Category Archives: Condomania

Issues and aggravation in our buildings, from decisions on renovations to the antics of owners.

Still no water on Belle Isle; boil water order will be in effect when service is restored

Miami Beach public works crews continue their work on the damaged water main on Belle Isle, and island residents remain without water — and air conditioning, if their building has a cooling tower.

Nine Island Avenue residents were advised by property manager Scott Parker that when water service is restored, the island will be under a boil water order for 48 hours. That is, water will need to be boiled before use in cooking or for drinking.

Towering highrise proposed for West Avenue

Rendering of proposed rental/retail at South Shore.

Rendering of earlier proposed rental/retail at South Shore.

Remember developer Russell Galbut’s plans for 600 Alton Road?

In early 2013, the developer had a series of community meetings for a proposal to use the property — between West Avenue and Alton Road and Fifth and Seventh streets including the old (and abandoned) South Shore Hospital building — as a large rental-retail commercial project.

He got some neighborhood buy in.

In summary, the project called for 60,000 square feet of retail and restaurant uses on the ground floor, 444 apartments, 1,073 parking spaces below ground. A new seven-story building was to be built on the 500 block of Alton Road, and a five-story building on the 600 block. The South Shore Hospital building, 10 stories, would be rehabbed and included.

That was the tallest part of the project.

Fast-forward a year. Tonight, Galbut’s Crescent Heights company is teaming with Jorge Perez’s Related Companies to pitch the neighborhood on a 50-story tower on the site.

Belle Isle Blog believes it would be the tallest building on Miami Beach — or at least the one with the most floors (Green and Blue Diamond have those triangles on top of their 44 floors, rising to 559 feet).

The meeting happens at 6:30 p.m. at the Related South Beach Sales Center, 91 Collins Avenue.

There is a a model of the tower on display from all day today at that center.

Palau project to move forward

A rendering of Palau at Sunset Harbour.

A rendering of Palau at Sunset Harbour.

The developers of the Palau condo — the condo-retailed project that includes the old Mark’s Cleaners site — have made peace with their Sunset Harbour neighbors, The Miami Herald is reporting.

According to an agreement provided last week to the city of Miami Beach, the developers of Palau — which include the Disney family — will position the  project further back from the bridge to Sunset Islands 3 and 4, provide greater setbacks of the retail space. There will be a public plaza near the bridge as well.

Sunset Island residents in March persuaded the Miami Beach Planning Board to reconsider an approval its approval of the project.

The project, designed by Kobi Karp, includes 50 condo units in addition to 11,000 square feet of retail space.


Belle Isle leaders push for green space for 17th Street, not proposed Marriott hotel

Rendering of proposed Marriott hotel

Rendering of proposed Marriott hotel

The Belle Isle Residents Association asked 10 other neighborhood associations to join them in urging Miami Beach to use Housing Authority land north of 17th Street at West Avenue for green space, rather than sell most of it to a hotel developer.

Proposed Residence Inn site north of 17th Street

Proposed Residence Inn site north of 17th Street

The Housing Authority has an agreement to sell about 25,000 square feet of land east of West Avenue between 17th Street and the Collins Canal to the Finvarb Group, which owns and operates several Marriott properties. Finvarb plans to build a 116-room Residence Inn on the property, and the proposal is scheduled to be heard by the Miami Beach Planning Board on April 30.

The Belle Isle Association letter, signed by BIRA president Scott Diffenderfer, argues the property is too small the accommodate the development and is too awkwardly places amid intersections on Alton Road, 17th Street, Dade Boulevard and West Avenue and therefore will result in added traffic congestion.

“Residents of the surrounding neighborhoods need to write to the Planning Board Members and City Commissioners,” Diffenderfer wrote.  “Please circulate the attached “Green Spaces-Not Traffic” document to the residents you represent and ask those who wish to support this position to do so now before the April 30 Planning Board meeting.”

The purchase of the Housing Authority land is contingent on city approval of the hotel.

On March 13, the Miami Beach City Commission relaxed parking requirements for small hotels in the city’s historic district, and added the 17th Street parking to the the more generous rules. That decision was opposed by the Belle Isle Residents Association and the West Avenue Corridor Neighborhood Association.

So far, four neighborhood associations have signed on to the Belle Isle association initiative, according to Belle Isle board member Herb Frank: the West Avenue Corridor Neighborhood Association, the Venetian Island Homeowner Association, Sunset Island homeowners and the Sunset Island 3 and 4 homeowners group.

Interestingly, one member of the Planning Board,  real estate analyst Charles Urstadt, is a Belle Isle association board member, and a second, architecture professor Jean-Francois LeJeune, was on the board until he resigned in March. A third, Frank Kruszewski, is the former manager of the Costa Brava condominium on Belle Isle and  lives in Sunset Harbour. (Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Kruszewski is currently the manager at Costa Brava; he no longer is).

