Category Archives: History

To add parking and renovate, The Standard wants a zoning change

The Standard on Belle Isle is valet only -- today.

The Standard on Belle Isle is valet only — today.

The Standard Spa and hotel is moving forward with its effort to add on-site parking and renovate one of the wings of its property, but this time with a twist — it’s asking the city of Miami Beach to create a hotel overlay district for its property.

monterey brochureThat’s because the Miami Beach zoning code for Belle Isle doesn’t allow a hotel use; the Standard is grandfathered in because it was built (originally as the Monterrey Motel and later the DiLido Spa) before the current code was enacted.

The Standard will meet with Belle Isle residents on Sept. 13 at 6 p.m. at the hotel, 40 Island Ave.

It plans to go before the Miami Beach Planning Board on Sept. 27.

The Standard’s latest proposal is believed to involve knocking down the existing single-story east wing of rooms. It would be replaced with a two-story wing — with parking on the first floor. In preliminary discussions, no additional rooms were to be added to the property.

As proposed, the overlay district would only apply to the Standard property, not other sites on Belle Isle.

 

 

 

17th Street Residence Inn opens next week

The new Residence Inn at 1231 17th Street.

The new Residence Inn at 1231 17th Street.

The Residence Inn by Marriott that Miami Beach commissioners allowed to be wedged on to a sliver of city land at the corner of West Avenue and 17th Street is supposed to open next week.

IMG_5619Neighborhood activists fought the 116-room extended stay hotel, built by developer Ronny Finvarb on city Housing Authority property that was sold to allow construction. They argued the lot was too small and the hotel would add traffic to an already congested intersection.

But they lost the argument, and the project was approved in spring 2013.

Proposed Residence Inn site north of 17th Street

The hotel triangle.

Three years later, it’s about to open, and the pie-shaped property north of 17th Street and south of the Collins Canal/Dade Boulevard from West Avenue to Alton Road is becoming a triangle of hotel activity.

The old Boston Market property, also owned by Finvarb, is being planned for a five-story, 96-room boutique hotel with a 100-plus seat restaurant.

Next to the Residence Inn on 17th (to the east), the old Mayflower building (think, Vespa store) is seeking historic designation before a full-scale renovation that would turn the apartment building into a 72-room hotel. The historic designation would allow the renovation without providing any additional parking; the property, which already has stores and restaurants at street-level, has less than a dozen parking spaces.

And west of the Residence Inn, the city and the Florida Department of Transportation plan to build a bridge that will extend West Avenue across the Collins Canal into Sunset Harbour.

That project is in the bidding/procurement phase, which should be completed very soon. If all goes as expected, the city could be voting to green-light construction next month. According to project plans, the actual work would take 270 days — nine months.

resinnMeanwhile, the Residence Inn will be the closest hotel to Belle Isle, Sunset Harbour and upper West Avenue. As a place to put up relatives who otherwise might overstay at your apartment, consider this: Rates next week start at $224 a night (for a studio apartment with a kitchen), according to Marriott’s website.  It’s pet-friendly, and breakfast is free.

 

 

Those Miami Beach centennial Coke bottles? Yeah, they’re at Publix in Sunset Harbour

IMG_4255We don’t know if you just have to have these, but if you do — on sale now.

IMG_4256It’s just part of the huge Beach 100 celebration.

Belle Plaza introduces lecture series with Jan. 14 talk on “American Shindler”

The folks at the Belle Plaza condominium, 20 Island Ave. are introducing a lecture series with a talk on Wednesday, Jan. 14, about Varian Fry, an American journalist credited with helping to free more than 2,000 Jews from the Nazis in World War II.

The talk starts at 7 p.m. in the card room. It will be led by Belle Plaza residents Diana Pollin and Alain Guyot , who have studied Fry’s life extensively.

Fry was a foreign corresponent for The Living Age, an American journal, and visited Berlin in in 1935 and witnessed and wrote about Nazi abuse against Jews for the New York Times.

He also helped raise money to support European anti-Nazi movements. When the Germans occupied France in 1940, Fry went to Marseille as an agent of the newly formed Emergency Rescue Committee in an effort to help people flee the Nazis.

Pollin and Guyot received The Marseille Provence Cultural Committee prize in 2013 for their work. Their project involved giving a virtual life to the demolished Villa Air Bel where Fry resided and hid the famous artists and writers during his time in Marseille. They are authors of the French language book “La Villa Air-Bel 1940 un phalanstere d’artistes.” Their most recent book, in English, is “Thirty Two Acres of Paradise, Varian Fry at Air-Bel, Marseille.”

 

Flash from the past on Dade Boulevard

IMG_3766We photographed this throwback Friday truck at 6:45 a.m. at the corner of Meridian and Dade Boulevard.

Tell the truth. Don’t you miss Burdines?

Murder, dead body dumping and Belle Isle

So, file this post under “know your neighbors,” and “interesting people who live on Belle Isle.”

Twenty years ago, a woman was murdered, allegedly by her husband, and her body was dumped in Biscayne Bay.

Yesterday in Miami-Dade criminal court, 9 Island Avenue resident Alan M. Gold revealed how he helped dump the body with the accused murderer, Cliff Friend.

