Tag Archives: Finvarb

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

Planning Board approves 17th Street hotel; Design Review Board comes next

Proposed Residence Inn site north of 17th Street

Proposed Residence Inn site north of 17th Street

The Miami Beach Planning Board approved the proposed Marriott Residence Inn at 17th Street and West Avenue on Wednesday night, after more than four-and-one-half hours of discussion.

The project, which includes a sleek 116-room hotel designed by architect Kobi Karp and a 66-space mechanical parking garage, now will go before the Miami Beach Design Review Board.

The 6-1 vote came after board members heard from more than a dozen residents from different neighborhood associations who expressed concerns the hotel would add to traffic woes on 17th Street between Alton Road and Belle Isle.

They also heard from supporters of the project, who said an extended stay hotel in the residential part of Miami Beach would add convenient lodging for family and friends of Miami Beach residents.

The property is bounded by 17th Street, the Collins Canal, the path of the planned West Avenue Bridge and a parking lot that serves Boston Market and a retail and apartment building at the corner of 17th Street and Alton Road.

Rendering of proposed Marriott hotel

Rendering of proposed Marriott hotel

Board members praised the design of the hotel project, proposed to be built on land under contract to be purchased for $5 million from the Miami Beach Housing Authority by the Finvarb Group.

Finvarb owns several Marriott properties, including the Courtyard on Washington Avenue.

But most of the debate involved impact on 17th Street traffic from the project.

Henry Stolar, the only board member who voted against the project, did so after asking for the vote to be postponed so the development team and city staff could do more work on the 17th Street issues.

“I can’t imagine a better case for doing the right thing than giving this another month….otherwise we are in a position of just getting this done. I do not like haste in deciding something that has taken seven months while a political process takes its course.”

Board chairman Charles Urstadt said the decision was difficult because he believed the project is a good one, but the concerns about traffic were legitimate.

“We are here to balance the greater good to the public with the rights of the property owner.” he said. “We can’t force this to become a park, we have certain limits on what we can do.”

To try and address traffic, board members asked for a slim median on 17th Street to keep eastbound traffic on 17th Street from attempting left turns into the property, and a requirement that a fourth valet be added during peak business hours at the hotel to prevent cars from backing up from the hotel entrance into the street.

Developer Ron Finvarb told board members the hotel would be something the city will be proud of. “This will be a Residence Inn by Marriott. It must adhere to very high standards,” Finvarb said.

“It will not have any accessory uses that will create additional impact or noise…. With all of the conditions we have offered…the hotel will only benefit the neighborhood. This will not be a party hotel. It will be a state of the art hotel with great design and service.”

Planning board considers 17th Street hotel at 5 p.m.; expect a crowd

Rendering of the hotel from the Collins Canal.

Rendering of the hotel from the Collins Canal.

The Miami Beach Planning Board has scheduled a 5 p.m.  hearing on the proposed Marriott Residence Inn on 17th Street and West Avenue.

Expect a big crowd and a lengthy discussion.

The Finvarb Group wants to build a 116-room hotel on the property. It’s a sleek five-story hotel designed by architect Kobi Karp, with 66 parking spaces.

The property, owned by the Miami Beach Housing Authority, is tight, tucked between 17th Street and the Collins Canal, west of the apartment building that houses the Vespa store and other retail, and the Boston Market on Alton Road.

A coalition of neighborhood groups — including the Belle Isle Residents Association, the West Avenue Corridor Neighborhood Association, Venetian Causeway Homeowners Association and six more — are asking the Planning Board to delay approval until the city can better study its impact on traffic. They have also suggested the property should be preserved as green space.

They are urging their members to show up at the meeting wearing red.

In a letter to Planning Board members, BIRA President Scott Diffenderfer said the impact of the planned West Avenue bridge, which will form the west boundary of the hotel property, needs to be considered in the plan, along with the expansion of the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Planning Board members also will hear from supporters of the project, many of whom posted comments during the weekend on BelleIsleBlog. Several praised the design and said a hotel like a Residence Inn — which caters to business travelers and longer stays — would be an amenity to residents who have friends and family visiting. They also argue that the hotel would have less impact on traffic than other businesses that could be built on the property, like a fast food restaurant or a drug store.

