Category Archives: Development

Projects proposed on Belle Isle and nearby, including buildings and roads.

Three-story home proposed for tiny Farrey Lane on Belle Isle

The vacant property at 7 Farrey Lane is next to the Standard.

The vacant property at 7 Farrey Lane is next to the Standard.

A prominent Miami Beach architect wants to build a three-story glass and concrete home on the Biscayne Bay end of Belle Isle’s Farrey Lane, just east of The Standard spa resort.

IMG_4589The bayfront site is small, as are all the lots on Farrey Lane, one of two Belle Isle streets developed in the early 1940s with one-story villas. The property is almost 4,300 square feet, tiny by single-family home standards, though the among the largest on Farrey Lane.

The owner is architect Rene Gonzalez, noted for his contemporary glass and stone designs for homes and buildings. One home he designed, a 30,000-square-foot mansion in Indian Creek Village, sold for $47 million in 2012, then the most expensive home sale in Miami-Dade County.

The Farrey Lane home obviously is much smaller than that — proposed to be 2,700 square feet. Gonzalez bought the vacant lot in March 2014 for $1,435,000.

Gonzalez’s proposal may be smaller than his other projects, but it’s big for Farrey Lane, where property records show most homes are two-bedroom, one-bath, and about 1,200 square feet. There are two three bedroom homes on the street, one 1,500 square feet, and the other 2,400, and they also front the bay. All are one story.

The 3-story home would go here.

The 3-story home would go here.

The 40-foot height of the home is driven in part by elevating it for flood protection.

Miami Beach’s Design Review Board is scheduled to consider the project on Tuesday. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.

Gonzalez is seeking three variances, all driven by the small size of the lot. They would waive minimum setbacks for a dock, for side property lines and for parking in front of the home.

City staff has recommended approving the variances, noting that the actual square footage of the home doesn’t require a variance, nor does the building height.

The bungalows on Farrey.

The bungalows on Farrey.

The Belle Isle Residents Association wants the Design Board to delay its decision. In a email to homeowners, BIRA president Scott Diffenderfer advised that neighbors are concerned about the scale of the project, and Gonzalez has not responded to a request that he meet with the association to give an overview of his plans.

“We have asked that this presentation be deferred until the neighborhood has a chance to review, but it appears the developer is not willing to do that,” he wrote. 

Gonzalez’s designs have drawn international praise. He was featured in a  July 2013 Wall Street Journal profile,  which said he  “is interested in how homes reflect and interact with their environments, making glass and reflective surfaces his favorite materials. In one apartment he designed in South Beach, he used reflective latex panels on the ceiling to reflect the view outside, giving the room the impression of being surrounded by the outside scenery.”

Belle Isle’s buzzing as helicopters deliver to Island Terrace rooftop

A helicopter delivers mechanical equipment on Belle Isle (Scott Diffenderfer).

A helicopter delivers mechanical equipment on Belle Isle (Scott Diffenderfer).

The installation of new air conditioning equipment on top of the Island Terrace  condo, 5 Island Avenue, created quite a stir on Belle Isle this morning.

From Grand Venetian, delivering the goods to Island Terrace (Herb Frank)

From Grand Venetian, delivering the goods to Island Terrace (Herb Frank)

A helicopter lifted the huge units off trucks and softly placed them 16 stories high on the roof of the Morris Lapidus-designed building, built in 1967.

The spectacle drew the attention of Belle Isle Residents Association president Scott Diffenderfer and board member Herb Frank, who photographed the event from their condos on the east side ofthe island.

Photo by Scott Diffenderfer

Photo by Scott Diffenderfer

Residents meet tonight to discuss West Avenue Streetscape

A residents group is meeting tonight to discuss the upcoming streetscape improvements on West Avenue. It starts at 6 p.m. at the 1688 West Avenue.

The meeting, in the condo meeting room at that address, will give neighbors an overview of what’s ahead for the West Avenue project, an 18-month effort to reduce flooding and add wider sidewalks, a bike path, pedestrian crosswalks and shade trees to the area between Fifth and 17th streets.

Some work has already begun on 17th Street and the area of West Avenue just south of 17th Street. And part of West Avenue will close this week (requiring a detour) for work on a new pumping station at 14th Street.

In all, the work is expected to last a year and a half, and it will be done in phases. The first phase is nearest to Sunset Harbour and the Venetian Isles. A second phase is the area between Fifth and Eighth streets.

And then there are two other major work areas, at 10th and 14th streets. The entire project, which won’t be completed until 2017, will also include rebuilding Bay Road south of the Collins Canal.

