and intensity. The sole purpose of the request is simply to obtain three to four additional stories in height.”
The zoning change still requires final approval, which is often likely when the commission approves it on first reading.
If the city grants final approval, Weiss Group is offering to create 500 temporary jobs and 500 permanent jobs with preference given to residents in the surrounding neighborhoods, set aside 53 affordable housing units and 84 workforce housing units and make a $150,000 contribution for improvements at Antonio Maceo Park in Blue Lagoon.
Richard Ayalon, an attorney representing the association for the Blue Lagoon Condominiums at 5077 Northwest 7th Street, said the Weiss Group’s project would encroach on an easement that residents use to enter and exit the complex and create traffic gridlock.
“The reality is that when you add 888 more units and 294 hotel rooms you are going to have a heck of a lot of traffic,” Ayalon said. “It is about our easement. When that person stands here and says we are going to use it to pack it with 1,000-and-some cars a day, get the heck out of here. This project does not need to use our easement for ingress and egress.”
Commissioner Willy Gort, whose district includes the proposed project, directed Diaz de la Portilla and Ayalon to hammer out a compromise over the traffic concerns. “I think you have a lot things you can improve,” Gort said. “You have to sit down with them and find a solution.”