The North Miami Beach city commission voted 5-2 last month to approve a large-scale housing development that just weeks prior seemed to have little support.
Developer May NMB LLC – a collaboration between New Jersey-based Accurate Builders and Kastel Development – brought forth a series of compromises in response to outcries from both commissioners and residents in December 2023 that the plan in its original form wasn’t cutting it.
The proposal for 16385 NE 22nd Ave. consists of three towers, which would comprise 1,217 residential units, approximately 23,300 square feet of commercial space, 1,622 parking spaces and several amenities, including two pools, a spa, a running track and green space throughout. A deferral at the Dec. 19, 2023, meeting and a request for a workshop thereafter resulted in the addition of a valet-only parking level, additional public art, a modified facade material and paint job within the design, and a workforce housing designation for 15% of the units.
The developers also agreed to hire local and minority employees and contractors, increase its community benefits donation from $100,000 to $150,000, and file permits for demolition within four months of approval to avoid blight and vagrancy at the existing structure. Construction won’t begin until 2027 or 2028, so the site may be used for temporary city uses and pop-up events in the meantime.
Public discussions on the project totaled roughly nine hours between two commission meetings and a workshop. Still, Commissioner Michael Joseph suggested a second deferment and a special meeting to finalize unanswered questions before the vote was called. That idea was turned down.
Joseph said an additional week would give the developer enough time to incorporate the new Brightline station in Aventura and the downtown Tri-Rail extension into its traffic study. Others doubted the necessity.
“We’re having this traffic whether that’s built or not built,” said Commissioner Phyllis Smith, “and we’re not benefiting. It’s just going through (our city).”
Traffic was of great concern to residents who have long been waiting for the expansion of Harriet Tubman Highway, formerly West Dixie Highway, which is hardly a block away from the development site. Miami-Dade County is now expected to begin construction on the widening of the highway in 2025.
May NMB has additionally committed to realigning an intersection adjacent to its project on NE 164th Street.
Joseph also said a deferral would allow the city to seek out a cost appraisal for air rights being sought by the developer to situate a large art piece above 164th Street between buildings. Negotiations for the sale of those air rights are now pending.
The biggest concern for Joseph, however, was his inability to get his hands on a contract delineating the sale agreement between May NMB and the owners of Laurenzo’s food market, which currently inhabits the site. The Laurenzo brothers remained owners of the land as developers sought approval for the new site plan. Matthew Amster, an attorney with Bercow Radell Fernandez Larkin & Tapanes representing May NMB, said that the sale of the property was contingent upon commission approval and had been negotiated for approximately two years.
“Who are the players?” asked Joseph of the contract, which he was told is confidential. “We’re giving them a benefit and we don’t know who really benefits from it.”
Joseph and Commissioner Fortuna Smukler were the dissenting votes. Others who voted yes seemed to do so begrudgingly; Commissioners Smith and McKenzie Fleurimond acknowledged their obligation to comply with city codes.
“If we don’t like what this building represents, we have to change the code,” said Smith. “The code says they can build it.”
Indeed, the development is planned strategically for the zone of highest density within the Fulford Mixed-Use/Town Center District, which was created in 2015. The district was formed to spur development and investment using what is called a “basket of rights,” in which density limits are designated for an entire area rather than each individual plot of land. The 168.5-acre district allows for 9,633 units in total, which developers can dip into depending on what is still available.
With the approval of May NMB’s plan, along with that of two other proposals currently in process, 1,020 units remain up for grabs in the district.
“I think that we need the density,” said Mayor Evan Piper, a proponent for the May NMB plan. “We need the people. We need the opportunity to provide diversity.”