Developer wants City Commission to reconsider Belle Isle apartment project

The latest rendering of the apartment complex at 31 Venetian Way.

The owner of the Belle Isle Key Apartments has appealed Miami Beach’s Design Review Board’s requirement to reduce the height of one of his two proposed apartment buildings from five to four stories.

It comes before the Miami Beach City Commission on Wednesday.

The design board voted 4-1 on July 6 to approve the proposed project at 31 Venetian Way, but only if one of the two five-story buildings proposed for the site is scaled back by one floor.

During debate, project attorney Neisen Kasdin and architect Luis Revuelta said the owner of the project would agree to almost any change in the plan design — except for eliminating one floor from the eastern-most building in the project.

The project has been going back and forth at city for almost two years. The developer, EuroAmerican Group, Inc., has owned the 3.5-acre property for more than 20 years, operating it most recently as Belle Isle Key Apartments, a complex that includes four, three-story apartment buildings on the northeast portion of Belle Isle facing Maurice Gibb Memorial Park and the Sunset Harbor area. EuroAmerican is owned by Gustavo Munoz.

In its appeal to the City Commission, EuroAmerican argues that in its recommendations and decisions, the city staff and the Design Review Board “invent a new criteria for design review: a part of the project that is closest to a ‘historic road’ must be shorter than the remainder of the project.”

Miami Beach’s planning staff and the city attorney’s office recommend the commission reject the appeal.(R7A-Granting Or Denying Appeal Request By Euroamerican Group- 31 Venetian Way)  It takes a five-sevenths vote to overturn the DRB’s decision.

In its report to the commission, city staff wrote:

“As proposed, the 5-story massing of the structure overwhelmed the low slung historic Venetian Causeway bridges, which in addition to being locally designated, are listed on the National Register, and designated an American Scenic Highway. Reducing the height of the structure will mitigate the adverse impact of the large development project. The staff to the DRB has determined there are a number of ways in which the floor area of the fifth floor of this structure at the southeast corner can be re-distributed to the main structure on the north side of the site.”

In an interview after the July vote, Kasden said his client and Revuelta made myriad changes to try and win support from the Belle Isle Homeowners Association, city staff and the Design Review Board. He said several of the issues raised in arguing against the project “went beyond design into the area of personal opinion.”

Belle Isle Blog covered the decision at the public hearing in detail. After that reporting, project architect Luis Revuelta commented at length on the blog about his frustrations with the lengthy process, and a number of homeowners weighed in as well.

The existing apartment complex on the site has 120 units. The proposed complex includes 181 apartments in two five-story buildings, including a 315-space parking garage topped by two tennis courts. Eliminating the floor from the smaller of the two buildings would trim eight units from the project.

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