Category Archives: City Issues

Miami Beach issues affecting our island.

Belle Isle residents to meet Tuesday to plan opposition to Belle Isle Key demolition

DeformaStudio-Bella Isla3

Rendering shows view from south side of Belle Isle.

A group of Belle Isle residents have scheduled a meeting Tuesday night at Costa Brava to rally opposition to the demolition of Belle Isle Key apartments.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.on the mezzanine level of the condo , 11 Island Ave.

The EuroAmerican Group, which owns the apartments at 31 Venetian Way, has submitted plans to replace the current complex of 120 units in five three-story buildings with 172 apartments in two five-story buildings. The project would also provide substantially more parking — 297 spaces in an interior garage, instead of the 109 spaces that are part of the current complex.

Belle Isle Key Apartments, 31 Island Ave.

Belle Isle Key Apartments, 31 Island Ave.

The Miami Beach Design Review Board will consider EuroAmerican’s plan on June 7.

Lawyer Richard Freeman, who lives in Costa Brava and is helping to organize opponents, said he’s trying to marshall a big group to show up on June 7 to voice opposition when the DRB meets.

“The best arguments are not as effective as having people show up,” he sad. “Sometimes numbers seak louder than words.”

At a meeting last week, Belle Isle Residents Association president Scott Diffenderfer said the island association would not be taking a formal position against the complex because the height and number of units are allowed under the zoning code.

“You can’t just fight it because you don’t like it,” he said. “It has to have a legal basis.”

A meeting announcement circulated by Freeman says some residents are concerned the project will bring more traffic, construction and block bay views from other buildings.

 

Parents get a second chance: Survey planned on temporary kids playground in Belle Isle Park

Last Thursday night, neighborhood residents were invited to a meeting with Miami Beach Parks and Recreation staff to gauge support for temporarily moving the playground at Maurice Gibb Memorial Park to Belle Isle while Gibb Park is renovated.

The discussion, part of a regular Belle Isle Residents Association board meeting, was announced by email late Monday afternoon and posted on this blog the next day.

It wasn’t a lot of notice for parents, who usually put little ones to bed around that time. At the meeting, roughly 30 people attended, and those who spoke overwhelmingly opposed moving the playground termporarily to Belle Isle.

We blogged about what was said at the meeting, and many of your have commented — as has Scott Diffenderfer, residents of the residents association.

We thought it would be good to surface some of the comments in a fresh blog post so folks could catch up with the conversation.

Most importantly, we wanted to highlight that the the residents association plans to survey Belle Isle to get a more complete idea of what people think. Diffenderfer wrote:

“We are working on a survey to go out to a much larger group of residents than we reach through email to find out opinions on issues that affect our quality of life. In he meantime, please encourage your neighbors to forward their names and email addresses to us at BIRA@belleisleresidents.org.”

Several people who commented on the blog ost were offended by a remark made by one attendee who said having the playground in the park would attract sex offenders. People also complained it would be noisy and would draw more traffic.

Here are some of the responses:

The reason this was a resounding no was that the meeting was held at an inconvenient hour for parents who are bathing, feeding, and caring for their children at that time. There was a women who actually stated that Belle Isle is a classy place and putting a temporary playground there will ruin it…..but dogs and all their poop are cool, cause she loves dogs:) Can we get real!?!? There are two….TWO…enclosed parks for dogs at Belle Isle, but somehow a TEMPORARY park with, God forbid, children in it will totally mess up the ambiance. Equal rights for dogs and kids!

And sex offenders are alright too, as long as they stay near that other park 1 block away. Get your heads checked!

Now the issue of noise at the park….none of the toddlers I’ve seen are up much past the early bird special time, so I don’t think they’ll be throwing any wild parties in the park late night. This argument is absurd!

And parking…don’t get me started…oh wait, you already did. Have you tried parking there. IT. IS. IMPOSSIBLE. No one is driving to this park. Everyone that comes is walking.