Pump station work at 14th Street will cause West Avenue closure next week

The reconstruction of West Avenue has scarcely begun, and there is a big-time detour happening next week.Alton_map_022015 (1)

Starting Monday, West Avenue will be closed between 12th and 15th streets in advance of the installation of underground pump station structures and pipes at 14th Street.

The work is part of a larger project to add five new pumping stations in the Alton Road – West Avenue corridor at Fifth, Seventh, 10th, 14th and 17th streets, in addition to raising West Avenue as much as three feel to combat flooding.

For next week’s work, northbound drivers on West Avenue will have to turn east on 12th Street to Alton Road, then head north on Alton before turning left on 15th Street to return to West Avenue.

Southbound drivers will have to turn left on 15th Street, then right on Alton, right on 12th Street and left to continue south on West Avenue.

In addition there will be lane closures on 17th Street east of the Collins Canal, an inconvenience that started last week.

Meeting alert: Get updates on construction in Sunset Harbour, West Avenue and more

We face an onslaught of construction projects and development in the Venetian Isles, Sunset Harbour and West Avenue neighborhoods. There are several community meetings happening soon that provide an opportunity to learn more and give some input:

— On Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 6 p.m.,  the civic organization Miami Beach United is holding a discussion of how pedestrians, bikes and vehicles mesh (or don’t) on our roads and sidewalks — and how it could be better.

The discussion, which happens at the Miami Beach Golf Club, 2301 Alton Rd., includes representatives from the city of Miami Beach, the transportation planning firm Gannett Fleming, and the street plans collaborative.

— On Feb. 18 at 6:30 p.m., the city of Miami Beach is holding a session in Sunset Harbour to get neighborhood input on streetscape improvements in that torn-up area.

As you know, most streets in Sunset Harbour are a mess, part of $5 million in improvements to replace underground pipes and utilities.

The city engineer, Bruce Mowry, last week said the utility work should be finished by the end of summer, and then work will begin on the sidewalks, landscaping and road resurfacing.

The neighborhood meeting, to be held at 1800 Purdy Ave., will give an overview and seek feedback on those improvements.

— On Monday, Feb. 23, the city of Miami Beach and the Florida Department of Transportation will meet with West Avenue neighborhood residents to explain the major road project that will begin this week on West Avenue and 17th Street.

The project, which ultimately will impact all of West Avenue from Fifth to 17 streets and includes putting in new pumping stations at Fifth, Seventh, 10th, 14th and 17th streets, involves raising the street as much as three feet.

The meeting will start at 6 p.m., but the location has not been determined. We’ll update.  WAVNA, the West Avenue Neighborhood Association, is coordinating with the city of Miami Beach.

 

Belle Isle donates $1K to Watson Island development fight

The Belle Isle Residents Association has given $1,000 from its legal fund to the organization suing to block a controversial megayacht marina and resort on public land on Watson Island.

The donation was announced at Wednesday’s annual meeting by BIRA President Scott Diffenderfer after a presentation from Roger Craver, one of the leaders of Coalition Against Causeway Chaos.

“We’ve been collecting dues over the last few years to protect our interests,” Diffenderfer said. “The Belle Isle Residents Association believes this is so important we have a $1,000 check for you.”

Craver told the more than 100 residents at the meeting that the proposed development threatens to overwhelm traffic on the already overburdened MacArthur Causeway, impacting the Venetian Causeway as well.

Craver and Stephen Herbits and Sharon Kirby Wynne, who filed the lawsuit, live on the Venetian Causeway. They contend the city renegotiated the 13-year-old deal with developer Flagstone Properties — which has yet to build anything — on terms that violate the city charter and some key conditions in the ballot language voters approved in 2001.

The developer, Flagstone Properties, plans to build a marina, a hotel, shops, restaurants and public spaces, in phases.

“The solution to this problem is active citizens raising holy hell,” said Craver, who referred to the project as the “Watson Island Strangler.”

“We are faced with amazing and terrific traffic gridlock,” Craver said, warning that property values will go down “when people can’t get out of their homes.”

 

Hey, Belle Isle residents! Think you have traffic and construction? Brace yourself for so much more

A wave of new road projects — a cascade of construction with attendant detours, road closures and delays — begins in and around our neigborhood next week.

It will last well into 2017, and will impact every path in and out of the Venetian Islands,  we learned this week at the annual Belle Isle Residents Association meeting. More 100 people attended the meeting, and they got an earful.

