Category Archives: People

Belle Isle personalities and celebrity sightings

Belle Isle boil water advisory ends

Make that pot of coffee.

The city of Miami Beach says the boil water advisory for Belle Isle has ended. Testing shows our tap water is safe for drinking and cooking.

The advisory was put in place Monday evening, after a water main break stopped water service to Belle Isle residents.

Belle Isle resident leads the fight against Miami Beach water pollution

Dave Doebler

Dave Doebler

There’s a great profile in today’s Miami Herald of Belle Isle resident David Doebler, who has devoted amazing energy to cleaning debris from Miami Beach’s waterways to keep them — and the city drainage system — clean.

Doebler already has received the key to the city from Miami Beach, and his pesonal crusade has led the Beach to look into cleaning the drains more frequently.

He also put together two Slide Share presentations on all the bad stuff he found in Beach waterways.

Take a look.

Sunset from Belle Isle

These are beautiful, from the Grand Venetian, by Herb Frank. IMAG0784IMAG0786


Belle Isle scenes from Miami Marathon 2014

The runners came dressed for success

The runners came dressed for success

It was a warm and wonderful Sunday on Belle Isle, and some 25,000 runners crossed our island, pursuing personal milestones. Volunteers gave them water and Gatorade and we cheered them on….(Thanks to Belle Isle’s Steve Neifeld for the photos)


Getting ready for Miami Marathon Sunday

Scenes from 2013 Miami Marathon

Scenes from 2013 Miami Marathon

We’re in the countdown to Miami Marathon (and Half-Marathon) Sunday.

The big race happens Sunday morning, with a 6 a.m. start downtown near American Airlines Arena downtown. The route should bring the first races (wheelchair competitors) to Belle Isle around 6:45 a.m.

IMG_4636We can expect runners crossing the island and the rest of the Venetian Causeway in a steady stream at least until 9:30 a.m. — 27,000 in all.

Plan ahead — for breakfast at home, or a walk to the story, or better yet, getting up early to go out and cheer the runners.

When runners pass us by, they will be about 8 miles into either a 13.1-mile or 26.2 mile journey. They’d love your support, and they have worked hard for this day.

If you have to leave the island, know you can only go east, and it will be a slow slog…..


Hail to the chief — and a Wednesday evening traffic crunch

It’s great to be popular, as long as you can stand the traffic.

Miami Beach is a frequent destination for presidential visitors (the real deal or candidates who want to be).  President Obama is coming to town Wednesday for a fundraiser on the Sunset Islands.

His travel back and forth will take place between 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m., and for portions of that time span, there will be delays on the Julia Tuttle Causeway, Alton Road and the general area around the Sunset islands.

If you are coming home across the Tuttle, you might want to consider the Venetian. Or coming home early.

Considered yourself warned.

Planning board considers 17th Street hotel at 5 p.m.; expect a crowd

Rendering of the hotel from the Collins Canal.

Rendering of the hotel from the Collins Canal.

The Miami Beach Planning Board has scheduled a 5 p.m.  hearing on the proposed Marriott Residence Inn on 17th Street and West Avenue.

Expect a big crowd and a lengthy discussion.

The Finvarb Group wants to build a 116-room hotel on the property. It’s a sleek five-story hotel designed by architect Kobi Karp, with 66 parking spaces.

The property, owned by the Miami Beach Housing Authority, is tight, tucked between 17th Street and the Collins Canal, west of the apartment building that houses the Vespa store and other retail, and the Boston Market on Alton Road.

A coalition of neighborhood groups — including the Belle Isle Residents Association, the West Avenue Corridor Neighborhood Association, Venetian Causeway Homeowners Association and six more — are asking the Planning Board to delay approval until the city can better study its impact on traffic. They have also suggested the property should be preserved as green space.

They are urging their members to show up at the meeting wearing red.

