The architects planning the five-story apartment complex at 31 Venetian Way revealed more tweaks of the plans to Belle Isle residents Wednesday night, a prelude to a key design hearing next month where they hope to get the go-ahead for the 181-unit project.
The Design Review Board will hear the proposal at 8 a.m. on July 6 at Miami Beach City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Dr.
The new design would replace Belle Isle Key, a complex of three-story buildings on the northeast corner of Belle Isle.
Key changes in the project include a wider view corridor between two proposed buildings, a slightly lower profile on the easternmost building, and a stepped stucco facade on the western building that architect Luis Revuelta said would ensure the project no longer looks like “one very long building.” The project adds 61 apartments to the three-acre site, and includes a 315-space parking garage, 28 of them for visitors. The current apartment complex has 120 units.
William Cary, Miami Beach’s assistant planning director, said the design tweaks signal “a huge step in the right direction” although the city has not completed it’s design review. “….the change of shape of smaller building to a boat-like shape” is an improvement, he said. “We requested that the two structures have a different stylistic treatment….a great deal of progress has been made in that direction.”
Previously, city staff deemed the proposal out of character with the island neighborhood. Here is the City report on the project. Cary said some city planners still believed the eastern building should be four stories tall instead of five. Revuelta said the developer didn’t believe the project could be financially successful if an entire floor was eliminated.
Several residents at Wednesday’s meeting at the Belle Plaza condominium conceded the plans have improved with repeated revisions. Members of the Belle Isle Residents Association have been in discussions with the developer and architects for nearly two years.
Residents association treasurer Keith Hark, a longtime critic of the scale and appearance of the project, called it “a huge improvement….I was looking for differentiation” between the two buildings.
University of Miami architecture Professor Jean-Francois Lejeune, dean of UM’s architecture graduate school and a Belle Isle resident, said he wasn’t bowled over by the latest changes but believed the project is “okay. To some extent I liked better what you had last time….I find that cascading thing a bit post-modern dated…” But overall, he said, the changes give “the impression of making the building smaller. In that sense, they are successful.”
But the meeting was not without rancor.
Early on, developer attorney Andrew Frey responded sharply to criticism from a Belle Isle resident who said she was opposed to the project.
“Maam, we showed a lot of good faith in coming back to you,” Frey said at one point. “…Are you accusing us of trying to mislead you?”
Cary, the assistant planning director, scolded Frey:
“I think you are being very offensive to residents,” Cary said. “….it is very unfortunate….I consider your attitude to be unacceptable.”
Previous, detailed, descriptions of the project are available here.
In response to questions from residents, Frey said the permitting process could a year assuming the design review board approves the project, and Revuelta estimated demolition and construction time at another 24 months.