For the next phase of development in the Miami Design District, Craig Robins is aiming high.
The Miami Planning and Zoning Appeals Board voted 10-1 on Wednesday to approve zoning changes in the luxury retail and cultural district that will allow Robins’ Dacra to build a mixed-use project anchored by a 36-story tower.
The nearly 1.8-acre development site is on two vacant parcels at 3750 Biscayne Boulevard and 299 Northeast 39th Street, acting as a gateway into the Miami Design District. Most of the district is owned and developed by a partnership involving Dacra, luxury goods titan LVMH and private investment firm L Catterton. The proposed gateway site is also near the FEC train tracks and the proposed site of a commuter train station to be developed by Brightline.
The proposed zoning changes would grant Dacra a height increase from 20 stories to 36 stories and shift unused intensity and density from other commercial properties in the Design District to the proposed 36-story building, which would rise on the Biscayne Boulevard property.
The city commission still has to vote on the request for final approval.
At the planning board meeting, Robins and his attorney Neisen Kasdin said the entire project would not exceed 845,000 square feet, which is what is currently allowed for the Biscayne Boulevard property, according to the Design District Special Area Plan. The project could entail a mix of offices, residential and some retail, although Dacra has not provided detailed renderings. The planning board also added a car dealership as an allowed use to the SAP.
“We have the right to build every single square foot that we are asking you for today,” Robins told planning board members. “There is zero impact that our project causes from what we can do as a matter of right….We just want to be able to do something that is architecturally significant.”
Still, Paul Mann, the sole planning board member who voted against Dacra, and attorneys for Manhattan-based private investment firm MacArthur Capital Group, which owns a neighboring property, said the height increase and the transferring of unused intensity and density from other properties would set a bad precedent.
“Any special area plan — past, present and future — can take advantage of this new density and intensity transfer program,” Mann said. “It seems to me like it is dangerous. I don’t see anything beautiful about a 36-story building sticking up in the middle of nowhere.”
The nearest tall building to the proposed site is the 12-story Quadro condominium at 3900 Biscayne Boulevard.
Paul Savage, a lawyer for MacArthur, said Dacra’s proposed 36-story tower is unlike any other building in the Design District, which is largely made up of low-rise commercial retail buildings. “It is certainly not appropriate or transitional to the area,” Savage said. “This has far-reaching implications, not to mention how the 36-story height will impact my client.”
Through an affiliate, MacArthur owns a one-story retail building with a surface parking lot at 3701 and 3737 Biscayne Boulevard, which is directly east of Dacra’s proposed project. According to city documents, MacArthur sought approvals in 2015 to change the zoning so the company could develop a four-story building consisting of two stories of parking and two stories of office space. At the time, Robins opposed MacArthur’s request which the company subsequently withdrew. He suggested that was the reason MacArthur wanted to object to Dacra’s plan.
“The MacArthur site is not developable because there is an alley that goes through it,” Robins said. “They have been pressuring me to support vacating the alley to build a massive high-rise….I will not be pressured or extorted into supporting something that will be bad for the community.”