Lastly, if there is no alternative location found, they will STILL come to Belle Isle simply because there is no where else within walking distance to go. But now, instead of just the Belle Isle kids and their nannies (and we all know how much everyone loves those nannies), the Sunset Harbor ones will come, too to take over all of the park benches….mostly the shaded one you wanted to sit on. Why wouldn’t we give them a separate, safe and enclosed space for 1 year to protect America’s future….again, it’s TEMPORARY and then you can go back to hating them.

Belle Isle is a wonderful place to live because of our sense of community. As a community, we need to coexist. Humans (yes, kids too) and pets alike. Today, in Belle Isle we have two parks for dogs, and zero enclosed parks for children. Parents need a safe place for children to run and play. If Maurice Gibb playground closes, that means that our closest playground will be a 1 hour stroller walk away (round trip to Flamingo park). This is nonsense. Please consider TEMPORARILY moving Maurice Gibb playground to Belle Isle.
Let’s start acting like a community of good neighbor’s that we are.
Keep in mind, this playground is not permanent. Additionally, remember that each one of you reading this was at one time in your life a child. Let our children be children, and let them enjoy the outdoors in a safe playground environment.

YourNeighbor

Sad to see such a negative response from Belle Isle Residents. What a wonderful community spirit! But let’s be clear, responses from 30 people is not exactly a basis for drawing any statistically Significant conclusions. It is simply a straw poll. I hope the Cof MB is a little more analytical When they make a decision on this.

dfkellett@gmail.com

I am appalled by the response to allow the temporary playground to be moved to Belle Island. I thought we are a community that helps one another in time of need not some gated older citizens retreat. Please be assured not all residents feel the some way as the ones quoted in your article. I for one would welcome all the children and the play ground equipment to share our wonderful park. There are many residents who may not able to attend some of there meetings . I think there must be another way to reach out to the community for the good of all our neighbors. Sincerely, Ellen Geyer 16 Island Avenue

goodegg1

I will say that people who are opposed to the playground are not necessarily anti-children but in favor of keeping Belle Isle a “passive” park. They are wary of construction in the park and more cars coming to the island. The dog park was advocated for many years ago by dog owners and was part of the master plan for the park. Many dog owners are also parents so this shouldn’t be a dog vs. children discussion. Thanks and please stay neighborly with each other!

Scott Diffenderfer

I would have to agree that I love that Belle Isle is a passive park and the convenience of having Maurice Gibb one block away is close enough…..but, it is going to be torn down, which leaves us parents in a huge predicament. Contrary to what a lot of people say, NO, we cannot just keep them locked in our apartments. Many of us are dog owners, but if you ask any of us with small children and dogs, we will all tell you that we need a playground more. 1000 times more. The children win every time.
No one is impervious to the fact that it would create some minor nuisances while it is being relocated, but to oppose it and hang all the parents on the island out to dry for an entire year is just so incredibly selfish. The inconvenience that the playground would bring pales in comparison to what the parents would face without it. If my only option is to take the kids to the passive park, I have to worry about them running into the street, allllllll the sex offenders they apparently attract, all the dog poop they can step in, no shade, the water fountain they can’t drink out of because people let their pets drink from (I know, I should bring a kiddie cup because the pet owners already called dibs on it 20 years ago when the park was built), and that “anti-children” people who take every opportunity to crush their spirits or huff and puff under their breath when a child actually uses the sidewalk they are on. It is better for everyone if we have separate spaces. I can’t stress that enough.
As for the survey, I appreciate you going to this distance if it is in fact a genuine attempt to seek the communities input. I’ve lived on Belle Isle for almost a decade now and have seen many completely biased and leading surveys go around. I hope that it is an impartial survey and questions are not along the lines of “do you feel an enormous eye sore playground, filled with screaming brats, on our tiny little island, with only 5 parking spots would be a good addition to the island?!” Excuse me for being a skeptic.

MB

Imagine this: a public parking garage behind Epicure topped with apartments

It’s no secret that the South Beach boom of the last 30 years — from new luxury high=rises to retro apartment renovations — has pushed housing costs beyond the reach of many people who work in the shops and restaurants in our neighborhoods.

The issue became even more apparent earlier this year when Boardwalk Properties Inc bought a portfolio of 15 older Art Deco buildings and announced plans to renovate them an market them are much higher rent.

