Category Archives: Development

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

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

Another detour to begin in West Avenue road construction

Starting Monday, a two-block stretch of West Avenue will be closed while paving work takes place — if all goes well and the sun still shines.

RoadclosedThe work happens between 17th Street and Lincoln Road, and for Venetian Island residents it means that easy right turn south on West toward the MacArthur will have to happen on Alton Road, and your return from South Beach will need to be from Alton as well.

According to the city’s formal notice: One southbound lane is expected to reopen on the west side of the street by Wednesday, July 8. Northbound lanes will remain closed during this time and motorists wishing to travel north will be directed to use Alton Court. The contractor will complete a drainage crossing and begin to prepare the east side of the road for work.

The city says condominiums on the west side of the street will need to exit onto Bay Road. If you want to park  in the lots behind Epicure or Ace or Crunch, you’ll need to use Alton Court, but the lots will remain open.  Drivers traveling north on Alton Court will be able to access 17 Street.
Have a happy holiday weekend.

Two new restaurants coming to Sunset Harbour

La Moderna is opening soon

La Moderna is opening soon

NaiYaRa will be an Asian street food concept restaurant.

NaiYaRa will be an Asian street food concept restaurant.

Belle Isle neighbor David Leeds wanted an update on the two largest remaining spaces in the Sunset Harbour Shoppes, which will be filled in the next couple of months with restaurants.

The first is La Moderna, and Wendy Chernin of the Scott Robins Companies tells us it’s expected to open by the end of June along the breezeway facing east behind Panther Coffee. It’s a sibling of Fratelli la Bufala at 437 Washington Ave.

The  second space is behind Ice Box, and Chernin says it will be called NaiYaRa, an Asian street food concept from chef Piyarat Arreeratn, aka Chef Bee, of Oishi Thai in North Miami, and formerly of Khong River House in Miami Beach.

That space is supposed to open at the end of the summer. As always, this being Miami Beach, timetables can slip.

The road gods giveth, the road gods taketh away

Okey dokey. The good road construction news first:

By Monday, the of Miami Beach says it will reopen one east and one west lane on 17th street between the 17th Street Bridge and Alton Road. So we’ll no longer have to detour to Dade Boulevard to make our east.

But…..starting Monday night, the repaving of West Avenue between  Lincoln Road and Fifth Street begins. According to the Florida Department of Transportation, this work will be done mostly at night. We’ll see what impact this has as the work moves forward.

Tough choices ahead for the Venetian bridges

Now that the Biscayne Island to mainland Miami span of Venetian Way is closed until 2016, it’s not too early to face up to the work ahead on the other Venetian bridges.

The Miami Herald’s Andres Viglucci does just that in a piece this morning, which examines the condition of the other bridges and the choices FDOT, Miami-Dade County and Venetian Isle residents face.

Here is the key paragraph imn the story — and the biggest issues ahead:

…Preservationists and Venetian Islands residents who have weighed in on the question overwhelmingly agree on one thing: Whether they are refurbished or rebuilt, the bridges should remain much as they are now: intimate and charming, low in scale and slow in speed, a popular draw for pedestrians, joggers and cyclists, tourists and locals alike, and affording unmatched, close-to-the-water vistas of Biscayne Bay.