Time machine: a Belle Isle mansion at a bargain price

The Adams estate made way for Belle Towers and Belle Plaza.

The Adams estate made way for Belle Towers, Belle Plaza and Costa Brava.

Ever plumb through the historical magazines and newspapers at the Sunday Lincoln Road market?

One of our neighbors from Belle Towers found a gem Sunday.

“I walked up to talk to the magazine lady at the flea market and this guy asked about this house. He lives in Belle Meade and thought this was a mistake! I said no its where I live. He was buying it. I said can I buy it? Lol. He said no. So I took a picture at least.”

You can click on the photo to read the description, but the highlights are: The main house had 11 bedrooms, eight baths, a 75×35 foot music room with a Aeolian pipe organ, and an eight car garage. Oh, and 650 feet of water frontage. All for $350,000. Such as deal!

The Adams estate on the southeast end of Belle Isle.

The Adams estate on the southeast end of Belle Isle.

Joseph Adams owned a big chunk of Belle Isle back in the day. His sprawling estate covered the property where developers built Belle Tower (16 Island Ave., in 1958, Belle Plaza (20 Island Ave., 1962, and Costa Brava (11 Island Ave., 1972).

Adams was a millionaire who came to Florida in 1924. He was an author and inventor who developed something known as the “oil-cracking process,” a way of making larger volumes of gasoline from crude oil by applying continuous heat and pressure. In 1919 and 1920, he obtained patents for the process and machinery that were sold to the Texas Oil Company (which became Texaco) and Standard Oil. He later had a $1 million tax battle with the IRS over income from the patents.

He was one of the founders of the University of Miami, and the boathouse on his Belle Isle estate was the first location of UM’s Rosentiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. He willed it to UM in his estate (he died in 1941 at age 74).

This photo shows the Joseph Adams and JC Penney estates

This photo shows the Adams and Penney estates

When President-elect Herbert Hoover stayed at the J.C. Penney estate (now 9 Island Avenue) for four weeks starting on Jan. 22, 1929, some 30 staffers and journalists stayed at the adjacent Adams estate, thanks to an agreement between Penney and Adams.

Hoover stayed on Belle Isle before his inauguration (back then, presidential inaugurations were in March), and went fishing on Adams yacht, the Amitie.

The house briefly served as the home of Miami Beach’s first Episcopal Church (All Souls, now on Pine Tree Drive), which was allowed to hold services in the massive music room after Adams death in 1941.


West Avenue Corridor group to hold first-ever annual meeting

The West Avenue Corridor Neighborhood Association — a  community group that’s been extremely active on issues from bicycle and pedestrian safety to zoning and flooding issues — holds its first annual meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19 at the Mirador 1200 condominium.

With leadership from co-chairs Christine Florez and Gayle Durham, the WAVNA community group has drawn serious attention from Miami Beach officials and developers who want to do business in the area. Florez, by the way, recently filed papers to run for the Miami Beach City Commission.

Key items on the West Avenue agenda this year:

–How the city and the Florida Department of Transportation handle the reconstruction of Alton Road and new pumping stations to reduce flooding;

The proposal from Crescent Heights to replace South Shore Hospital with a large new rental/retail complex called 600 Alton Road. The proposal goes to the Miami Beach Planning Board on Feb. 26, and the Design Review Board on March 6.

– How Miami Beach deals with valet parking and neighborhood concerns associated with the renovation of Southgate Towers on the east side of West Avenue and 10th Street and plans to open a 200-seat restaurant with outdoor seating and valet parking on that property.

– The efforts of the Bikini Hostel, 1255 West Ave., to acquire a liquor license. The association launched a petition drive to try and block the granting of the liquor license.

Parttime Belle Isle resident wins case at Supreme Court



Fane Lozman, former Marine, commodities trader and civic activist, won his case before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. He’s on the front page of The Miami Herald today.

In a 7-2 decision, the Supremes decided the city of Riviera Beach, where Lozman used to live, could not regulate Lozman’s former home as a maritime vessel.

The court concluded that Riviera Beach went too far when it used maritime law to seize and eventually destroy Lozman’s houseboat.

Congrats to our Belle Isle neighbor, who spends a lot of time at Nine Island Avenue.

You may remember that Lozman got into a dust-up last year with KW Property Management at Nine Island, when his Ducati motorcycle disappeared from the parking garage. When he brought up the theft at a condo board meeting, he said the building management tried to shut him up and called Miami Beach police.

As we blogged back then — Lozman isn’t a guy to be taken lightly.

West Avenue neighborhood fights liquor license sought by Bikini Hostel

On its website, Bikini Hostel sells skin.

On its website, Bikini Hostel sells skin.