It’s a concern at City Hall, and the city earlier this month began seeking proposals from consultants to help the city develop “workforce / affordable housing.”

As part of that effort, consultants are being invited to investigate seven city-owned parking lots  that could possibly be developed with city parking garages and apartments on top.

Two potential parking garage/workplace housing sites are on West Avenue.

Two potential parking garage/workplace housing sites are on West Avenue.

Two are on West Avenue, just south of 17th Street: the public lot just north of the U.S. Post Office behind Epicure and Ave Hardware, and the circular lot at 1625 West Ave. behind Taco Rico.

Other lots mentioned in the initiative are at Collins Avenue and 13th Street, Washington Avenue and Ninth Street and 10th Street, 2660 Collins Ave., and 830 W. 42nd St.

Consultant proposals wouldn’t come back to the city until mid-summer, and no decisions have been made on whether to actually do this or where to do it, so action is a ways off.

There is commission interest in this matter, though. After the Boardwalk properties purchase, Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco wrote a letter to the editor in the Miami Herald in which he said:

“Our tourism and retail employees need affordable housing, and the city needs them to stay. The irony of the recent apartment purchases, and subsequent articles about the gentrification in South Beach, lands squarely at City Hall, where Commissioner Joy Malakoff and I have been pushing for an increase in workforce-housing inventory. Now, instead of increasing available housing for those who work in the city, we’re playing catch up.”

Temporary playground in Belle Isle Park? Residents at meeting emphatically say no

The playground at Maurice Gibb Memorial Park

The playground at Maurice Gibb Memorial Park

The notion that the park on Belle Isle could host a playground while Maurice Gibb Memorial Park undergoes renovation received a mostly negative response from Belle Isle residents who attended a community meeting Thursday night.

The Miami Beach Parks Department posed the question to the Belle Isle Residents Association, which invited residents to give the city feedback during an association board meeting at Belle Plaza, 20 Island Ave.

“I wanted them to hear directly from residents” about the proposal, BIRA president Scott Diffenderfer told the roughly 30 residents who showed up. “This is literally to hear your input.”

What the two Miami Beach parks representatives heard was mostly against the idea. Some said the playground would be too noisy. Others said itt would attract too much traffic in an area that lacks parking. The dogs and the children would be a bad combination, one resident said.

Some of the concerns ventured into the bizarre. One resident said the playground would attract children, and the children would “attract sexual offenders.” (We are not making this up).

The one attendee who spoke out in favor of temporarily moving the equipment  pointed out that when Maurice Gibb Park closes for renovations, “people are going to come to the park with their kids anyway,” because it will be the closest available open space for parents in the Belle Isle/Sunset Harbour area.

Cindy Casanova, assistant director of Miami Beach’s Parks and Recreation Department, told residents: “We know there is no appetite for this from anyone here, which is something we needed to hear.”

(UPDATE: There is an effort on Facebook to encourage parents who couldn’t attend the meeting to let the city know they do support the playground move.Parents are urged to email Casanova at cynthia.casanova@miamibeachfl.gov).

She said the city has no plan to move the equipment to Belle Isle if residents don’t want it.

Diffenderfer said he had approached developer Bradley Colmer, whose company is seeking to build a mixed-use project across from Maurice Gibb park, so see if he would consider temporarily making his property available for the equipment until his development gets city approval and construction can begin. Right now, the proposal is stalled before the city commission.

Diffenderfer said Colmer is”open” to the idea. Casanova said the city would reach out to him.

 

 

Miami Beach is getting ready to renovate Maurice Gibb park; will the playground camp out on Belle Isle?

IMG_5349

The view of Belle Isle from Maurice Gibb Park.

One of the next steps in the rebuilding of Sunset Harbour is the renovation and raising of Maurice Gibb Park.

The park, which features a popular playground used by kids in Sunset Harbour, Belle Isle and other Venetian Isles, has been rough around the edges for a while now.

The southeast corner has been fenced off from the public for more than two years, the result of the installation of a drainage pump and the discovery of environmental issues underground. Old timers may remember that there used to be a gas station on the corner of the park at Purdy Avenue and 17th Street. The tanks leaked.

