Rishi Kapoor scores approval for Miami Beach co-living, micro-unit project
His Location Ventures had planned to have three-month leases, but commissioners imposed a six-month minimum term
Miami Beach commissioners tweaked city development regulations to benefit Rishi Kapoor’s planned co-living and micro-unit project on Washington Avenue.
Commissioners voted 6-1 on Wednesday to give final approval to an ordinance that allows for the development of co-living units on the east and west side of the North Washington Avenue district between 15th and 16th streets. Under the new code, developers have to vow that at least 20 percent of the apartments would be priced as workforce housing and that projects won’t be hotels or hostels.
Kapoor, who leads Coral Gables-based Location Ventures, is under contract to purchase the properties at 1509 and 1515 Washington Avenue. While he has previously declined to share project details, his attorney shed light on the plans during the commission meeting. It’s for 46 co-living apartments, which residents rent by the bedroom but have access to common areas; 48 micro-units that span 275 square feet; and 24 micro-units that span 448 square feet, attorney Michael Larkin said. The micro-units will include kitchens.
The vote stirred a discussion on the dais over the type of housing the city wants to provide, whether micro-units and co-living units truly address the lack of affordable housing, and if the project would amount to party houses.
After some debate, commissioners imposed a minimum lease term of six months and a day. That’s longer than the three-month to four-month terms that Larkin argued for on behalf of Kapoor, though the attorney reluctantly agreed to the longer lease term.
“There are seasonal workers who come here,” Larkin told commissioners. “We greatly prefer to have less than six months.”
Mayor Dan Gelber said during the meeting that six months and a day would at least allow “all those New Yorkers who come down” to get their tax benefit.
Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, who cast the dissenting vote, called for lease terms of at least a year, arguing that otherwise projects will be short-term rentals. She also took issue with the small unit sizes.
At 275 square feet, “you can literally be sitting in bed and be cooking like this,” Rosen Gonzalez said, motioning to illustrate a resident stirring a pot from bed. “I don’t want these small little units that are really going to be party units, because that is really what you can do in these units is party.”
Commissioners Ricky Arriola and David Richardson countered that the project would offset illegal Airbnb rentals in other parts of the city that are fueled by demand from seasonal workers and others who only need to stay in Miami Beach for a few months.
“I think it would actually present some good competition to Airbnbs, and it would put some of those Airbnbs out of business,” Arriola said.
The ordinance also sets a three-year time limit for Kapoor to apply for a building permit.
The developer already has approval for a six-story co-living project at 1260 Washington Avenue, which is in the South Washington Avenue district. The new ordinance gives him a year to apply for building permits for that project.
Kapoor bought the 1260 Washington Avenue site, which is a retail building, and the adjacent office property at 1234 Washington Avenue for $20 million in 2021.
His Location Ventures’ co-living development division is Urbin. It was inspired by his co-living project at 800 South Dixie Highway in Coral Gables. After buying all 24 units in 2017 and 2018, Location Ventures renovated them as co-living, targeting University of Miami students. The firm sold the property for $14.7 million in August.
In 2022, he also launched sales of a planned 11-story, 65-unit Edition Residences condominium at 551 Bayshore Drive in Fort Lauderdale.
Most recently, allegations surfaced that Kapoor’s Location Ventures had retained Miami Mayor Francis Suarez as a consultant, making eight $10,000 payments to the mayor between August of last year and March. The claims, revealed in a lawsuit filed by a former CFO for Location Ventures against the company, raises ethics questions about Suarez, as Kapoor is developing an Urbin-branded project in the city’s Coconut Grove, the Miami Herald first reported.