At the Belle Isle Blog, we try to keep things in perspective. We live in a gem of a neighborhood, though not a perfect one.
We have traffic issues aplenty. We’re at ground zero for sea level rise. The street-raising and pump projects create lots of inconvenience, but in the long run, we’ll be better off with higher and dryer streets.
And we know that retailers and restaurants want our business and many folks would love to live where we live. And we like to walk to nice places to eat and shop.
So there’s pressure to build on every underused parcel of property around us, especially in Sunset Harbour, which used to be Miami Beach’s back shop — home to car mechanics, plumbers and towing companies.
We understand all of that. And still, the cumulative impact of all the upcoming road work and development proposed for the next two years in the Venetian Way-Sunset Harbour-West Avenue area that was revealed at Thursday night’s Belle Isle Residents Association meeting just staggered us.
In all, the intersecting neighborhoods can expect at least two years more of almost continuous detours, road raising and disruption from the sea=level rise work.
Add to that the impact from no fewer than seven major major development projects that are planned along a half-mile stretch from Belle Isle to Alton Road along Venetian Way, Dade Boulevard and 17th Street.
Here is an overview of the roadwork, cheerfully outlined Thursday night by Miami Beach’s city engineer, Bruce Mowry:
— Raising by two feet the flood-prone stretch of Dade Boulevard from the easternmost Venetian bridge (the one exiting Belle Isle) to the bridge over the Collins Canal. This area floods regularly at high tides. Mowry said the City Commission next week will be discussing a proposal to fast-track this work so it can be done in advance of several other road projects nearby, as well as the anticipated reopening of the Venetian Causeway to the mainland, which is expected on March 1. Mowry said this work, once started, is expected to take 75 days.
— Finishing the road-raising work in Sunset Harbour, which will take several more months. Purdy Avenue work continues. The intersection of Bay Road and 18th Street, by Fresh Market, is next. And then Bay Road to Dade Bouelvard. And on…
— Construction of the West Avenue Bridge, which willbe a traffic show-stopper. Mowry said the bridge is currently in the bidding/procurement phase, which should be complete at the end of February. If all goes as expected, the city could be voting to green-light construction right after that. According to project plans, the actual work would take 270 days — nine months. That takes us into 2017.
— The closing and elevating of Dade Boulevard by — wait for it! — SIX FEET. This work, Mowry said, is needed to deal with flooding issues as well as to accommodate linking the north segment of the West Avenue Bridge as it connects with Sunset Harbour.
— West Avenue elevating and pump work. This job goes on — and will continue for more than a year in different segments. For our part of the world, the section from 17th Street to Lincoln Road is done. The traffic lights at 17th and West Avenue await county approval to become operational. That ought to happen soon.
— Not a road project, but something we heard for the first time at the meeting: Maurice Gibb Memorial Park will also be raised higher. Really.
Mowry promised to keep the neighborhood posted on timetables and detours as this work progresses and, we’ll update on all of that. He also indicated he’d do a neighborhood meeting on timing and detour alternatives before some of the major new work begins.
And that brings us to the developments. We’ll go more or less from west on Belle Isle to the east, ending at Alton Road. It’s quite a list (and we’ll come back later with more detail on each in future blog posts):
–The Standard hotel and spa is discback with a renovation proposal to bring more parking to the site. In January 2013, The Standard pitched an ambitious reconstruction that included rebuilding a wing of rooms and construction of a 45-foot high robotic parking structure. The hotel never moved forward with that plan, and in the time since, the mechanized parking structures elsewhere have had lots of problems. Now, Belle Isle Residents Assocation president Scott Diffenderfer says, The Standard is proposing something less dramatic, but still significant if you live in the bungalows to the east on Farrey Lane: Knocking down the existing one floor east wing of rooms, and replace it with a two-story wing — with parking on the first floor. It would not add any units to the hotel, and would resolve their parking shortage.
— The owners of the Belle Isle Key Apartments, 31 Venetian Way, on the northeast quadrant of Belle Isle. are working on a new proposal to knock down the apartments originally built in 1931. The existing complex is 120 units in three-story buildings on 3.5 acres. The developer plans to show its proposal to the neighborhood when it’s complete. More details to come.
— On Purdy Avenue, north of the Loft condominium and south of the kayak rental bungalow, developer Bradley Colmer is proposing a mixed retail, parking and condo project across from Maurice Gibb Park. The attention grabber in this project is the request to build 90 feet high on the east portion of the structure, which fronts Bay Road. The current zoning allows only 50 feet. Colmer told residents Thursday night that despite the increase in height, the project will have less impact on neighborhood traffic than if he builds what the code allows: 45,000 square feet of retail ina 50-foot-high structure. His proposal, tentatively called the Residences at Sunset Harbour, includes 15,000 square feet of retail at street level, two floors of parking topped by 15 large, luxury condos priced at roughly $3 million each. The condos will face the bay, overlooking the park.
— At the corner of Alton Road and Dade Boulevard, site of an old BP gas station, developers have proposed a five-story mixed retail and restaurant project. The top three floors would be parking.
— To the south, on the old Boston Market site on Alton Road, developer Robert Finvarb is proposing a 96-room “boutique” hotel with a 100-plus seat restaurant. The structure would be five stories tall. It would include a bay walk to West Avenue, and construction could start as soon as the fourth quarter of this year if it gets city approval. Finvarb is the developer of the five-story Residence Inn by Marriott on 17th Street at West Avenue.
`- At the corner of Alton Road and 17th Street, in the five-story retail/apartment building that includes the Vespa store, there is a renovation proposal. Currently, that building houses first floor retail and is zoned for 36 apartments and 36 hotel rooms. The new project will house retail and 72 hotel rooms. The historic building, originally called the Mayflower Hotel, has been studio apartments since the 1990s. Currently, the building has enough parking for eight cars.
— Across the street, developers have put together a development site that includes the former Shell station on Alton and 17th Street and the private pay parking lot across the alley at 17th Street and West Avenue. Diffenderfer said they are proposing a project that will include restaurants, retail, parking and 32 high-end rental apartments in a five -story building. It would include a ramp for cars over the alley.
In coming weeks, we’ll drill down on several of these projects.