And with the raising of Purdy Avenue on the east side of the park, it’s become a couple foot step-down from street level.

So the city is planning an environmental clean-up, land-raising and renovation for the park named for the late BeeGee and Miami Beach resident. The park includes a large playground, a wooden baywalk, bathrooms and boat launches (named for former legislator Barry Kutun).

Last week, the Miami Beach City Commission approved a request for proposals to hire architectural and engineering firms to develop an “environmental mitigation and protection plan, and conduct the design, permitting, bid and award” work necessary so companies can bid to hired and work can be done.

Once the construction contracts are awarded — that’s a ways off — the park will be closed, most likely in phases.

Parents are wondering what to do while the playground is closed. One possibility is to temporarily move the equipment to Belle Isle Park. That will be discussed Thursday night at a Belle Isle Residents Association meeting.

From an email sent to Belle Isle residents on Monday:

Since Maurice Gibb Park is scheduled to be closed for construction, the City is exploring options to relocate the playground temporarily, possibly on Belle Isle.  Since many of our residents use Maurice Gibb Park, a representative from the Parks Department will attend the meeting to discuss what will be happening at Gibb Park and how it will affect residents. Please note that no plans to relocate the playground have been made – this is simply a discussion to get input from our residents.

The residents association meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the card room at Belle Plaza, 20 Island Ave.

Other discussion items include:

  • Updates on street construction including the upcoming West Avenue Bridge project, progress on raising Sunset Harbour streets and sidewalks, the upcoming repair of the bridge on Venetian Way between Belle Isle and Rivo Alto;
  • Updates on the progress of new projects proposed for 31 Venetian Way, the Standard Hotel East Wing, and DecoCapital project on Purdy next to Sunset Harbour Lofts.

Development update: Purdy Avenue project stalls, 17th Street mixed up plan moves forward

Proposed mixed use development on Purdy.

Proposed mixed use development on Purdy Avenue

The march of development in our neighborhood lurches forward and a little sideways.

— The Residences at Sunset Harbour, the Purdy Avenue retail-parking luxury condo project developer that Bradley Colmer wants to build across from Maurice Gibb Memorial Park, stalled again last week at the Miami Beach City Commission.

Commissioners delayed across on the project for another month in hopes Colmer and his opponents in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood can work out their differences.

Colmer’s DecoCapital Group is asking the city for a 40-foot height increase from the allowable 50 feet for the project, which would go up immediately north of the Lofts condominiums. at the corner of Purdy and Dade Boulevard.

Colmer also has gotten into a legal tussle with Beach Towing, which tried to block the development because it provides (go fiture) parking. In response, Colmer’s lawyers filed a legal memo accusing Beach Towing of operating contrary to city zoning rules for decades.

Rendering of 17th and Alton project

Rendering of 17th and Alton project

— Another mixed use project, this one proposed for two lots south of 17 Street between Alton Road and West Avenue (including the old Shell Staion and a  parking lot),  got approval from the Miami Beach Design Review Board on May 2.

The project, proposed by members of the Soffer family of Turnberry fame, includes retail space, 36 apartments and roughly 200 parking spaces.

It still needs the okay from Miami Beach’s Planning Board, in part because it seeks to build a ramp over Alton Court, the alley that runs between the two parcels as well as behind Epicure. It’s supposed to be back before the Planning Board on May 24.

 

Miami Beach approves West Avenue bridge; work could begin in 60-90 days

The Miami Beach City Commission On Wednesday approved a $9.9 million contract for construction of new bridge extending West Avenue across the Collins Canal and Dade Boulevard,  linking Sunset Harbour to the West Avenue corridor.The bridge will connect West Aenue over the Collins Canal.

Work could begin in two the three months. The project — and its attendant disruption between the Venetian Isles and the main part of Miami Beach — is projected to take about 10 months. The Miami Herald’s Joey Flechas has more.

The vote was unanimous. In addition to the bridge, the project includes raising part of Dade Boulevard — where the bridge will slope down to Sunset Harbour — as much as six feet above its current elevation.