Dezer’s plans to remake Intracoastal Mall face opposition

City planners demand better traffic solutions, while some neighbors fret over the size of 2.8M sf project.

A rendering of the Intracoastal Mall and Gil Dezer
A rendering of the Intracoastal Mall and Gil Dezer

Dezer Development’s plans to transform Intracoastal Mall in North Miami Beach into a high-rise, mixed-use project are facing opposition.

The North Miami Beach Planning & Zoning Board on Monday delayed its review of the developer’s plans to turn Intracoastal Mall into a 2.8 million-square-foot project with retail, office, residential and hotel until at least July 13.

The deferral came after the city received multiple calls and emails from residents of nearby Eastern Shores, an upscale neighborhood of low-rise multifamily buildings and single-family homes. More than 14 Eastern Shores residents called the virtual planning & zoning board meeting to oppose the mega-project, which would include 375,000 square feet of retail, 200,000 square feet of office, 2000 residential units, and 250 hotel rooms in structures up to 495 feet tall.

Margo Berman, a Florida International University communications professor and a longtime Eastern Shores resident, said the project is “out of scale” with the surrounding area. “Residents of Eastern Shores chose not to live among skyscrapers,” she told the board. “This creates a mini-city. It forces 100 pounds of pebbles into a small snack-sized bag.”

Berman also pointed out that Northeast 35th Avenue is Eastern Shores’ only way in or out, and it directly abuts Intracoastal Mall at 3881 Northeast 163rd Street. The additional cars from Dezer Development’s project will further congest an already traffic gridlocked area, she said. “Emergency vehicles will be prevented from doing rescue missions,” she added.

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Traffic was the main reason that the North Miami Beach Community Development Department recommended a deferral. Justin Proffitt, the city’s community development director, said Dezer Development needed to create a traffic plan, certified by the Florida Department of Transportation, that will allow cars leaving and entering the redeveloped Intracoastal Mall to directly access 163rd Street, and not further burden Northeast 35th Avenue.
But the city wasn’t just worried about traffic tie-ups around Eastern Shores. Proffitt said Dezer Development will have to “address the traffic impact on 163rd Street and Biscayne Boulevard,” and build an onsite “premium transit facility” for trolleys and buses that includes shelters, digital routing displays, and Wi-Fi hotspots.

City Attorney Daniel Espino said a deferral to July 13 would also allow “additional interaction between [Dezer Development] and the community.”

Board member Norman Edwards wanted to defer the item until the developer held charrettes with the surrounding community. Edwards also wanted to wait until live meetings could once again be held at city hall, which was another demand by Eastern Shores residents.

In December 2013, Dezer Development, led by Michael and Gil Dezer, bought the 26.3-acre Intracoastal Mall for $63.5 million. Two years later, the city rezoned the property to allow 2,000 residential units and 2.5 million square feet of commercial space. In March, Dezer Development increased its land holdings by paying $15 million for an office building next to the mall.

Under the original rezoning plan approved in 2015, Dezer Development would have the right to construct buildings ranging between 35 feet and 495 feet tall, with the tallest structures fronting the Intracoastal Waterway.

Dezer Development now wants the city to approve a new site plan designed by Bernard Zyscovich that includes a new canal slicing through part of the property. The plan includes towers up to 425 feet in height along a portion of 163rd Street, towers up to 286 feet tall at the intersection of NE 35th Avenue and 163rd Street, and three blocks near the center of the Intracoastal Property where 160-foot tall buildings are permitted. The remaining five blocks depicted in Zyscovich’s site plan would allow buildings between 35 and 85 feet tall. In exchange, Dezer Development has offered to build new parks, install a water taxi stop by the newly dug canal (if approved by federal, state, and county environmental agencies), and build a fire-substation and a police substation on site.