Category Archives: Condomania

Issues and aggravation in our buildings, from decisions on renovations to the antics of owners.

Can Belle Isle Park be a safe and shared play space for dogs and kids?

Dogs playing unleashed Sunday in Belle Isle Park.

Dogs playing unleashed Sunday in Belle Isle Park.

Back in the middle of the last decade, when Miami Beach renovated Belle Isle Park, planners envisioned a passive park with designated play space for dogs in two fenced runs.

Sophie Landers, the granddoggerBack then, dogs hugely outnumbered kids in Belle Isle residences and Belle Isle Park.

You can make the case now that that kids are catching up — or have caught up.

If you live on our island, you know the demographics of Belle Isle have changed a lot. We have many more young families. You see moms and dads pushing strollers and walking and running little ones every day in and around the park.

There are also many dogs with owners outside the dog runs — which is perfectly fine — and often others running the park unleashed, which isn’t so fine.

Some parents  have approached the Belle Isle Residents Association to ask if there could be a dog-free patch of Belle Isle Park. They’d like an area where their kids could safely play without having to worry about them falling into a pile of poop or pee from an errant pet.

You may think, “hey, there’s a great playground at Maurice Gibb Park, go there.” And true, there is. But that’s a long way to push a stroller for a few minutes of exercise, and even more difficult with our ongoing road construction. With a park at our front door, should it be necessary if all you want to do is run around with your kids?

If you are thinking that dog owners are required to clean up after their pets, you are correct. But even the cleanup leaves a residue, and no one cleans up after a dog that pees on the grass.

At the residents association meeting on Jan. 21, BIRA President Scott Diffenderfer asked for volunteers to discussion ways Belle Isle can address the issue. A couple of parents reached out at the meeting, but more involvement would be welcomed. If you are interested, email


Get ready for more neighborhood road construction and new development than you can imagine

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.

shopsOn 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.

1700 Alton copy for web.jpg`- 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.



Belle Isle Residents Association meets tonight

Here’s a reminder: You can meet your neighbors and learn about key issues facing the neighborhood when the Belle Isle residents Association holds its annual meeting, tonight in the card room at Belle Plaza, 20 Island Ave.

The gathering starts with a wine and cheese reception at 6 p.m., followed by a business meeting at 7 p.m.

We’ll get an update on ongoing and future road projects (get ready for bridge construction at West Avenue), the proposal for an five-story apartment complex on the Belle Isle Key site, progress on the Venetian Causeway and more.

The association will also elect new officers and hear from you about your concerns.



Brace yourselves. New road, apartment, commercial projects planned around Belle Isle

IMG_5349The Belle Isle Residents Association meets on Thursday, Jan. 21, and island residents can expect updates on a list of challenges:

— We’ll get a look at what’s planned to replace the apartment complex called Belle Isle Key, 31 Venetian Way, on the northeast quadrant of Belle Isle. If you remember, residents in 2010 successfully fought to scale back a previous proposal for the site, which now accommodates 120 rental apartments on 3.5 acres. But the developer decided it wasn’t worth building, and five years later has come back with a new plan.

Rendering of proposed Marriott hotel

— We’ll learn about other projects planned at our doorstep: in Sunset Harbour, and on West Avenue and Alton Road. Did you know the old Boston Market site is being planned as a hotel by the same developer that shoe-horned the Marriott Residence Inn on the sliver of land north of 17th Street at West Avenue? More proposals are in the works for the land south of 17th Street between West and Alton and other sites.

venetisnmeet— We’ll hear a road construction and elevation update. The only truly good news — at least for most — is that the westernmost Venetian bridge is projected to reopen at the end of February. But more Venetian bridge work will follow. And the elevation work in Sunset Harbour will continue, and then comes more work on West Avenue and the construction of a new West Avenue bridge that links Sunset Harbour with the corridor to the south.

The meeting, at Belle Plaza, 20 Island Ave., begins with a social at 6 p.m. Serious business starts at 7 p.m., and also includes election of association officers.

Here’s the full agenda:

Belle Isle Residents Association 2016 Annual Meeting Agenda


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Join us for Wine at 6:00PM

Annual Meeting at 7:00PM

20 Island Avenue Meeting Room (Belle Plaza)


  • Welcome & Introductions of BIRA Board and City Officials present, Scott Diffenderfer
  • Annual Meeting Business
    • Approval of minutes from 2015 Annual Meeting
    • Treasurers report, Herb Frank
    • Election of board members and officers for 2016 Nominating Committee
  • Introduction of Commissioners and Elected officials present
  • Caroline DeFreze, City of Miami Beach Community Resource Coordinator (confirmed) will introduce will introduce police and transportation officials
  • Update on area projects, Lynn Bernstein/Bruce Mowry, Ph.D., P.E., City of Miami Beach Engineer (both confirmed)
    • West Avenue Bridge Design and Construction Timeline
    • Sunset Harbour Streets and pumps
    • Update on West Avenue and other city streets; upcoming projects
    • Open questions from residents
  • Update on  reopening of Venetian causeway bridge as well as long range rehabilitation from FDOT/Miami-Dade County (not confirmed yet)
  • Miami Beach Police (not confirmed yet)
  • Update on Watson Island Project and Lawsuit, Roger Craver, Coalition for Causeway Chaos (Scott meeting with him on Wednesday to confirm)
  • Park Update, Garry Korr
  • Belle isle Residents Association Goals for 2016
  • Other Business, Open Forum and questions from residents

Belle Isle Key owners are planning another project

It’s been five years since Belle Isle residents successfully fought a proposal from the owners of the apartment complex Belle Isle Key to knock the low-rise complex down and replace it with a shiny five-story conplex.

The owners of the property at 31 Venetian Way, the EuroAmerican Group, have hired a new architect and have a new design.

They will be giving Belle Isle residents a look on Tuesday, Belle Isle Residents Association president Scott Diffenderfer says.

The preview will happen at 7 p.m. at Belle Plaza, 20 Island Ave., in the card room.

The existing apartment complex on the site has 120 units. The previous proposal called for 181 apartments in two five-story buildings, including a 315-space parking garage topped by two tennis courts.

The Miami Beach Design Review Board approved the project in July 2010

Rendering of previous plan

Rendering of previous plan

, but only if one of the two five-story buildings proposed for the site was scaled back by one floor. The developer appealed to the Miami Beach City Commission, and when that failed, went to court. They were unsuccessful there as well.

Boil water order lifted for Belle Isle

The city of Miami Beach has informed building managers that the boil water advisory is lifted for Belle Isle and the water is safe to drink, wash dishes with, etc…..

Update: Belle Isle water shutdown moves to Wednesday midnight

The city of Miami Beach is postponing water main work affecting Belle Isle until midnight on Wednesday, continuing through Thursday morning.

The work will leave the island without water for about 6 hours, the city estimates, ending at about 6 a.m. on Thursday. A boil water advisory will follow for Belle Isle residents for the following 72 hours.

We’ll let you know if the schedule changes again.