Michael Shvo wants to build a 200-foot tower near his South Beach hotels

Shvo paid $103M for the Raleigh and is under contract to purchase two neighboring hotels

Raleigh hotel with Michael Shvo (Credit: Trip Advisor)
Raleigh hotel with Michael Shvo (Credit: Trip Advisor)

New York developer Michael Shvo is one step closer toward being able to build a 200-foot-tall residential tower in South Beach.

On Tuesday, the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board backed a proposed ordinance that will allow property owners who own 115,000 square feet of land to build “ground level additions” up to 200 feet high in the RM-3 zoning district between 16th and 21st streets.

The ordinance was proposed by Shvo, who co-owns the Raleigh Hotel at 1775 Collins Avenue and has a contract to purchase the neighboring Richmond and South Seas hotels. The three properties are sitting on more than 125,000 square feet of land.

The proposed code change has already been endorsed by Miami Beach commissioners Ricky Arriola, Joy Malakoff and John Elizabeth Aleman, as well as the Miami Beach Planning Board.

Shvo argued that the ordinance will allow him to build a sleek residential tower behind the Richmond and South Seas hotels instead of a “shoe box” up to 85 feet tall that’s currently allowed, and he insisted that historic preservation is his primary motivation.

“It [the Raleigh] is the most amazing property in Miami Beach,” he told the board.

The Miami Beach City Commission will review the proposed ordinance as early as July 17. Any demolitions in that zone would need to be approved by the historic preservation board because it is a historic district.

Shvo has hired architect Kobi Karp to design the 2.9-acre project. Shvo’s spokesperson said that the ordinance “would allow the Raleigh to be a full hotel and would return the South Seas and Richmond to their original deco glory.”

The proposed tower would be set back from the beach and street and “will help preserve the view corridors of each property (Raleigh, South Seas and Richmond) on Collins,” the spokesperson said.

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Shvo wouldn’t be the only developer to take advantage of the ordinance should it pass.

In a June 25 report, Planning Director Thomas Mooney stated that the Shore Club at 1901 Collins Avenue also occupies a property more than 115,000 square feet in size. Ziel Feldman’s HFZ Capital Group paid $173 million for the 309-room hotel with plans to redevelop it into a luxury condo.

Other real estate investors could “buy properties, aggregate them, and do the same thing,” said city planner Michael Belush.

Mooney’s report pointed out that there are already tall structures located in the RM-3 district, including the 400-foot-tall Setai at 2001 Collins Avenue that was completed in 2004.

But a 200-foot building would be far taller than the three historic properties Shvo expects to control, the tallest of which is the Raleigh at 85 feet in height.

Historic preservation board chairman Stevan Pardo hailed the proposed ordinance as a means to allow developers to “aggregate land and do something special” without knocking down Art Deco buildings. “This is an opportunity to preserve historically what is there now,” Pardo said.

But other board members were still apprehensive. Nancy Liebman called the proposed ordinance “another assault on historic preservation,” and Jack Finglass feared that such a code could eventually “chip away” protections at historic districts throughout Miami Beach as developers demand similar zoning changes.

Opposition melted away once Pardo and the planning staff assured the board that any proposals for a new high-rise addition will need to come back to the historic preservation board for approval. One board member, Rick Lopez, voted against the ordinance.

In February, Shvo, Serdar Bilgili’s Bilgili Holdings, and Deutsche Finance America paid $103 million for the Raleigh, and plan to buy the South Seas and Richmond, primarily because Shvo fears for the future of the two shuttered hotels. “Those properties are not in good shape,” he said.