Historic preservation board rejects Blue Road’s plans for South Beach hotel
“We’re trying to save the historic district, not block or restrict anything”: Jack Finglass
Blue Road’s plans to convert a 34-unit South Beach apartment building into a 116-room hotel hit a snag after the project failed to get the minimum votes needed from the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board.
The board voted 4 to 3 this week to approve an amended version of Blue Road’s plans to turn the 61-year-old Park Terrace Apartments at 355 19th Street into the more contemporary Park Avenue Hotel.
However, because the building falls into a historic district, Blue Road needed five affirmative votes from the historic preservation board to obtain the demolition permits needed to move forward. Following the vote, the board “continued” the item until Sept. 9.
It’s the second time the project has been continued. The board previously continued the project at its May 14 hearing after board members expressed another set of concerns over the proposed hotel’s design.
“They have to do their job. We have to do our work. We will find a compromise,” Marcelo Tenenbaum, a principal of Blue Door, told The Real Deal after the vote.
The project’s architect, Luis Revuelta of Revuelta Architecture International, admitted he was surprised.
“I think we came today with a high level of confidence that we were going to get approved,” Revuelta said.
But the three dissenting board members — Nancy Liebman, Jack Finglass, and Kirk Paskal — expressed concern that not enough of the original 1951 post-World War II structure was being preserved or utilized in the new hotel’s design. Under the project’s latest plans, 70 percent of the original building would be demolished.
“This is something I would expect from a more, non-historic district,” Paskal said. “A way to pay homage to something by leaving a little piece.”
Tenenbaum and Blue Road co-principal Jorge Savloff paid $14.27 million for the two-story, 22,000-square-foot apartment building in March 2018. The structure is two blocks away from the newly renovated Miami Beach Convention Center as well as the site of a future 800-room Miami Beach Convention Center Hotel that will be co-developed by David Martin and Jackie Soffer.
Revuelta presented plans for a five-story 44,466 square foot complex that included a rooftop pool deck and two outside elevator towers. It was a smaller version than what was proposed in May, and now includes a garden courtyard instead of a below grade parking area. The remnants of the original apartment building would be transformed into a hotel lobby and gym.
Liebman disapproved of the design, saying that it didn’t belong in a historic district. She also ridiculed the notion that a 116-room hotel is “boutique” as Blue Road portrayed it. “This looks like a giant box,” Liebman said.
Blue Road’s attorney, Alfredo Gonzalez, insisted that a hotel needs at least 100 rooms to “make it in today’s market.”
“A boutique hotel has to have 100 rooms?” Liebman said while rolling her eyes. “Only in Miami Beach. Save it. I can’t support this today or tomorrow.”
After the Liebman-Finglass-Paskal side won, Reveulta asked for instructions. Finglass replied that the developer should strive to use more of what’s already present. “You’ve got a huge historic piece over here. Make use of it,” Finglass told Revuelta, later adding: “We’re trying to save the historic district, not block or restrict anything. Use what you’ve got to make the district matter.”
Revuelta told TRD that he tried to address the issues raised during the May 14 meeting. “I thought we had done everything possible to react to staff and board comment,” he said, “and there is no way we can make this only two stories. It kills the deal.”
“We need a bigger scale to address food and beverage, to address operations,” Tenenbaum further explained.
Nevertheless, Tenenbaum is determined to solve “the conflict of different ideas” and come up with a design that works. “We will be back in September and we will try to do some adjustments and, hopefully, they will approve.”