In a rare move, Miami’s Urban Development Review Board has rejected a 60-story mixed-use residential tower proposed for Edgewater.
On a vote of 5 to 1, the board voted to recommend denial of the project to the city’s planning director.
Board members voiced many concerns regarding the planned traffic and pedestrian circulation of the planned skyscraper.
The project’s working name is 560-640 NE 34 Street, planned for Northeast 34th Street, east of Biscayne Boulevard and about two blocks south of the Julia Tuttle Causeway. It is a waterfront site on Biscayne Bay.
The owner-developer is Biscayne North LLC, represented by attorneys Tony Recio and Edward Martos.
The project proposes a tower with 241 dwellings, amenities, a 4,696-square-foot restaurant, and a garage with 848 spaces. It was described as a luxury rental.
Total floor area is calculated at 1,433,207 square feet. The zoning code requires at least 21,235 square feet of open space, while the developer plans 117,572 square feet.
In a letter, Mr. Martos said the property consists of two parcels bisected by Northeast 34th Street. In total, the property has a gross lot area of 214,029 square feet or about 4.91 acres.
“The Project has been thoughtfully designed on a challenging site with two principal frontages (NE 34 Street and the waterfront) to maximize activation of the water frontage and includes a restaurant area to invite public participation into that area,” wrote Mr. Martos.
“Although part of a separate effort, the long-term goal is to close off a portion of the 34th Street street-end to cars, enhance it with landscape and hardscape improvements and create a waterfront pedestrian plaza that essentially acts like a 15,000-square-foot public park on the water.
“Combined with Baywalk improvements, the Applicant envisions transforming the currently underutilized and desolate street-end into a lively entertainment and recreation area on the water with connectivity north and south that brings the City’s goals for public access to the Bay to fruition,” he said.
The project was designed by architectural firm Stantec.
Board member Anthony Tzamtzis said the developer’s team, in trying to design the maximum possible building, created very difficult problems for the site.
Board Chair Ignacio Permuy said, “You have a lot of nice features. It’s a very elegant tower and I especially like how it anchors all the way down to the ground. It’s a very strong statement.”
He added, “In regards to massing, I appreciate the setbacks from the water but it does appear to be very heavy. And I do have concerns whether the parking is … is there a traffic study, a parking study for this?”
Mr. Recio said a traffic study is in progress.
Mr. Permuy said the developer’s team should reexamine the circulation patterns on the site plan.
Mr. Recio responded, “We are working with PARKPLUS. They already have two successful projects here (and across the country) … they will create an on-demand functioning system.”
Mr. Permuy said, “You’ve got to make sure you have enough room for staking.”
Board member Robert Behar said, “I like the building, but there’s a lot of issues with this project.”
Mr. Permuy said, “The restaurant is a major part of this project. I understand everything wants to be in the ground floor but not all could be. Perhaps some of these areas (uses) on the first floor could go to 1.5 or 2.”
He added, “When so many things start getting condensed and you start omitting some of the main circulation items, then that should be a concern to the team. Maybe perhaps they could be addressed in a different way. Maybe less parking spaces.
“But on the positive side you have a very elegant tower. It’s a beautiful project, beautiful design, and I agree with my colleagues on the articulation. But the massing, it’s a little bit – not a little bit – it’s significantly dense.”
Mr. Recio said, “We’d be happy to take your comments and work through them, as we go through this process.”
Board member Fidel Perez originally made a motion to recommend approval of the project, with a few conditions: that the developer reconsider the south wall, to break up that massing and give it more “play,” and revisit the designs for connectivity between the lobby, the restaurant and the waterfront.
Mr. Behar said the developer should analyze the traffic circulation to the loading area.
He said, “To me, today it does not work. Sorry to say it like that but it’s for your own benefit. It needs to be reconsidered. In addition, the south wall does need to be scaled back and have some landscaping, maybe as a green wall.”
Mr. Behar said the valet station needs to be moved closer to the front of the restaurant, or include a second valet station and have one dedicated to the residents and one to the restaurant.
Mr. Behar added, “I am in favor of the project. I will be voting in favor of the project but I believe there’s a lot of issues that need to be acknowledged.”
Mr. Recio said, “We really appreciate going forward. We will take this to heart and we will work with the planning director to implement.”
Just prior to the first vote, Mr. Permuy said, “In my view, I cannot approve a project knowing that there are so many issues that are wanting, and a lot of these are major issues.
“And there are several circulation issues you have, and I think it’s too many for the site,” said the chairman.
It was a tie vote with Mr. Perez, Mr. Behar and Ligia Ines Labrada voting yes, and Mr. Permuy, Mr. Tzamtzis and Dean Lewis voting no.
The motion to recommend approval with conditions failed because of the tie vote.
Mr. Behar then made a motion to deny the project. The lone no vote came from Mr. Perez.