Developer Camilo Miguel Jr. won initial approval for a shorter, 85-foot tall version of his planned 4000 Alton Road condo project in mid-Miami Beach.
The Miami Beach City Commission on Wednesday passed on first reading three ordinances that will enable Miguel’s Mast Capital to build an 85-foot tall building with as many as 216 units. The proposal will be heard once again by the city’s planning board on Oct. 27, then the commission is expected to vote on second reading Nov. 18.
It’s the latest proposed iteration — and second slash in height — for the proposed project near the Julia Tuttle Causeway.
On Aug. 25, the planning board unanimously voted against a height increase that would have enabled him to build a 12-story, 140-foot tall high-rise with 128 luxury condos in an area that only allows 85-foot tall buildings. Three months earlier, Miguel had proposed a 290-foot-tall tower with 160 condo units.
At the commission meeting, Miguel said he is no longer looking for a height increase due to backlash from several residents in the surrounding Mid-Beach area. “Listening to the community, we decided to abandon any request for height relief at this time,” he said.
Instead, Mast Capital asked for revised setback requirements that would allow the building to be between 10 feet and 15 feet from the street. The setbacks would provide space between the future residential project and Talmudic University, according to Miguel’s attorney, Michael Larkin. “We want to give [Talmudic University] the appropriate breathing space,” Larkin said.
Mast Capital is still pursuing a change in zoning of an adjacent 17,680-square foot plot of land from government use to residential multifamily, medium intensity, as well as a similar change in the city’s comprehensive plan for the parcel.
Miguel is contracted to buy the land from the Florida Department of Transportation in order to boost his development rights. The price of that parcel has not been disclosed, although Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales told Mayor Dan Gelber and commissioners that FDOT was trying, at least several months ago, to sell the surplus land for between $1.5 million and $2 million.
Mast Capital’s new application didn’t specify how many residential units would be built on site. However, Tom Mooney, the city’s planning director, estimated that, by including the FDOT parcel, between 30 and 41 additional units could be added to the 175 units Miguel is already entitled to build as of right.
During the commission meeting, four people spoke in favor of the project, including Rabbi Yochanan Zweig, president of Talmudic University.
Yet, although the height was reduced, six people spoke against the Mast Capital project, including Father Roberto Cid of St. Patrick’s Church, which is across the street from the development site. Cid complained that the new project will make traffic even worse in the surrounding area.
“The level of service at the intersection of Alton Road and 41st Street is [already] unacceptable,” Cid said, later adding: “I beg the commission to listen to [the planning board] who unanimously voted against these requests. Listen to the clamor of homeowners’ associations, and disregard the [positive] recommendation of the outgoing city manager. Vote for the public good. Vote against this project.”
(Morales, who recommended in favor of the zoning changes, recently announced his intention to resign by Feb. 1.)
Robert Arkin, head of the Arkin Group, a Miami Beach-based construction and development company, said he opposed the setback variances. Arkin, who said he lived 100 yards from the site, claimed that allowing such a building so close to the street would be an eyesore. “The setbacks should remain as far away from the street as possible,” he said.
Commissioner Ricky Arriola, who previously expressed support of Miguel’s earlier 290-foot-tall condo tower design, said the developer has a right to build something on the site, and by approving the setback changes, the city will be getting a better project.
“If they do it as of right, they’re going to smush a building up against Talmudic University,” Arriola said. “I, for one, don’t think that’s a good project.”
But commissioners Mark Samuelian and Micky Steinberg thought the item should be kicked back to the planning board before the elected body votes on it at all. They also wanted to see an actual proposed building design, and not just a massing study depiction. “I’m uncomfortable moving this forward,” Steinberg said.
Commissioners Steve Meiner and Michael Gongora said they would vote ‘yes’ on first reading if the planning board looks at the entire “package” prior to second reading. “This is a difficult item,” Gongora said, noting the unanimous vote against the project by the planning board and opposition from the surrounding community.
Mayor Dan Gelber agreed that he would feel better if the planning board opined on the new version of Mast Capital’s project.
When the vote was taken, the variance request and the change in zoning for the FDOT parcel passed 5 to 2, with Samuelian and Steinberg dissenting. The change in the city’s comprehensive plan for the FDOT parcel passed 6 to 1 with Samuelian dissenting.
Miguel purchased Talmudic University’s 1.9-acre parking lot and basketball court for $17.1 million in October 2014, eight months after the city agreed to increase the site’s height limit from 60 to 85 feet. In February 2016, Mast Capital launched sales for what was then planned as an eight-story, 78-unit condo called 3900 Alton. Those plans were eventually scrapped.
– Erik Bojnansky