Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s Miami warehouse project ignites billboard battle

City prohibits billboards placed less than 300 feet from another billboard, but Miami approved permits for two neighboring buildings

Feb.February 12, 2020 06:00 PM
The Estefan warehouse next to Set Midtown’s office project before its billboard went up.

The Estefan warehouse next to Set Midtown’s office project before its billboard went up.

Miami commissioners will rule over a billboard battle linked to a property owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan.

A deal to make improvements to the Midtown Miami warehouse owned by the Estefans at 70 Northwest 37th Street hinges on the city revoking a billboard permit at a neighboring property, according to an attorney’s letter. The correspondence is part of an agenda item scheduled for the Miami City Commission’s meeting on Thursday.

City Commissioners will consider an appeal by billboard company Becker Boards to overturn the Miami zoning office’s approval of a massive ad on the facade of the uncompleted office building owned by Set Midtown at 78 Northwest 37th Street, adjacent to the Estefan’s warehouse.

Becker has been pushing city officials to revoke the approval since July, when the company’s attorney Robert Fernandez wrote then-City Manager Emilio Gonzalez. Fernandez claimed the placement of a rival firm’s billboard at 78 Northwest 37th Street violated city code that prohibits billboards from being placed within less than 300 feet of another billboard. Becker had obtained permit approval to place a billboard on the Estefan’s property first, documents show.

Fernandez also informed Gonzalez that Becker and the Estefans were in the process of “developing substantial improvements to the Estefan property in reliance of the Becker/Estefan [permit] approval.”

“Those plans may now be in jeopardy, by virtue” of the city’s zoning office also approving a billboard permit for NTWW, a company managed by billboard mogul Barry Rush, and Set Midtown, which is managed by real estate investor Phillip Sylvester. NTWW put up the billboard at 78 Northwest 37th Street.

Fernandez did not respond to email and phone messages seeking comment. Becker Boards President Joseph White declined comment. Lawyers representing NTWW and Set Midtown also did not respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Set Midtown and NTWW are requesting city commissioners rescind the billboard permit for the Estefan warehouse, and revoke all of Becker Boards’ permits. According to a Dec. 13 letter from Set Midtown lawyer Javier Aviño, Becker Boards violated city code by not putting up its billboard within 60 days of obtaining its permit, and lied on its application.

Aviño also claimed that a property survey shows the Estefan’s warehouse has a zero-foot setback. “Becker cannot possibly comply with the permit without trespassing onto Set’s property,” Aviño wrote.

Set Midtown is also suing the city and Becker Boards over the billboard placement on the one-story building owned by the Estefans, who are not parties to that complaint. In the lawsuit, Set Midtown acknowledges the city’s rules prohibiting billboards from being within 300 feet of each other.

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