Menin Hospitality’s Byron Carlyle Theater redevelopment vote shelved until February

Menin Hospitality and partners want to build new theater complex with 151 apartments

Rendering of Byron Carlyle Cultural Center, with Matis Cohen, Jared Galbut and Keith Menin (Miami Beach City Commission)
Rendering of Byron Carlyle Cultural Center, with Matis Cohen, Jared Galbut and Keith Menin (Miami Beach City Commission)

Miami Beach delayed until February a vote on Menin Hospitality and its partners’ plan to redevelop the Byron Carlyle Theater in North Beach.

The Miami Beach City Commission opted not to vote on a proposal by Menin Hospitality and KGTC, LLC to replace the 52-year-old, city-owned Byron Carlyle with a 125-foot-tall theater complex with 151 workforce units.

Assistant City Manager Eric Carpenter told the mayor and six commissioners Wednesday evening that the city needed more time. “We do think this proposal has some merit and we do think it has potential, [but] we do not have the financial analysis for this project yet,” Carpenter said.

The city bought the theater in 2001 for $1.7 million, and it served as a movie house for the non-profit O Cinema for five years until the city’s building department deemed it an unsafe building in July 2019. Six months prior to its closure, the city issued a request for proposals for bids to redevelop the theater into a “mixed-use project with a cultural component.”

On Aug. 3, Menin Hospitality and KGTC, LLC became the de facto winning bidders to redevelop the Byron Carlyle after Pacific Star Capital withdrew its proposal to transform the circa-1968 movie theater into a 11-story mixed-use hotel building.

Menin Hospitality is run by nightlife entrepreneurs Keith Menin and Jared Galbut, nephews of Crescent Heights co-founder Russell Galbut. KGTC LLC is owned by developer Matis Cohen and Galbut’s daughter, Marisa Galbut.

According to the latest term sheet, Menin Hospitality and KGTC are proposing to construct a new Byron Carlyle Cultural Center with a 10,500-square-foot theater, 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, 129 one-bedroom units, and 22 two-bedroom units at its own expense, in exchange for a 99-year lease, and a $350,000 contribution from the city for environmental remediation. And although city regulations require 200 parking spaces for a theater, the developers want all parking requirements waived.

The proposed development agreement would also require that apartments be reserved for workforce housing for just 30 years of the 99-year lease, with 80 percent of the units reserved for households making 140 percent of the county’s area median income, or about $89,600 a year.

In addition, the developers want to collect all the rent from the cultural center’s retail and apartments, and pay the city a ground rent of $1 a year.

However, Jared Galbut said the developers will pay property taxes on the property, which he estimated to be $44 million a year. Galbut emphasized that he and his partners will be taking the risk since they intend to finance the project with private equity.

“We will build the city an amazing cultural center that will easily be a hub for the community,” Galbut said.

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The new Byron Carlyle will be constructed within the North Beach Town Center, a 10-block area that’s slated to be redeveloped into a densely packed region of hotels, apartments, and retail. Across the street from the theater, KGTC LLC is building a 22-story apartment complex with microunits and retail called 72nd and Park. Also within Town Center, Pacific Star Capital is proposing to build a Target-anchored shopping center.

Cohen told commissioners that parking isn’t needed at the Byron Carlyle Cultural Center because a 700-space garage will be constructed within the Town Center. Plus, Cohen said, “Town Center was created as a compact urban area that would prioritize the pedestrian instead of the car.”

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber questioned the terms of the deal. Gelber was sure the city could probably outright sell the Byron Carlyle for $5 million to a private developer if it wanted to. And, after consulting with the operators of O Cinema and the Miami Light Project, Gelber felt that the theater portion needed to be larger than 10,500 square feet. “The primary goal for this, without question, was to lever North Beach as a world-class cultural institution,” Gelber said.

The city administration, meanwhile, felt that more apartment units should be affordable for people making less than $89,600 a year. In a memo to the mayor and commissioners, Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales stated that the annual median area income in Miami-Dade County is $59,100. But, as of 2019, North Beach’s median household income was $43,439, and 70.8 percent of North Beach households make below $75,000 a year.

“The administration recognizes that the developer deserves credit for proposing to introduce workforce housing in North Beach, but the proposed tenant income mix reflects above-market rates for North Beach, an area where 20.1 percent of individuals are categorized by the U.S. Census Bureau as below the poverty level,” Morales wrote.

Miami Beach residents calling into the virtual meeting had mixed opinions on the project. Some supported the Menin Hospitality-led proposal, but others insisted that the city should use bond money, grants and donations to renovate the theater and operate it itself, rather than allow developers to replace it with apartments. Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, a former Miami Beach commissioner, denounced Gelber and commissioners David Richardson and Ricky Arriola as cheerleaders for the developers with “matching pom poms.”

“We can raise the money and renovate it…. Look at the Colony Theater,” Rosen Gonzalez said. “The entire deal does not pass the smell test.”

Gelber, though, feared that the Byron Carlyle could end up like the Coconut Grove Theater in Miami and the Roosevelt Theater in Mid-Beach’s 41st Street — empty and derelict for decades — if the city tries to redevelop the property itself. “I don’t want to spend five or six years on a project, have it fall apart, and end up starting all over again,” Gelber said.

Commissioner Arriola suggested that the city pass the resolution now and negotiate a better deal later, stressing that it would cost the city more than $3 million to get the current Byron Carlyle up to code. “If we don’t do this project, what is our alternative?” he asked.

But Gelber said he agreed with Carpenter and the rest of the administration that the deal still needs to be hammered out. “I am not going to support it today because it’s not fully baked,” Gelber said.

City Attorney Raul Aguila, who is slated to become Miami Beach’s interim city manager after Morales resigns on Friday, said he will try to bring a new deal to the commission by Feb. 24. The city will also retain the services of an independent appraiser to determine the true value of the Byron Carlyle.