Michael Shvo’s proposed Miami Beach tower gets haircut and approval

Residential tower will now be 175 feet tall, rather than 200 feet

Michael Shvo and a rendering of the project
Michael Shvo and a rendering of the project

The Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board approved developer Michael Shvo’s plans to add a residential tower behind the landmark Raleigh Hotel.

But that tower won’t be 200 feet tall, as Shvo had proposed. Instead, following community outcry and a passionate plea from board chairman Jack Finglass during a meeting on Tuesday, the board shortened the residential addition to 175 feet.

Although the tower will be 25 feet shorter than what he had sought, Shvo, chairman and CEO of New York-based SHVO, proclaimed the approval a victory.

“This approval marks a new milestone in the partnership between SHVO, South Beach and the surrounding community,” Shvo said in a statement. “SHVO will continue to honor Miami’s rich history and culture. We vow to play a significant role in the city’s continued growth and transformation.”

Last year, Shvo, Bilgili Holdings, and Deutsche Finance America invested a combined $219.6 million to buy the 80-year-old Raleigh Hotel at 1775 Collins Avenue and the neighboring 79-year-old South Seas and Richmond hotels.

In September, Shvo promised to invest another $500 million redeveloping the site.

Prior to closing on the purchases of the South Seas and Richmond Hotels, Shvo pushed for the passage of an ordinance that allows developers with more than 115,000 square feet of land to propose ground level additions up to 200 feet tall within the Ocean Drive/Collins Avenue Historic District between 16th and 21st streets. Combined, his three properties span more than 125,000 square feet of land. The Miami Beach City Commission passed the ordinance a year ago.

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Shvo has said that the 200-foot luxury residential tower is necessary to finance the restoration of the Raleigh and the redevelopment of the South Seas and Richmond hotels.

But Finglass insisted that the developer needs a conditional use permit from the historic preservation board to pursue such a project, and that the maximum height of 200 feet is “not an entitlement.” Moreover, Finglass feared that the high-rise would horribly harm South Beach’s historic character.

“Please do not allow our historic beachfront to be chipped away and wind up like Aventura or Sunny Isles,” Finglass urged his members. “Save our historic skyline and historic views of the ocean.”

Several residents and property owners also spoke out against the 200-foot-tall tower designed by Kobi Karp. Among them were representatives of the Shore Club at 1901 Collins Avenue, the 385-foot-tall Setai Hotel and Residents at 2001 Collins Avenue, as well as Thomas Stern, managing director of Chieftain Capital Management and board member of the 215-foot-tall Faena House condominium at 3315 Collins Avenue.

Steven Avdakov, a consulting architect for the Shore Club, was also critical of Shvo’s plans to substantially demolish the South Seas and Richmond hotels, referring to it as “Disney deco.” Alfredo Gonzalez, Shvo’s attorney, insists that Shvo wants to restore all three properties to the original design created by noted architect Laurence Murray Dixon.

Board member Nancy Liebman fully supported Shvo’s plans, including its 200-foot height. Liebman even questioned the sudden neighborhood opposition.

“The skyline is already loaded with huge buildings and, wake up everybody, many more are coming. They are in the wings,” Liebman warned. “If you care this much, if you are sincerely dedicated to what you are saying, you need to keep watching what goes on here.”

However, other board members preferred that the tower be lowered in height. As a compromise, Karp offered 185 feet. But Finglass pushed for a height of 170 feet, which was roughly the same height as the neighboring Shore Club. Eventually, a compromise of 175 feet was reached among the members, which was approved by a vote of six to one, with Finglass dissenting.