Venetian Way alliance to meet Tuesday; huge Watson Island project tops neighborhood concerns

The Venetian Way Neighborhood Alliance, a consortium of island organizations that ranges from Biscayne Island on the west to Belle Isle on the east, holds its annual meeting Tuesday.

Topic No. 1 is the fight against Flagstone, the huge project proposed to be built on Watson Island that would include a megayacht marina, a hotels, shops and restaurants.

The Belle Isle Residents Association in February voted to contribute $1,000 to the legal fight against the proposed development.

An organization called the Coalition Against Causeway Chaos, led by Roger Craver, Stephen Herbits and Sharon Kirby Wayne are leading that effort. They have sued the city of Miami, seeking to stop the project.

Flagstone is one of several important issues that will be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at 1000 Venetian Way on Biscayne Island. Other topics:

  — Plans for the expected development of the former Miami Herald property, now owned by casino developers Genting.

— Plans for the west Venetian bridge repairs and renovation, which is expected to begin around June 1, as well as information on the east bridge lockdown and the impact of the change to SunPass.

— Electing leaders for 2015.

 

If you think Venetian traffic is frustrating today, wait until the west bridge closes after June 1

The eastern drawbridge on Venetian Way is stuck in the up position for the second time today, and getting back to the mainland is a giant pain.

It’s a taste of what we’ll experience daily starting in about six weeks.

The reconstruction of the westernmost Venetian Causeway bridge, between mainland Miami and Biscayne Island, looks likely to start after June 1.

City commissioners were briefed about the timetable on Wednesday, and residents attended a community meeting Thursday night at the Miami Beach Police station.

The Coast Guard, according to the city, has agreed that during construction, the drawbridge on the eastern side of the causeway will remain locked down and only raised for Coast Guard emergency vehicles in emergency situations.

If only that span were locked down today…..

Three-story home proposed for tiny Farrey Lane on Belle Isle

The vacant property at 7 Farrey Lane is next to the Standard.

The vacant property at 7 Farrey Lane is next to the Standard.

A prominent Miami Beach architect wants to build a three-story glass and concrete home on the Biscayne Bay end of Belle Isle’s Farrey Lane, just east of The Standard spa resort.

IMG_4589The bayfront site is small, as are all the lots on Farrey Lane, one of two Belle Isle streets developed in the early 1940s with one-story villas. The property is almost 4,300 square feet, tiny by single-family home standards, though the among the largest on Farrey Lane.

The owner is architect Rene Gonzalez, noted for his contemporary glass and stone designs for homes and buildings. One home he designed, a 30,000-square-foot mansion in Indian Creek Village, sold for $47 million in 2012, then the most expensive home sale in Miami-Dade County.

The Farrey Lane home obviously is much smaller than that — proposed to be 2,700 square feet. Gonzalez bought the vacant lot in March 2014 for $1,435,000.

Gonzalez’s proposal may be smaller than his other projects, but it’s big for Farrey Lane, where property records show most homes are two-bedroom, one-bath, and about 1,200 square feet. There are two three bedroom homes on the street, one 1,500 square feet, and the other 2,400, and they also front the bay. All are one story.

The 3-story home would go here.

The 3-story home would go here.

The 40-foot height of the home is driven in part by elevating it for flood protection.

Miami Beach’s Design Review Board is scheduled to consider the project on Tuesday. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.

Gonzalez is seeking three variances, all driven by the small size of the lot. They would waive minimum setbacks for a dock, for side property lines and for parking in front of the home.

City staff has recommended approving the variances, noting that the actual square footage of the home doesn’t require a variance, nor does the building height.

The bungalows on Farrey.

The bungalows on Farrey.

The Belle Isle Residents Association wants the Design Board to delay its decision. In a email to homeowners, BIRA president Scott Diffenderfer advised that neighbors are concerned about the scale of the project, and Gonzalez has not responded to a request that he meet with the association to give an overview of his plans.

“We have asked that this presentation be deferred until the neighborhood has a chance to review, but it appears the developer is not willing to do that,” he wrote. 

