Tag Archives: 33139

Plant the plants, wash the windows, boring is welcomed back on Belle Isle

What happened at Tuesday night’s Nine Island Avenue condo board meeting on Belle Isle?

Nothing exciting, nothing contentious, just the basic business of running a big condo, Belle Isle Blog is happy to report. The new management company, KW, seems to be doing an effective job, president Jeff Stokols and board members said.

Well, there was one moment when the volume rose. Board member Mora Israel said the old management company, the Continental Group, “lied” in a letter that hit homeowner mailboxes last week alleging that porters under Continental’s employ, who were let go with the management change, could have stayed at Nine Island without a fee to the building. The first time board members heard that, Israel and Stokols said, was when the letter, dated June 28, arrived in the mail July 7.

“That letter was garbage, nothing but lies.” Israel said.

Here are the other highlights:

— The floors are cleaner, and so are the brass fixtures, the elevator floors, and the parking garages

— KW is investigating bringing concierge services to the building, as well as a Sundry Shop and ATM machine.

— The building is getting an air conditioning maintenance contract, and the temperatures in the hallways will become more consistent.

— A new landscaping company will charge less, provide the same services plus maintain the sprinkler system. The new company handles Grand Venetian, Apogee and Trump.

— A company named Cliffhanger is being hired to clean condo windows — and balcony railing glass as well.

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Venetian association wary as Miami Beach talks budget, drainage this week

The Wednesday Miami Beach City Commission meeting starts the formal process for the 2010-2011 city budget, with the setting of a preliminary tax rate and scheduling of public hearing dates.

The city commission also may revisit the issue of South Beach flooding.

The city decided last month to spend $1 million on a master plan for stormwater drainage. Commissioner Jonah Wolfson has an agenda item to discuss stormwater issues along Alton Road and West Avenue between Fifth Street and Lincoln Road.

Meanwhile, the budget conversation has raised concerns from Venetian Island homeowners, who worry that their long fight for streetscape improvements, which requires $10 million in capital funding, could be derailed as the city tries to deal with a $30 million operating shortfall for the budget year that starts Oct. 1.

Wednesday’s discussion is a key step  in the annual budget process, and for this segment, the city invited residents to ask questions and add input. You can still do that through the city’s website at this link.

By law,  the city must set a proposed tax rate and schedule two public hearing dates (hearings in September) in time for notices to be mailed by the county property tax appraiser during August.

That tentative tax rate will be set Wednesday, and it essentially caps how high the rate will be, though the rate can be cut during the September hearings. It’s during those hearings that final decisions on taxing and spending are made based for the budget that will be proposed by City Manager Jorge Gonzalez.

The meeting starts at 9 a.m. at 1700 Convention Center Dr.

Design Board approves Belle Isle apartments — one floor less than developer wanted

Architect Luis Revuelta outlines details of the proposed Belle Isle apartment complex to the Miami Beach Design Review Board.

Miami Beach’s Design Review Board ended more than a year of wrangling with the owners of the Belle Isle apartment complex at 31 Venetian Way by approving plans for a new rental project on the site — but not the way the developer wanted it.

The board voted 4-1 to back a city design staff recommendation that one of the two five-story buildings proposed for the site be scaled back by one floor. During more than an hour of discussion at Miami Beach City Hall, project attorney Neisen Kasdin and architect Luis Revuelta said the owner of the project would agree to almost any change in the plan design — except for eliminating one floor from the eastern-most building in the project.

Plans for the project have bounced between the developer, city staff and Belle Isle homeowners for more than 18 months. The developer, EuroAmerican Group, Inc., has owned the 3.5-acre property for more than 20 years, operating it most recently as Belle Isle Key Apartments, a complex that includes four, three-story apartment buildings on the northeast portion of Belle Isle facing Maurice Gibb Memorial Park and the Sunset Harbor area.

After the vote, Kasdin said he’d have to talk to EuroAmerican owner Gustavo Munoz to decide what they will do next. They could appeal the decision to the city commission, but Kasdin said he would not speculate on that possibility.

He said his client and Revuelta made myriad changes to try and win support from the Belle Isle Homeowners Association, city staff and the Design Review Board. He said several of the issues raised in arguing against the project “went beyond design into the area of personal opinion.”

The existing complex has 120 units. The proposal that went before the board Tuesday would have included 181 apartments in two five-story buildings, including a 315-space parking garage topped by two tennis courts. Eliminating the floor from the smaller of the two buildings would trim eight units from the project.

City planners have criticized the project as too big for the neighborhood, and for not providing adequate views of Biscayne Bay. Architect Revuelta has made a number of changes, including eliminating a bridge between two buildings, and widening a “view corridor” to the water.

Of the latest plans, city staff wrote: “as presently designed, the 5-story massing of the southeastern portion of the project still overwhelms the historic Venetian Causeway, which in addition to being locally designated, is listed on the National Register, and is designated as an American Scenic Highway. The elevations of the main, larger structure of the north side of the site have not been adequately detailed and developed.”

In the end, staff said the developer and architect  made “very substantial progress in addressing the long standing concerns of staff and the board…” and recommended the project be approved provided the developer:

— Knock a floor off the smaller, easternmost building in the complex, limiting it to four stories instead of  five.

— Build and maintain a public bay walk at least 15-feet wide along the water behind the complex.

— Receive approval from the Miami-Dade Biscayne Bay Shoreline Review committee.

After the meeting, Revuelta told Belle Isle Residents Association president Scott Diffenderfer he was “extremely disappointed” that the homeowner group didn’t express support after all the concessions that were made.

Diffenderfer, in remarks before the review board, said the developer made several changes, including widening the view corridor to the bay, “that we are very happy with,” he said.