In a letter to Planning Board members, BIRA President Scott Diffenderfer said the impact of the planned West Avenue bridge, which will form the west boundary of the hotel property, needs to be considered in the plan, along with the expansion of the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Planning Board members also will hear from supporters of the project, many of whom posted comments during the weekend on BelleIsleBlog. Several praised the design and said a hotel like a Residence Inn — which caters to business travelers and longer stays — would be an amenity to residents who have friends and family visiting. They also argue that the hotel would have less impact on traffic than other businesses that could be built on the property, like a fast food restaurant or a drug store.

In its analysis of the proposal, city of Miami Beach planners recommended approving it, subject to many conditions. The on-site restaurant must be for hotel guests only. The roof-top pool must close by 11 p.m. The hotel has to provide a shuttle for employees who park off-site. And more.

The project still must be scrutinized by the Miami Beach Design Review Board.

17th Street hotel developer to meet with Belle Isle Residents Association

The developers of a Marriott Residence Inn proposed to be built on a sliver of land between 17th Street and the Collins Canal will present plans to members of the Belle Isle Residents Association on Thursday, April 4.

The 116-room hotel is proposed by the Finvarb Group, developer and owner of at least seven Marriott properties across the country, included the Marriott Courtyard on Washington Avenue in South Beach.

The land where the hotel would be built, north of 17th Street between Alton Road and West Avenue, is owned by the Miami Beach Housing Authority. Finvarb has negotiated to buy it, assuming the hotel project is approved by the city.

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 controversial decision was opposed by the Belle Isle Residents Association and the West Avenue Corridor Neighborhood Association.

At the meeting BIRA representatives complained that the city Parking and Transportation Committee was not asked to review the parking policy change, and the hotel project had not been presented to Belle Isle homeowners. Michael Larkin, the lawyer representing Finvarb, said there had been a meeting scheduled with Belle Isle but it was cancelled because of a death in the Finvarb family.

The project still must be approved by the Miami Beach Planning Board.

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.


Congrats to Belle Isle volunteers; the folks who give our neighborhood its voice

Belle Isle Blog is overdue in recognizing the newly elected Belle Isle Residents Association board, which plays a crucial role as our neighborhood advocate on key issues at Miami Beach City Hall and with Miami-Dade County and the Florida Department of Transportation.

They are active (in their day jobs) in areas from architecture to real estate, and many have key roles in other volunteer quality of life ventures — from Miami Beach committees to civic groups.

The association’s president, Scott Diffenderfer (Belle Plaza), is a local Realtor and a member of Miami Beach’s Transportation Committee.

Vice President Charlie Urstadt lives in Belle Towers, and last month was selected as chair of the city of Miami Beach Planning Board. Urstadt also serves as chair of the Miami Beach Design Preservation League, a director of Friends of Miami Marine Stadium and is managing director of Urstadt Real Estate, a consulting firm.

Jean Francois-Lejeune (Belle Plaza) is a professor of architecture (and director of graduate studies) at the University of Miami, author and a Miami Beach Planning Board member.

Nancy Liebman (9 Island Avenue) is a former Miami Beach City Commissioner, and along with long-time board member Herb Frank, one of the founders  of the activist group Miami Beach United. Frank is active with Scenic Miami.

At the risk of leaving anyone out, here’s a complete list of board members as of the latest Belle Island Association election, from the association website:

  • Scott Diffenderfer (20 Island Avenue) [President]
  • Josh Fisher (9 Island Avenue)
  • Herb Frank (10 Venetian Way) [Treasurer]
  • Garry Korr (11 Island Avenue)
  • Sandra Money (3 Island Avenue)
  • Barbara Frank (10 Venetian Way)
  • Nancy Liebman (9 Island Avenue)
  • David Leeds (20 Island Avenue)
  • Monica Tracy (5 Island Avenue) [Secretary)
Directors Elected 2012 (Terms expire January, 2014)

  • Nancy Beckham (20 Island Avenue)
  • Jean-Francois Lejeune with wife Astrid Rotemberg as Sub (20 Island Avenue)
  • Elaine Solomon (1 Century Lane) [Elected January 2013]
  • Charles Urstadt (16 Island Avenue)  [Vice-President]


Secretary Monica Tracey (5 Island Ave.) is an active area real estate agent.