The projects include the rebuild and raising of West Avenue, the closure and replacement of the westernmost bridge on the Venetian Causeway, the construction of a new West Avenue bridge over the Collins Canal,  and the rebuild and elevation of Dade Boulevard.

The projects address a range of ills: traffic flow, the flooding issues on Alton Road, West Avenue and in Sunset Harbour, and the replacement of old and failing underground utilities.

Dr. Bruce Mowry, the city of Miami Beach engineer, outlined a series of major projects that will begin next week:

— West Avenue reconstruction. The first work will begin next week, Mowry said. This is a project that runs from Fifth to 17th streets, and will involve the installation of five more pumping stations (on 17th and Sixth streets, built by Miami Beach, and on 14th, 10th and First, handled by FDOT). Two new pumping stations have been built as part of the Alton Road project.

The work is expected to last a year and a half, and it will be done in phases. The first phase is nearest to Sunset Harbour and the Venetian Isles, Mowry said, running from 17th Street to Lincoln Road. There will be major work on 17th Street from the bridge over the Collins Canal east to Alton Road; there will be lane reductions and occasion detours during the day.

There may be some intermittent closures on 17th street, he said, but generally it will be open with lane closures. Dade Blvd will have to take the brunt of the traffic during those times.

Mowry said the plan is for the work around 17th Street to begin next week and be done by the end of summer. Mowry said the city has urged FDOT to finish one area before starting work and disrupting another.

A second phase is the area between Fifth and Eighth streets. And then there are two other major work areas, at 10th and 14th streets. The entire project, which won’t be completed until 2017, will also include rebuilding Bay Road south of the Collins Canal.

— The West Avenue Bridge, connecting the West Avenue neighborhood with Sunset Harbour.

This project will impact West Avenue, 17th Street, Dade Boulevard and the landing area for the bridge in Sunset Harbour. Mowry said it is under design right now, and will take about seven and a half months for design and permits. Bids could be sought as early as fall, and construction could begin in early 2016.

The construction is expected to take between 12 and 18 months.

It will have broad impact. To create enough clearance over the Collins Canal, 17th Street will have to be raised for the bridge approach. So will Dade Boulevard on the north side of the canal. The bridge path next to the under-construction Residence Inn on 17th Street also must be elevated, he said.

“Dade Boulevard is a very low point,” Mowry said. “It will need to be raised up to three feet, and then the bridge roadway will be tapered into Sunset Harbour. That makes this bridge a complex system. The issue with Bay Road and all the illegal turns there is right in the middle of that. its a very confusing area there.”

— Venetian Causeway West Bridge. Work is expected to begin as soon as April or May, and the bridge will close. That means to get off the Venetian Islands — From Biscayne Island to Belle Isle — All drivers will have to head east to go north to the Julia Tuttle Causeway or south to the MacArthur. Likewise, returning to Miami Beach from the mainland.

Belle Isle Residents Association President Scott Diffenderfer said that a Miami-Dade County bid committee is supposed to meet March 3 and make recommendations on a contractor to the Miami-Dade Commission, and if all goes as expected the work will begin in 30 to 60 days after that. The construction is expected to take about nine months.

The residents association and the city of Miami Beach have been lobbying the Coast Guard to lock down the east Venetian drawbridge (between Belle Isle and Rivo Alto) during the construction period to keep traffic flowing, but there is no resolution of the issue, Diffenderfer said.

There is a study continuing on the condition of the other Venetian bridges, Mowry said, but that isn’t expected to be completed for another year. It’s expected more construction will be needed on many, if not all, of them.

Other bridges on Venetian are under study, and next process of repairs is more than a year away, Mowry said.

— Alton Road construction. Mowry said while more lanes on Alton Road are now open, the entire project won’t be complete until August. FDOT still needs to install the final layer of asphalt on the roadway, which may start in April and run through June, and that will mean sporadic lane shifts and closures.

Dedicated bike lanes will be identified with paint, and will go north to 17th street.

— Sunset Harbour drainage and street improvements. Virtually all of Sunset Harbour is under construction, part of $5 million in improvements that include replacing underground pipes and utilities that haven’t been upgraded in 70 years, Mowry said.

The utility work should be finished by the end of summer, and then work will begin on the sidewalks, landscaping and road resurfacing. There is a community meeting in Sunset Harbour on Wednesday, Feb. 18, to get input on those improvements, Miami Beach spokeswoman Lynn Bernstein said. That meeting happens at at 6:30 p.m. at 1800 Purdy. (note — an earlier version of this post incorrectly said this meeting happens on a Tuesday; it is WEDNESDAY).