In its analysis of the proposal, city of Miami Beach planners recommended approving it, subject to many conditions. The on-site restaurant must be for hotel guests only. The roof-top pool must close by 11 p.m. The hotel has to provide a shuttle for employees who park off-site. And more.

The project still must be scrutinized by the Miami Beach Design Review Board.

Belle Isle leaders push for green space for 17th Street, not proposed Marriott hotel

Rendering of proposed Marriott hotel

Rendering of proposed Marriott hotel

The Belle Isle Residents Association asked 10 other neighborhood associations to join them in urging Miami Beach to use Housing Authority land north of 17th Street at West Avenue for green space, rather than sell most of it to a hotel developer.

Proposed Residence Inn site north of 17th Street

Proposed Residence Inn site north of 17th Street

The Housing Authority has an agreement to sell about 25,000 square feet of land east of West Avenue between 17th Street and the Collins Canal to the Finvarb Group, which owns and operates several Marriott properties. Finvarb plans to build a 116-room Residence Inn on the property, and the proposal is scheduled to be heard by the Miami Beach Planning Board on April 30.

The Belle Isle Association letter, signed by BIRA president Scott Diffenderfer, argues the property is too small the accommodate the development and is too awkwardly places amid intersections on Alton Road, 17th Street, Dade Boulevard and West Avenue and therefore will result in added traffic congestion.

“Residents of the surrounding neighborhoods need to write to the Planning Board Members and City Commissioners,” Diffenderfer wrote.  “Please circulate the attached “Green Spaces-Not Traffic” document to the residents you represent and ask those who wish to support this position to do so now before the April 30 Planning Board meeting.”

The purchase of the Housing Authority land is contingent on city approval of the hotel.

On March 13, the Miami Beach City Commission relaxed parking requirements for small hotels in the city’s historic district, and added the 17th Street parking to the the more generous rules. That decision was opposed by the Belle Isle Residents Association and the West Avenue Corridor Neighborhood Association.

So far, four neighborhood associations have signed on to the Belle Isle association initiative, according to Belle Isle board member Herb Frank: the West Avenue Corridor Neighborhood Association, the Venetian Island Homeowner Association, Sunset Island homeowners and the Sunset Island 3 and 4 homeowners group.

Interestingly, one member of the Planning Board,  real estate analyst Charles Urstadt, is a Belle Isle association board member, and a second, architecture professor Jean-Francois LeJeune, was on the board until he resigned in March. A third, Frank Kruszewski, is the former manager of the Costa Brava condominium on Belle Isle and  lives in Sunset Harbour. (Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Kruszewski is currently the manager at Costa Brava; he no longer is).

Belle Isle gets glimpse of proposed 17th Street hotel

Rendering includes proposed West Ave. bridge.

Rendering includes proposed West Ave. bridge.

The developer of the proposed Marriott Residence Inn on 17th Street and West Avenue gave Belle Isle residents a presentation of plans for the 116-room hotel on Thursday.

The project is scheduled for a Planning Board review on April 30.

Here are the vital statistics:

Rendering of the hotel from the Collins Canal.

Rendering of the hotel from the Collins Canal.

— It’s a five-story building, the same height as the retail apartment building immediately to the east that houses the Vespa store on the corner of 17th Street and Alton Road. It would have 66 parking spaces in a mechanical lot.

— The development site is tiny, about 25,000 square feet north of 17th Street, east of the planned West Avenue Bridge, and south of the Collins Canal, which parallels Dade Boulevard.

— Residence Inns feature studios and suites with small kitchens tailored toward business travelers and families. It will have a ground floor restaurant for guests only (these hotels provide free breakfasts), a small conference room and a rooftop pool to serve hotel guests only (11 p.m. close). There will be no outdoor bar counter on the roof, and the owner has proposed to agree not to hold any events on the rooftop.

— The developer is the Finvarb Group, headed by Robert Finvarb. The company has a number of Marriott properties in Florida and elsewhere, including the Courtyard Inn on Washington Avenue at 16th Street.  The architect is renowned Kobi Karp.

