Tag Archives: Development

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.

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Miami Beach approves new mixed use development on Mark’s Cleaners site

The latest development news in Sunset Harbour, our oh-so-hot neighboring neighborhood:

Miami Beach’s Design Review Board approved the Palau at Sunset Harbour, a sleek glass and steel mixed use project on the old Mark’s Cleaners property and a neighboring site at the entrance to Sunset Islands, where the Cypress Bay  condo started and stalled.

The Palau is to include 50 condo units and 11,000 square feet of retail space. It’s bankrolled by the Disney family, according The Miami Herald. The developers paid $8.2 million for the site a year ago; Mark’s moved from the site in January.

Some Sunset Harbour residents battled the five-story project, saying it was too big for such a small site.

 

Belle Isle Key developer sues Miami Beach over height limit on proposed apartment complex

Rendering of the proposed apartment complex at 31 Venetian Way.

The owner of Belle Isle Key Apartments at 31 Venetian Way has sued the city of Miami Beach, challenging a Design Review Board decision limiting the height of one of two planned buildings to four floors.

The lawsuit, filed last month in District Court, is the latest twist in a design and zoning fight that now goes back two years.

Belle Isle Key Apartments is owned by Euroamerican Group, which has operated the apartment complex on the northeast corner of Belle Isle since 1980.

The existing complex includes four, three-story apartment buildings, and total of 120 units, and street level parking.

EuroAmerican, which is owned by Gustavo Munoz, has proposed building two sleek five-story buildings and a parking structure on the 3.5-acre site. It included 181 apartments in two five-story buildings, including a 315-space parking garage topped by two tennis courts.

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

The current zoning for the property does allow buildings as high as five stories. The developer did not request any zoning changes, but still needed approval from the Design Review Board on architectural issues.

Of the last version of the 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.”

On July 6, the Design Review Board ended 18 months of conversations and negotiations on the design when they approved the project on a 4-1 vote — but only if one floor of the building closest to the bridge to Sunset Harbour is eliminated. Cutting one floor from the smaller of the two buildings would trim eight units from the project.

That was one change the developer was unwilling to make, lawyer Neisen Kasdin said. EuroAmerican appealed the decision to the city commission, which denied their appeal on Nov. 17. On Dec. 17, the suit was filed in the appellate division of Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

In its petition to the court, lawyer Kasdin argues that city zoning codes allow buildings 50 feet high; imposing the four-story limit for the one structure (a height of 38 feet) is inconsistent with Miami Beach land development regulations.

He points out that at 50 feet, the five story building would be the lowest building on Belle Isle that actually abuts the causeway (lower than Grand Venetian, 3 Island Avenue and The Vistas.

The Belle Isle Residents Association met on several occasions with EuroAmerican’s design team, and those discussions led to several changes in the plan. In the end, association told the Miami Beach Design Review Board that the project was better, but still too large, in the association’s view.

At a recent meeting, residents association members discussed the prospect of a suit challenging the city’s decision. At that meeting, association member Jean-Francois Le Jeune, a professor of architecture at the University of Miami, said the association might explore designating Belle Isle as a historic district as a way to limit how high buildings can be built on Belle Isle.

Belle Isle before Nine Island Avenue, Grand Venetian, the Vistas and more

In this 1975 aerial photo, the site for 9 Island Avenue is scrub and palms.

Here’s another trip into the wayback machine, a Thanksgiving gift from 9 Island Avenue resident Josh Fisher, a frequent Belle Isle Blog contributor.

The image you see (you can click on it to make it bigger) shows Belle Isle in 1975. The vacant lot in the foreground is where 9 Island Avenue, the biggest condo on our island, was built in 1981.

Postcard shows Venetian Isle Motel at 20 Venetian Way.

If you look on the right, you see the vacant lot that became the Grand Venetian. It’s notable, also, because it means in 1975, the Venetian Isle Motel (from our postcard collection) had already been leveled.

Across the Venetian Causeway from that vacant lot is Belle Isle Key Apartments, in 1975 still looking every bit like the barracks the complex originally was. The renovations with the mansard roofs that developer EuroAmerican has been seeking to level for a sleeker steel and glass complex came after 1975.

Rendering of The Vistas, built in 1998.

One last note: On the northwest corner, where The Vista now sits, is another low-rise complex that also was leveled for new development.

The Vistas is now a 48-unit condo.

For a little more fun, look east. No Sunset Harbour condos facing the island, a straggly mess of greenspace where we now have Maurice Gibb Memorial Park, and generally a lot less density.

In this 1975 aerial photo, the site for 9 Island Avenue is scrub and palms.

Then compare these two images — a Google map view of the island today, and the 1975 view. You can click through so see more detail on the Google map.

Developer wants City Commission to reconsider Belle Isle apartment project

The latest rendering of the apartment complex at 31 Venetian Way.

The owner of the Belle Isle Key Apartments has appealed Miami Beach’s Design Review Board’s requirement to reduce the height of one of his two proposed apartment buildings from five to four stories.

It comes before the Miami Beach City Commission on Wednesday.

The design board voted 4-1 on July 6 to approve the proposed project at 31 Venetian Way, but only if one of the two five-story buildings proposed for the site is scaled back by one floor.

During debate, 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.

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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.

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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