UPDATE, July 16, 10:40 a.m.: Dezer Development can move ahead with its plans to transform Intracoastal Mall in North Miami Beach into a high-rise, mixed-use community.
Despite opposition from several nearby homeowners, the North Miami Beach Planning & Zoning Board approved Dezer Developments’ amended plans for the mall on Monday.
After deliberating for nearly five hours, the planning board voted 5 to 2 in favor of zoning amendments that will allow Dezer Development to replace the one-story, 234,000-square-foot Intracoastal Mall and the three-story Asa College office building with a development of more than 2 million square feet. Plans include 35-foot tall townhouses, 85-foot tall apartment buildings, and high-rises ranging between 160 feet to 495 feet in height. The amended code will also allow Dezer Development to build a 250-room hotel.
By a narrower vote of 4 to 3, the planning and zoning board also approved a 30-year-development agreement with Dezer Development for the project that will include 2,000 residential units, 375,000 square feet of retail, 200,000 square feet of office, the 250-room hotel, and a new canal. The development agreement also envisions about 8 acres of parks, a transportation bus hub and water taxi. It also includes traffic mitigation that will increase the number of traffic lanes at Northeast 35th Avenue from four to six, and widen Intracoastal Mall’s entrance way at Northeast 36th Avenue and 163rd Street. It also requires Dezer Development to build a public community center, a police substation, and a fire rescue facility on site.
The project, which will be built in phases, is projected to be completed by 2031, said Dezer Development’s attorney, Tracy Slavens.
Several residents of Eastern Shores, an affluent residential area that is dominated by single-family homes, opposed approval of the development agreement, as well as the tweaks to Intracoastal Mall’s zoning. Those Eastern Shores residents fear that the zoning changes will create additional gridlock on the roads, cause an environmental disaster on the water, and cast the neighborhood in shadow.
Tucker Gibbs, an attorney representing the Eastern Shores Property Owners Association, told the board that the zoning amendments will “negatively impact the Eastern Shores neighborhood.”
Bernard Zyscovich, an architect and planner hired by Dezer Development to design Intracoastal Mall’s new site plan, insisted that the amended regulations allow more open space on the property. Zyscovich also said that the amended site plan reduces the envelope of future commercial space from 2.5 million square feet to 525,000 square feet.
“We are very excited about the design,” Zyscovich said. “We want it to be memorable and one of these places that people want to come back to. We want to create a great sense of place.”
But critics of the plan, including North Miami Beach Planning and Zoning Board Chairman Julian Kreisberg, pointed out that Dezer Development still doesn’t have the necessary approvals from the Florida Department of Transportation to implement its traffic improvements, nor permits from federal, state, and county officials to dig a new canal.
“If the canal is not approved. If the road work is not approved. What is the purpose of the agreement? We’re back to square one,” Kreisberg said.
Dezer Development, headed by Michael and Gil Dezer, paid $63.5 million for Intracoastal Mall in December 2013. Back then, future development rights for the 26-acre property was about 600 residential units plus about 16 million square feet of commercial with height capped at 15 stories. Two years later, Intracoastal Mall was up-zoned by the city of North Miami Beach to allow 2,000 residential units and 2.5 million square feet of commercial in buildings up to 40 stories tall. In March, the Dezers increased their territory to 29 acres after they purchased the neighboring Asa College building for $15 million.
Kreisberg lamented the original zoning change, pointing out that the person who championed it, Mayor George Vallejo, resigned from office in April 2018 as part of a plea deal with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. Vallejo admitted to prosecutors to using campaign contributions donated to his political committees for personal expenses and that his wife secretly worked for the Dezers as an event planner.
“You can’t ignore the corruption,” Kreisberg told his colleagues on the board.
But most other planning and zoning board members were attracted by Dezer Developments’ claims that the project will produce 11,800 temporary jobs during construction, 2,700 permanent jobs after construction, and $11 million in annual property taxes.
“In these uncertain times we need to bring jobs,” said board member Larry Shinbaum, who owns North Miami Beach-based Luxuri International Real Estate Miami, adding that “progress supersedes a stagnant mall.”
Board member Larry Thompson said he thought that Dezers’ proposed redevelopment of Intracoastal was a “beautiful project.” But he made his ‘yes’ vote contingent on a $500,000 water main project along Northeast 35th Avenue, which was originally slated to be funded by a state grant but vetoed from the budget, being funded by “other sources.” Thompson also wanted the city to include an art-in-public places feature in the project, and to encourage Dezer Development to hire workers within North Miami Beach. Thompson’s three conditions were included in the board’s recommendation to approve the 30-year development agreement.
The North Miami Beach City Commission will have final say on approval of the zoning amendments and the 30-year development agreement. Even then, any decision by the city will likely be challenged in court, either by Eastern Shores residents or Dezer Development, warned Daniel Espino, North Miami Beach’s city attorney.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Larry Shinbaum’s real estate brokerage affiliation.