Gonzalez’s designs have drawn international praise. He was featured in a  July 2013 Wall Street Journal profile,  which said he  “is interested in how homes reflect and interact with their environments, making glass and reflective surfaces his favorite materials. In one apartment he designed in South Beach, he used reflective latex panels on the ceiling to reflect the view outside, giving the room the impression of being surrounded by the outside scenery.”

Belle Isle Residents Association president is running for Miami Beach City Commission

UPDATED…

Here’s some news:

Belle Isle’s own Scott Diffenderfer, longtime president of the Belle Isle Residents Association, filed papers today to run for Miami Beach City Commission.

He is running for the Group 6 seat, which is being vacated by Commissioner Deede Weithorn, who has indicated she plans to run for the Florida House of Representatives.

Diffenderfer is the second Belle Isle resident to file for the seat. Mark Samuelian, a management consultant, filed his candidacy papers last month. Jeff Cynamon, a real estate attorney specializing in eminent domain casses, has also filed for that seat.

Samuelian, the Community Affairs director of the Alton Road Business Association, lives in the Grand Venetian. He is also on the board of Miami Beach United. (An earlier version of this post omitted this information).

Diffenderfer moved to Miami Beach in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew. He is a Realtor, and lives in the Belle Plaza condo. In addition to his involvement with BIRA, he’s served on the Miami Beach Transportation, Parking and Bicycle-Pedestrian Facilities Committee.

Belle Isle’s buzzing as helicopters deliver to Island Terrace rooftop

A helicopter delivers mechanical equipment on Belle Isle (Scott Diffenderfer).

A helicopter delivers mechanical equipment on Belle Isle (Scott Diffenderfer).

The installation of new air conditioning equipment on top of the Island Terrace  condo, 5 Island Avenue, created quite a stir on Belle Isle this morning.

From Grand Venetian, delivering the goods to Island Terrace (Herb Frank)

From Grand Venetian, delivering the goods to Island Terrace (Herb Frank)

A helicopter lifted the huge units off trucks and softly placed them 16 stories high on the roof of the Morris Lapidus-designed building, built in 1967.

The spectacle drew the attention of Belle Isle Residents Association president Scott Diffenderfer and board member Herb Frank, who photographed the event from their condos on the east side ofthe island.

Photo by Scott Diffenderfer

Photo by Scott Diffenderfer

Residents meet tonight to discuss West Avenue Streetscape

A residents group is meeting tonight to discuss the upcoming streetscape improvements on West Avenue. It starts at 6 p.m. at the 1688 West Avenue.

The meeting, in the condo meeting room at that address, will give neighbors an overview of what’s ahead for the West Avenue project, an 18-month effort to reduce flooding and add wider sidewalks, a bike path, pedestrian crosswalks and shade trees to the area between Fifth and 17th streets.

Some work has already begun on 17th Street and the area of West Avenue just south of 17th Street. And part of West Avenue will close this week (requiring a detour) for work on a new pumping station at 14th Street.

In all, the work is expected to last a year and a half, and it will be done in phases. The first phase is nearest to Sunset Harbour and the Venetian Isles. A second phase is the area between Fifth and Eighth streets.

And then there are two other major work areas, at 10th and 14th streets. The entire project, which won’t be completed until 2017, will also include rebuilding Bay Road south of the Collins Canal.

Pump station work at 14th Street will cause West Avenue closure next week

The reconstruction of West Avenue has scarcely begun, and there is a big-time detour happening next week.Alton_map_022015 (1)

Starting Monday, West Avenue will be closed between 12th and 15th streets in advance of the installation of underground pump station structures and pipes at 14th Street.

The work is part of a larger project to add five new pumping stations in the Alton Road – West Avenue corridor at Fifth, Seventh, 10th, 14th and 17th streets, in addition to raising West Avenue as much as three feel to combat flooding.

For next week’s work, northbound drivers on West Avenue will have to turn east on 12th Street to Alton Road, then head north on Alton before turning left on 15th Street to return to West Avenue.

Southbound drivers will have to turn left on 15th Street, then right on Alton, right on 12th Street and left to continue south on West Avenue.

In addition there will be lane closures on 17th Street east of the Collins Canal, an inconvenience that started last week.