Tag Archives: Belle Isle

Pause, Belle Isle, and enjoy the view

IMG_6139It’s a beautiful Belle Isle morning. Right now, no noise, no traffic, just a beautiful sunrise.

Belle Isle residents view plans for 31 Venetian Way — and they have questions….

Street rendering of 31 Venetian Way

Street rendering of 31 Venetian Way (courtesy deforma studio inc.)

Lots of questions.

Belle Isle residents Wednesday night previewed the design for the apartment complex proposed to replace Belle Isle Key, the 1931 vintage three-story complex at the northeast portion of our island.

This is the third iteration of a plan to replace the complex, which currently has 120 units in five three-story buildings. The original structures at 31 Venetian Way were used as barracks to house troops in World War II. They were renovated more than 20 years ago.

Rendering shows view from south side of Belle Isle/

Rendering shows view from south side of Belle Isle/

A 2009 proposal from the owner, the EuroAmerican Group, was fought by the neighborhood, scaled back slightly by the Miami Beach Design Review Board and never built. The developer sued Miami Beach to build a little bigger than the DRB would allow– and lost.

We’ll try to dissect the latest plan clinically, and then get back to the questions and objections raised by residents.

— Number of apartments: There currently are 120 units on the site in five three-story buildings. The new design calls for 172 units in two five-story buildings.

— Apartment size: Architect Javier Barrera of Deforma Studio  said the average apartment will be 867 square feet. He said the mix would be 75 percent one-bedroom and 25 percent two-bedroom. There will be no studio apartments.

Parking is in the left building in the middle under the green.

Parking is in the left building in the middle under the green.

–Parking: The existing complex has 109 parking spaces, with overflow using residential permits on the island. The proposal calls for 297 parking spaces, all in a garage hidden from Venetian Way because apartment units wrap around it on the water and street sides. The parking garage is topped by a roof deck. There will be enough spaces for residents with about 39 overflow spaces for guests, Barrera said. There will be 205 bicycle spaces on site.

— Height: The buildings will be roughly 20 feet higher than the current structures — plus what’s on top of the roof deck, which will include landscaping, stairwells and the air conditioning cooling towers.

Rendering shows view from Biscayne Bay

Rendering shows view from Biscayne Bay

— Flooding issues, sea-level rise: The current complex is five feet above sea-level, and Biscayne Bay laps over the seawall during King Tides. The new complex will have to be built from an elevation at least five feet higher, Barrera said, and a recent Miami Beach code change could increase that to eight feet higher (a total of 13 feet above sea level). That will keep the grounds dryer, but also will raise the effective height of the buildings.

–Sustainability: Barrera was asked if the building would be LEED certified, and whether it would provide charging stations for electric cars. He said it would not be LEED certified unless a new city rule requires it to be, though they would try to make it as energy efficient as possible. He said there were plans to include charging stations in the garage.

— Public amenities: The new plan features a bay walk behind the complex, required by the city. An iteration shown last year had, instead, a park-like plaza at the east corner of the property, where the bridge from Sunset Harbour crosses into Belle Isle. The bay walk would be open to the public from sunrise to sunset, then locked.

The project entrance, and "view Corridor" between buildings.

The project entrance, and “view Corridor” between buildings.

— Design: This plan seems less massive than the plan that was proposed in 2009 and ended up in court. There is a “view corridor” between the two buildings (though the 2009 plan also had a view corridor). The renderings show — and architect Barrera promised — much lusher landscaping and the preservation of some, but not all, of the older trees on the site.

— Timeline: If the project moves ahead smoothly, Barrera said, it goes like this: The project goes before the Miami Beach Design Review Board on May 3. If it’s approved, additional design development would take about six months. Then permitting takes about six months. That puts construction starting in May 2017. For how long? At least another year.

We started off by indicating that residents had many questions. About 30 people showed up for the presentation at Belle Plaza. We’ll try and lay out some of the key concerns people raised, and the response from Barrera, the architect. The owner wasn’t present, and there were some questions Barrera could not answer.

The key concerns expressed:

— The buildings are just too high, and the added two stories or trees on the roof decks will block bay views of some Belle Isle residents on the lower floors of buildings on the south side the island.

Response: The code allows five stories, and that is what the owner is entitled to build and what he intends to build. There could be some change in the height of roof deck landscaping (shrubs instead of trees) if the neighborhood prefers.

— The owner could/should do a top-to-bottom renovation of the existing structures, not add units to the island, and make more money too.

Response: (and this is a massive paraphrase by your Belle Isle Blog): No.

— The mix of apartments (75 percent one bedroom, 25 percent two-bedroom) is wrong for our residential island, and more two- and three-bedroom units would fill a gap in the market and fit better with the neighborhood.

Response: The unit mix is based on a marketing study, but the question will be brought to the owners attention.

— A LEED certified building would be better for the environment and easier for the developer to market. And it likely is required by the city’s new rules.

Response: If it’s required, we’ll do it. If not, the building will be made as energy efficient as possible.

— The developer should bury the power lines in front of the property on Venetian Way for aesthetic and hurricane prep purposes.there, along with the response from Barrera and some observations from Scot Diffenderfer, president of the Belle Isle Residents Association.

Response: EuroAmerican is willing to pay for burying the line, but FPL is requiring that all powerlines on Venetian Way on Belle Isle be buried if the lines in front of 31 Venetian Way are buried. And EuroAmerican isn’t willing to pay for the whole island.