He said they put her body, stuffed into a bag, on a boat at the marina docked behind Gold’s Belle Isle condo and motored out to sea.

We don’t want to spoil the rest of Miami Herald reporter David Ovalle’s amazing story. There more to it, for sure.

We live in an interesting place.

Beautiful Belle Isle from the air

Belle Isle, Friday morning, June 20.

Belle Isle, Friday morning, June 20.

Thanks to Belle Isle Residents Association vice chair Charles Urstadt for this great snapshot out our island from a Friday morning flight out of Miami International Airport.

One more trip down memory lane: the Biscayne Bayfront in the 1930s and 1940s

This postcard, mailed in 1938, appears pre-development.

Mailed in 1938, a pre-development view from the old Venetian Hotel.

We found a couple more old postcards that show The Miami Herald property before The Herald built its bayfront headquarters in the early 1960s, so we thought we’d add them to the blog and create a gallery that shows different views in different years.

Your BelleIsleBlog is guilty of not being able to get enough of this….we admit it. But with The Herald leaving last week it’s 50-year headquarters last week, and portions of The Miami Herald sign coming down on Friday, and the prospect of Genting tearing the building down between now and year end, well…

So let’s look closer at what it looked like before the Knight brothers built Florida’s largest commercial building, which is what One Herald Plaza was upon completion in 1963.

Betwen the Venetian and County causeways (MacArthur wasn't a hero yet)

Between the Venetian and County causeways (MacArthur wasn’t a hero yet)

Here’s the tightest view we’ve seen of the Venetian Hotel, as well as the Boulevard Shops (now a historic landmark on the site) and some other small structures. Click on it to check out the detail. The postcard back describes non-stop traffic on the causeways.

1940backAnd here’s a look at the rest of the postcards we’ve found with the same general view.

Residences and the Venetian Hote, undated.

Residences and the Venetian Hotel, undated.

More of a step back view, mailed in 1930.

More of a step back view, mailed in 1930.

1939 view of Biscayne coast, from east to west.

1939 view of Biscayne coast, from east to west.

A look back at the Miami causeways and shoreline — before The Miami Herald

This postcard shows residences and a hotel on The Herald property

This 1930s postcard shows residences and a hotel on The Herald property

It’s a nostalgic time on the west end of the Venetian Causeway.

The Miami Herald printed its last newspapers  two weeks ago at 1 Herald Plaza, on the mainland between the Venetian and MacArthur causeways.

1939 view of downtown looking west.

1939 view of downtown looking west.

Since then, office and news gathering operations have been moving to the news organization’s new home in Doral.

The final newsroom employees — and few from other departments — are scheduled to finish packing this week and all will be working in Doral by Friday afternoon.

Some time after that — it’s not clear when — property owner Genting plans to tear down The Herald building to make way for its planned resort (no, it won’t be a casino — at least not yet).

The Miami Herald in 2006.

The Miami Herald in 2006.

The Herald’s been on the property for 50 some years. BelleIsleBlog has been trolling eBay again, finding old postcards that provide a view at the bayside property between the Venetian and MacArthur Causeways before The Herald built its offices and printing plant in the early 1960s. The Herald moved to One Herald Plaza from a location on South Miami Avenue in April 1963.

Another view of the Causeways, circa 1939.

Another view of the Causeways, circa 1939.

The postcards show another Miami — when the port was off an undeveloped Watson Island, and the shoreline south of the MacArthur Causeway (then the County Causeway) featured huge oil tanks. Biscayne Island, the first on the way east on the Venetian Causeway, was barren, used as a landing strip.

The postcard above shows the Boulevard Shops (originally the Shrine Building when buit in 1930) on Biscayne Boulevard — and the Trinity Cathedral to the west of the Venetian Causeway entrance. Both remain, dwarfed by the city that grew up in the next 80-plus years.

Circus elephants cross the Venetian Causeway west drawbridge, with under-construction Herald building in background.

Circus elephants cross the Venetian Causeway drawbridge, in 1960, with  Herald building property in background.

Construction on The Herald building began in 1961, and finished with the building opening on April 5, 1963.

Another Venetian curiosity: Ruby Foo’s on the Causeway

We think Rub Foo's closed back in the 1960s.

We think Ruby Foo’s closed back in the 1960s.

We know Ruby Foo’s — the Times Square Chinese restaurant and sushi bar at 49th and Broadway. It’s a Midtown landmark.

The matchbook cover.

The matchbook cover.

But only recently did we learn that there used to be a Ruby Foo on the Beach — right off the Venetian Causeway, where it meets Dade Boulevard east of  Belle Isle.

First, Nine Island resident Josh Fisher turned up the old black and white photo. And then we found this matchbook cover on eBay — with the old style phone number without area code and location — at Miami Beach and the Venetian Causeway.

According to historian Seth Bramson’s 2005 book, Miami Beach, Ruby Foo’s “was a favorite for Chinese food before Thai, Indian and Vietnamese became popular. Some Beachites vaguely recall the eatery relocating to 41st Street, but in any location it is a happy memory….’