Billionaire developers Vlad Doronin and Len Blavatnik secured initial approval for a zoning change that will allow them to build a 250-foot Aman-branded tower in Miami Beach.
Despite considerable opposition for the proposed zoning, Miami Beach commissioners on Wednesday voted to pass the ordinance on first reading, sending it to the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board for a recommendation. It will then go back to the commission for a vote on second reading.
Doronin is teaming up with Blavatnik to build a luxury condo and hotel tower next to the Versailles, a historic building that has sat vacant for years. The property, at 3425 Collins Avenue, is next to the 203-foot tall Faena House.
The Aman project calls for a 56-key hotel and 23 luxury condos. It would mark the first Aman in South Florida. (Doronin, CEO of OKO Group, is also owner and chairman of Aman Resorts.)
Akerman attorney Neisen Kasdin, who represents the developers, said the zoning change would facilitate the development of the Aman project, saying it would have “world scale,” and “low-scale amenities, not a big honky tonk scene like you see on Ocean Drive.”
Much of the opposition comes from Faena House, where 27 out of the 38 non-conflicting unit owners – many of whom are also billionaires – oppose the proposed legislation that would pave the way for the developers to build a tower 47 feet taller than Faena House, closer to the boardwalk.
If the commission approves the ordinance on second reading, the developers would then have to obtain approval for their specific project. The ordinance seeks to amend the Faena District Overlay, allowing for the extra 47 feet in height on the property. The original developer, Blavatnik and partner Alan Faena, planned a 203-foot tall luxury condo on the property, in addition to restoring the Versailles building. Plans for that project were canceled when the condo market began to slow down in 2016.
At Wednesday’s virtual meeting, preservation architect Steve Avdakov, who spoke in opposition, said the Versailles building, which was designed by architect Roy France, was being used “as a pawn.”
Former Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez called it “another middle finger to residents” following the approval of a residential tower at the Raleigh, which is a separate project led by another developer.
“No one wants this. Is this who we are? These developers have allowed the Versailles to deteriorate,” Rosen Gonzalez said, adding that they are “holding it hostage.”
Some spoke in favor of the project, including Douglas Elliman Florida CEO Jay Parker, and Liliana Pinto, who appears to be a real estate agent.
Commissioner Ricky Arriola, who sponsored the ordinance, said the Faena District has “had profound positive effects on Miami Beach since it was developed.” There were also callers who supported an Aman development, but did not support the height increase.
“Even the most bland project is going to generate some kind of opposition,” Arriola said.