Major mixed-use project in Allapattah scores first commission approval

1.4 million sf development could have up to 2,400 co-living units
By Francisco Alvarado | March 29, 2019 03:49PM

Robert Wennett and Miami Produce Center rendering

Robert Wennett and Miami Produce Center rendering

A major mixed-use project with thousands of co-living apartments in Miami is one step away from fully moving forward.

The Miami City Commission voted on Thursday to approve Robert Wennett’s Miami Produce Center special area plan on first reading. The proposed 1.4 million-square-foot development would be built in Allapattah, a neighborhood east of Miami International Airport and west of Wynwood.

Miami Produce Center, designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, could have as many as 2,400 co-living units and 637 traditional residential units. Co-living spaces are apartments with fully functioning bathrooms that share a kitchen with other units. While relatively new to Miami, co-living apartments are popping up in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York.

The project would be one of the first in Miami with a major co-living component. If Wennett were to build only traditional residential units, the number of units would be reduced by nearly half to 1,237 units.

“If it works here, we will explore [co-living apartments]. If not, it won’t be,” Miami planning director Francisco Garcia told city commissioners.

As part of the project, Wennett would repurpose three existing warehouses that local fruit and vegetable wholesalers use for storage into retail spaces, and he would build four 20-story intertwined buildings and urban gardens where fruits and vegetables will be grown. The completed project would have 230,886 square feet of office space, 128,971 square feet of retail space, 22,176 square feet for “educational uses” and 1,094 parking spaces.

Community support for the project appears split. Residents who spoke against Miami Produce Center claim it will accelerate gentrification in Allapattah, while supporters said the development will create jobs and attract middle-class workers to a low-income neighborhood.

Attorney Javier Aviñó of Bilzin Sumberg, who represents the developer, said Miami Produce Center worked with the city and community on the plans. In a statement, he said the SAP “addresses our community’s growing demand for new housing options that lower the barrier to entry for residents in search of a central location with access to public transit.”

Patrick Gajardo, co-founder and president of Allapattah Neighborhood Association, said a coalition of stakeholders had put together a collective bargaining agreement for proposed community benefits, but that the developer dismissed their efforts. “Our group met three to four times to feverishly work for an agreement that would be beneficial for our community,” Gajardo said. “Unfortunately it got us nowhere. We left disappointed and feeling the developer no intention of negotiating with the community.”

Monica Tewani, whose family owns 10 retail storefronts on Northwest 20th and 21st streets, said Miami Produce Center would bring new residents that will help boost the local economy. “We feel very strongly this would bring a lot to our neighborhood,” she said. “We hope that all of these plans become a reality at some point.”