Belle Isle Residents Association President Scott Diffenderfer asked Barrera to get the cost for burying all the lines so the residents association could explore figuring out how to pay the difference.

— The bay walk leads nowhere and wouldn’t be as much of an amenity as a small park.

Response: The developer agrees, but the city is requiring it.

The Design Review Board meets May 3. Diffenderfer encouraged residents to attend and share their concerns.





O, Miami. We’re making underwater poetry at The Standard!

omiamiWe’re about to hit April, which means it’s poetry month. And that’s become a fun time in Miami, thanks to the Knight Foundation and omiami.org, which puts on an annual poetry festival with great events to celebrate with verse.

O, Miami tries make an encounter with poetry the norm around town.

“We want people to find poetry on rooftops, or in a fortune cookie, on a cafecito cup, at a fashion show, on the sand, on prescription medicine bottles, on the lawn, in hair, on doorsteps, or even under water,” says O, Miami promoter (and Belle Isle Residents Association board member) Lisa Palley.

And this year, that’s where Belle Isle comes in. There’s an O, Miami event on our little island.

It happens April 6 at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. at The Standard, 40 Island Ave., and it’s called Current.You have to RSVP to attend. Oh, and pay $6.09.

What is it? A guided virtual reality meditation under water led by  artist Jillian Mayer.

What will happen? We’re not sure, but here’s what the website advises for attire:


Please wear a bathing suit under your clothes.

Please be prepared to:
-Enter a body of water
-Place your head under water
-Relinquish your cell phone for an extended amount of time

Here’s a little more:

“The group will be quietly led into the pool and instructed to take distance from other members in the group. On an audio cue, they will be instructed to lower their heads into the water with their faces fully submerged…..A 15-minute musical/meditational composition will lead the group on a series of mental prompts, conceptual meditations and light movements….”

You get the idea.

For Belle Isle residents, here’s your chance to see what might replace Belle Isle Key Apartments

From Maurice Gibb Park, Belle Isle Key.

From Maurice Gibb Park, Belle Isle Key.

The owners of the 120-unit apartment complex on Belle Isle known as Belle Isle Key have a new proposal to knock down the 1931-vintage complex and replace it with new apartments and parking.

Belle Isle Key Apartments, 31 Island Ave.

Belle Isle Key Apartments, 31 Island Ave.

Company representatives will meet with Belle Isle residents to show and explain its proposal on March 31 at 7 p.m. It’s expected to happen at Belle Plaza, 20 Island Ave.

The company, EuroAmerican Group, markets its properties under the name Key International. The company’s roots are in Spain . It is based in Miami and owns and operates apartments and hotels around the world.

In South Florida, they also own the Eden Roc and South Beach Marriott, and have built or own condos and apartment buildings in Bal Harbour, Sunny Isles and elsewhere.

The new proposal calls for 172 units in two buildings with a view corridor in between. It includes sufficient parking on site, something the current complex lacks. One version of the plan included a small park at the corner of Venetian Way and the bridge to Sunset Harbour, but the city asked EuroAmerican to provide a bay walk instead.

Belle Isle Residents Association President Scott Diffenderfer said the owners wanted to present the plans to residents for feedback before going back to Miami Beach to try and get approval. The project is likely to go the Miami Beach Design Review Board in May.

This will be the third time they have pitched a proposal to replace the complex of 120 units in four, three story buildings. The original structures at 31 Venetian Way were used as barracks to house troops in World War II and were low-income housing until they were renovated more than 20 years ago.

Rendering of previous plan

Rendering of previous plan

In 2009 and 2010, EuroAmerican went to the city with designs that called for 181 apartments in two five-story buildings,  including a 315-space parking garage topped by two tennis courts. The city Design Review Board approved a plan that trimmed one floor from the easternmost building, and eliminated eight apartments.

The developer appealed that decision to the city commission in November 2010.  EuroAmerican wanted the fifth floor, The company sued in January 2011, but Miami Beach prevailed in court in January 2012.

They came back in May 2015 with a new proposal, but that effort stalled.


Belle Isle loading zone spaces cut back, time limits extended

Last week, Miami Beach began enforcing 30-minute time limits on 18 parking spaces around the Belle Isle that were designated as loading zones during the day for workers.

The Belle Isle Residents Association had asked for the loading zone spaces to try to eliminate the gridlock around Island Avenue caused by workers unable to properly park vehicles during weekdays

After a week of enforcing the new rules, a couple of things became clear. Many spaces weren’t being used, in part because the 30-minute time period appeared to not be long enough, said Belle Isle Residents Association President Scott Diffenderfer.

Even though the enforcement began after a significant warning period, some people were surprised when they were ticketed and towed.

At the end of last week, Diffenderfer said, BIRA asked the parking department to trim the number of designated spaces and increase the maximum parking time allowed.

Earlier this week, Miami Beach cut the number of loading zone spaces from 18 to 9, and doubled the time allowed, from 30 minutes to an hour.

“The city is being very cooperative with us,” he said. “We are responding to people. We are listening.”

Storm warning: Belle Isle’s early light


On a stormy Thursday, an ominous light rises over Souith Beach from Belle Isle.

Rainbow off Belle Isle

7:30 a.m., looking south from 9 Island venue.

7:30 a.m., looking south from 9 Island venue.

Not a bad way to start Monday morning…..