The designers of the proposed apartment complex on the northwest corner of Belle Isle made their case to the island residents association Monday night — and made a little a little headway, too.
The project goes before the Miami Beach Design Review Board on July 6. City staff earlier this month deemed it out of character with the island neighborhood. You can read a previous post about that here, and the City report here.
Monday night, Belle Isle residents, who have been critical of the project in the past, reviewed it with architects Luis Revuelta and Barbara Pederzoli. They didn’t embrace it, but several said it was improved from previous versions.
The project at 31 Venetian Way would replace the Belle Isle Key Apartments, a three-story complex that includes 120 apartments. The new design proposes 181 apartments in two five-story buildings, as well as a five-floor, 315-space parking garage. Two tennis courts top the garage. While the buildings are 54 feet high, the top of the elevator mechanical structures is 68 feet.
The two buildings are separated by a “view corridor” to Biscayne Bay. Previous designs showed a bridge over that open space that included apartments, but Revuelta said they eliminated the bridge to provide a better view of the bay.The opening between the buildings is about 60 feet wide. The project also would include a bay walk accessible from Venetian Way that Revuelta said would be open to everyone “from dawn to dusk.”
One of the Belle Isle residents at Monday’s meeting, University of Miami architecture Professor Jean-Francois Lejeune, dean of UM’s architecture graduate school, said the latest design does provide better bay views, and affords residents of Belle Plaza, a condo directly north from the project, better visibility of the water than the existing complex.
Another longtime critic, resident association treasurer Keith Hark, said he felt Revuelta had made progress with the plans, even though he still didn’t like the look of the buildings. The new design, he said, “still has hat sort of very massive feel….which is why I was hoping for something like that Aqua Island feel….What we have been fighting on are the practical implications of the construction….that we understand living here but the architects might not.”
“Our big concern on the community board has always been traffic, all these cars going right into that circle.” Hark said. “We were concerned about the massing of the buildings coming right to the edge” of the property line, “and they pushed it back and pushed it back.”
Revuelta said he has tried to incorporate resident concerns with the design. Revuelta noted that the building owner, Gustavo Munoz, is not seeking any variances under the city zoning code.
“We have done as much as we can to design a building within the law,” Revuelta said.
He offered to make design changes to make the project more pleasing to the residents, but noted that the residents and Design Review Board members had different ideas of how it should look. If they could have that conversation together, instead of going back and forth between resident association and board, it they might reach some compromises, he said.
Revuelta estimated construction on the project would take 14 to 16 months. He asked if residents who felt it was improved would come to the Design Review meeting and say so — even if they still have objections.
Lejeune suggested that Revuelta create digital view renderings to show what residents in buildings like Belle Plaza could expect to see from their apartments, and Revuelta said they would follow up on the idea.