Belle Isle Residents Association members at Thursday night’s meeting at the Belle Plaza condo had lots of questions about how the hotel would accommodate deliveries, the expected traffic impact, and when employees would come and go.

Traffic planner Richard Garcia said his impact study showed the hotel would generate less than half the traffic of some other uses that could be allowed on the property, such as a pharmacy, dry cleaner or fast food restaurant. He projected the busiest hour for traffic to be 5-6 p.m., when about 33 trips would be made in and out of the property.

The project’s land-use lawyer, Michael Larkin, projected that no more than 12 employees would be working at the hotel at any given time, but that did not include parking valets.

So, what do you think?

Miami Beach may reduce parking for hotels, with special rule for project 17th Street and West Avenue

Miami Beach commissioners are scheduled to vote Wednesday on new parking rules that would reduce the number of parking spaces required for hotels in historic districts.

The proposed change, as approved by the city Planning Board, would only apply to the retention of historic buildings — with an exception specifically designed to enable the construction of a new hotel on the north side of 17th Street and West Avenue.

What’s so special about this hotel? A good question for the city commission to answer. Because the parking rules on the agenda for Wednesday seem to be written with that one project in mind.

Proposed Residence Inn site north of 17th Street

Proposed Residence Inn site north of 17th Street

Some background: The Miami Beach Housing Authority owns the pie-shaped sliver of land south of the Collins Canal and just east of the proposed West Avenue bridge, which would extend West Avenue north across 17th Street, the canal and  Dade Boulevard, linking with the Sunset Harbour neighborhood.

The Housing Authority has a contract to sell the land to the Finvarb Group — a company headed by Robert Finvarb that owns and operates a slew of Marriotts in South Florida and across the country.

Finvarb has proposed building a five-story Residence Inn by Marriott on the property.  Designed by architect Kobi Karp, it would have five floors, 116 rooms and only 66 parking spaces in a mechanical garage.

The land sale is contingent on the approval of the hotel project.
And the hotel project can’t go forward without the change in the city’s parking rules.

The developers have repeatedly asked the Planning Board to defer consideration of the hotel because the proposed number of parking spaces assumes the city will lessen parking requirements.

And the parking ordinance analysis the city will vote on Wednesday actually singles out the Finvarb project to be exempted from the requirement that the reduction be “only applicable to retention of historic buildings.”

There are areas where the parking reduction won’t apply at all, because of concerns about parking shortages and traffic congestion. One is the neighborhood south of Fifth Street. Another is the West Avenue corridor, which they city contends ends at the doorstep of the Finvarb property — at West Avenue and 17th Street.

The Housing Authority/Finvarb property is across the street from the West Avenue corridor (and you could argue, that when the West Avenue bridge is built, it will be on the corridor.

Nevertheless, specific  language in the staff recommendation to the city commission mentions Finvarb and this exception to the rule: the proposed hotel would get the .5 space per unit break as long as the hotel agrees it will not have a restaurant, pool, bar or special events open to the public.

The Residence Inn’s restaurant and pool will only be used by hotel guests.

The Belle Isle Residents Association, the West Avenue Corridor Neighborhood Association and and Miami Beach United have opposed the new parking rule, and the new hotel. They argue that 17th Street between Alton Road and West Avenue is one of the city’s most congested areas, and adding the hotel — in fact, creating special rules to accommodate the hotel — just makes no sense.

In a letter sent Monday to the Miami Beach mayor and commissioners, Belle Isle Residents Association President Scott Diffenderfer asked that a decision on the parking rule be deferred so the city’s Transportation and Parking Committee could review it.

Diffenderfer is a committee member, and noted that the group typically reviews ordinances that would change parking requirements.

“I have been a member for five years and I am insulted that an amendment as important and controversial as this has not been presented to us,” he wrote. “There is clearly a breakdown in the process.”

The Belle Isle residents group has been seeking a presentation from zoning lawyer Michael Larkin for months. Larkin has met with selected island residents, but not in an open meeting that anyone could attend.

“Many residents have expressed outrage that the City would even consider reducing parking requirements to allow this type of development on that tiny piece of property which is mere feet away from 17th Street and Alton Road – one of the most congested and dysfunctional intersections in our city,” Diffenderfer said in his letter to the city commission.