You may not know it, but there’s a youth hostel down the street on West Avenue with a name you might expect more for a soft-core movie than a lodging residence: Bikini Hostel.

If it sounds a little scandalous, here’s a snippet from the About section of the Bikini Hostel website:

Party! Party! Party! You will be able to party all night long and then sleep any time in quiet and comfort…Staying at the Bikini Hostel Resort, you are across the street from the intra-coastal water way views of Miami Beach—tropical palm tree islands, downtown Miami— nightly lit up skyline and the weekend DJ pool parties at the Mondrian Hotel – where the hottest beautiful bodies groove to the sexiest music and play in the sun all day long!

Well, then.

The Bikini Hostel is comprised of an apartment building at 1247 West Ave., and two adjacent homes, at 1255 West Ave and 1234 13 St.

More from

More from

The West Avenue Corridor Neighborhood Association isn’t exactly thrilled to have the hostel in their hood. And even less thrilled with the prospect of the place getting a liquor license.  What to do?

They are petitioning to block the request. The petition says, in part:

The Bikini Hostel is a nuisance as it is but adding a license to alcohol will only make it worse. The hostel is incompatible with this highly residential and stable community. We oppose the Bikini Hostel’s application for a liquor license.

Of course, there are several places to buy beer, wine or hard liquor near the hostel — certainly within a three block walk.

Looking into 2013: What’s coming to Belle Isle, the Venetian islands, Sunset Harbour and West Avenue

As we cross into 2013, it’s a good time to recap the major neighborhood issues of 2012 and what to expect in 2013.

In 2012, we survived the trauma of Venetian Causeway construction, frequent flooding in Sunset Harbour and and along West Avenue and Alton Road, sidewalks lost to work on the new parking garage and shops and the new bikeway along the Collins Canal.

We saw Miami Beach and the Florida Department of Transportation push forward plans for a bridge over the canal at West Avenue.

Our culinary options expanded with the rise of the Pubbelly empire on Sunset Harbour. We’ll have PB Steak in mid-January 2013.

And what else will the new year bring?

New road projects that will create short-term inconvenience, and hopefully long-term benefit. More development pressure. And discussion of how to resolve the flooding headaches caused by rising sea level. Some key issues:

Location of drainage construction corridors.

Location of drainage construction corridors.

Alton Road Construction. The city of Miami Beach will take on a major road improvement and drainage project, starting in April, along Alton Road. The work will extend from Fifth Street to Michigan Avenue, working from south to north, and it’s expected to last two-and-one-half years.

The $27.5 million project will include the installation of a new drainage system, with new pumping stations at Fifth, 10th and 14th streets. It also will include new signage, stoplights and street lights. There will be road closings and detours for the pumping stations (on 10th and 14th streets) and the diversion of traffic to West Avenue.

– Streetscape on Venetian Isles. Work will begin on the long-awaited streetscape project that will bring new landscaping, lighting, sidewalks and drainage to Rivo Alton, DiLido and San Marino Islands. It should have little impact on Venetian Way, and will greatly prettify the islands themselves.

The Sunset Harbour boom. We’ve only seen two stores open in Sunset Harbour shops, but in the first quarter of 2013, we’ll see more stores and restaurants and the area turning into an even more attractive destination. How will it accommodate the traffic? And what happens when the streets flood. It’s great to see all the activity, but a little worrisome at the same time.

Sunpass on the Venetian. By May 2013, the Venetian Causeway toll system is supposed to switch to Sunpass, though the county is far behind schedule in converting the Rickenbacker Causeway away from C-Pass and there’s been slippage for the Venetian as well. Many worry the change will encourage more traffic on the Venetian. We’ll keep you posted on the timeline for this change.

Rendering of proposed rental/retail at South Shore.

Rendering of proposed rental/retail at South Shore.

West Avenue development. There are a number of important development proposals on the table for 2013 on West Avenue: a renovation of Southgate Towers, including a 200-seat restaurant; replacing the old South Shore Hospital with a rental project with street-level retail, and a Marriott Residence Inn north 17th Street off Alton Road. There’s a Jan. 15 presentation on the South Shore Hospital plan.


Christmas present on Belle Isle: 9 Island pool reopens!

The pool and deck at 9 Island Avenue finally open.

The pool and deck at 9 Island Avenue finally open.

After 19 months of construction, the pool and deck at 9 Island Avenue reopened on Christmas Day.

A gorgeous day at the pool.

A gorgeous day at the pool.

Surrounded by brand new white patio lounges and chairs, with blue cushions, the sparkling water was a huge hit with residents, who began gathering poolside after 9 a.m.

The pool closed in May 2011 for a massive deck and parking garage construction project. There’s still some work to be done — the pool landscaping isn’t finished, nor is is all the work on the two garage levels — what’s complete looks great.