But said Belle Isle residents still were concerned about building height, traffic impact and the ongoing problem of flooding on the island. Regarding flooding, he said “the sentiment of the neighborhood is that not one more unit should be built until that issue is addressed.”

The latest design tweaks include stucco on the west building facade.

New bus routes roll, Belle Isle to beach in 8 minutes, 25 cents, but will you ride?

The new route for the South Beach Local, the 25-cent commuter bus that connects Belle Isle to Publix, the Bass Museum, the beach and runs north and south on Washington and Alton/West Avenue, goes into effect today.

New routes and explanation for the SBL

As Belle Isle Blog told you a week or so ago, Miami-Dade Transit and SBL fans hope the changes will make this ride more direct and more convenient and lure more Belle Isle residents to hop aboard. If not, it’s quite possible the county and the city will decide to severe the island from the SBL route, which has high ridership elsewhere on South Beach.

Belle Isle was added to the SBL route less than two years ago, the result of heavy lobbying from the Belle Isle Residents Association, which believes it is an important neighborhood amenity. But it often loops Island Avenue and Venetian Way on Belle Isle and drops off and picks up only a rider or two — if at all.

To recap the changes in the route, which you can review on this handy map:

  • Half the buses from Belle Isle go directly to Collins Park (the library and Bass Museum) on Dade Boulevard and 17th Street (Convention Center, City Hall, Macy’s, Lincoln Road, Fillmore/Gleason Theater, Holocaust Memorial, Botanical Gardens, the beach). The buses then head south on Washington Avenue to South Pointe before coming back up Alton Road. There is a stop at the new Big Box Mall (Best Buy, Ross, Staples, Publix) and Whole Foods on the way north on Alton and West avenues.
  • The other half of the buses–the ones that don’t now go directly to Collins Park–will go directly to Publix at Sunset Harbor, and then continue down West Avenue after leaving Publix. As before, everyone gets off the bus at Publix, so one has to catch the next bus going down West to access Whole Foods, the Fifth & Alton Mall and other destinations on West and Lower Alton Road.

There also are new bus shelters along the way, including one on Belle Isle and the one built at Publix, which give you a chance to keep dry in our summer downpours. We’ll keep you posted on ridership, which will take some time to grow — if that actually happens.

Venetian Causeway streetscape plan includes extensive, island-to-island upgrades

An overview of work on DiLido Island.

After a series of snags and delays, a series of construction and beautification projects on the Venetian Causeway and causeway islands by Miami-Dade County and the city of Miami Beach are nearing the go-ahead stage.

The scope of the work is daunting and will touch every homeowner living on the causeway — and affect every driver crossing it.

Along the causeway itself, it includes repaving the road and replacing all curbs, gutters, sidewalks, adding decorative crosswalks at intersections, landscaping medians and swale areas, improving bike lanes and re-doing all the lighting.

Light pole detail from Miami Beach's island streetscape plans

On the individual islands, the rehab is equally extensive — from new sidewalks to lighting and landscaping and drainage. (On Belle Isle, work on Island Avenue was done two years ago as part of the renovation of Belle Isle Park).

Miami Beach is handling the work on San Marino, DiLido and Rivo Alto islands. Plans are 90 percent complete, and the engineering firm developing them for the city — Schwebke, Shiskin & Associates — has made them available on the web so homeowners can study how their individual lot will be affected — even where the trees and light posts would be located. The plans are hundreds of pages, and take a long time to download. Belle Isle Blog pulled the art with this blog post from the site.

The Miami-Dade County piece of this project involves the repaving main causeway throughfare and renovating the right-of-way along the way. opens bids on June 30, with a targeted cost of nearly $7.8 million. According to the county summary, it includes sidewalks, curbs, gutters, landscaped medians, wider bike lanes, drainage improvements, decorative crosswalks, lighting, tree planting and signage from Biscayne to Belle islands. Continue reading

Belle Isle apartment developer tweaks design, lowers building profile

The latest design tweaks include stucco stair-stepped on the west building facade.

The architects planning the five-story apartment complex at 31 Venetian Way revealed more tweaks of the plans to Belle Isle residents Wednesday night, a prelude to a key design hearing next month where they hope to get the go-ahead for the  181-unit project.

The Design Review Board will hear the proposal at 8 a.m. on July 6 at Miami Beach City Hall, 1700 Convention Center Dr.

The new design would replace Belle Isle Key, a complex of three-story buildings on the northeast corner of Belle Isle.

Key changes in the project include a wider view corridor between two proposed buildings, a slightly lower profile on the easternmost building, and a stepped stucco facade on the western building that architect Luis Revuelta said would ensure the project no longer looks like “one very long building.” The project adds 61 apartments to the three-acre site, and includes a 315-space parking garage, 28 of them for visitors. The current apartment complex has 120 units.

William Cary, Miami Beach’s assistant planning director, said the design tweaks signal “a huge step in the right direction” although the city has not completed it’s design review. “….the change of shape of smaller building to a boat-like shape” is an improvement, he said. “We requested that the two structures have a different stylistic treatment….a great deal of progress has been made in that direction.”

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Handwringing and heartache at Nine Island condo on Belle Isle

Nine Island Avenue

From the national political front to the local Belle Isle condo, these truths become more self-evident with each passing day: It’s easier to celebrate the idea of change than the execution of it.

At the Nine Island Avenue condo on Belle Isle, unit owners turned out the majority of its condo board a couple of months back, and that board dumped the building’s entrenched management company, the Continental Group, for KW Management.

The management transfer happened just last week, and just when unit owners and the new board members thought things might be settling down, they got more contentious. Longtime building employees have lost their jobs, quit or been fired, and many longtime residents — including Nine Island’s founder and original resident — are distressed.

Belle Isle Blog has chronicled the leadership turnover and management switch before, and you can read all about it  by clicking here.

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