Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales plans to challenge last week’s decision by the Design Review Board approving two super graphic signs for the proposed 1212 Lincoln Road development. Chief Deputy City Attorney Eve Boutsis has notified Commissioners and their aides via email of the Manager’s intent to appeal the decision to the City Commission. This is only the second time a DRB decision has been appealed to this Commission during the past two years.
The owners plan to build a five-story commercial building with a hotel on the site now occupied by Wells Fargo Bank. The project was approved in July 2016 with the exception of the artistic super graphics on the building's north and south sides. At the time, an ordinance was moving through the City Commission process and was ultimately approved in October 2016, to allow super graphic signs.
Under that ordinance, electronic graphics and images are permitted. Specifically:
Artistic murals, graphics and images, including projected or illuminated still images and/or neon banding, may be installed on a building or structure, if approved by the design review board or historic preservation board, as applicable…
Among the highlights: Non-commercial images only are permitted; moving images may be approved by the DRB or HPB; the maximum number of electronic murals, graphics or images per property is two; maximum size is 100 square feet when facing a street or sidewalk unless a larger size is approved by the Design Review Board or Historic Preservation Board; they are only permitted in commercial or mixed-use districts and are not permitted to face residential districts; there is a minimum distance separation requirement of 1,500 feet between signs; the level of illumination must be reduced between midnight and 7 am; auditory messages are not permitted; no blinking, fading, dissolving, scrolling, rolling, animated movement, or changes in intensity during static display periods are allowed; brightness shall be modulated from sunset to sunrise.
The proposal for the 1212 Lincoln Road project includes two large LED panels – one on the north wall in an open stairwell that will be visible from Lincoln Road and one on the south wall facing a commercial area on 16th Street and visible from Alton Road. The panel on the north side would be 24’ 11” wide by 43’ 3” high, while the panel to the south would be 90’ 8” wide by 37’ 9” high. (The screen locations are highlighted in orange in the rendering above.)
Two of the principals in the project, Russell Galbut and Marisa Galbut described their vision for the panels during the DRB meeting. Specifically, they want to highlight the assets of local cultural arts institutions as well as those of their partners. While not part of the scope of the discussion at this point, they discussed their desire to simulcast performances from the New World Symphony, the Arsht Center, or the London Symphony as a public benefit. (Currently, auditory signs and simulcasting content are not part of what’s permitted under the Code.)
In approving the LED panels unanimously (7-0), the DRB approved one set of images for the site – high resolution photographs of the six Americana mosaic murals by Enzo Gallo that were installed on the bank building in 1971. Seeking a “more curatorial process”, Board member John Bodnar urged the Board to approve the screens only and allow the content selection process to evolve further during what will probably be a three-year construction period. “Three years from now a really fantastic, interesting, fascinating curatory whole agenda can be put out there, right? And we would like that to happen … let’s not decide [the content] now.”
Marisa Galbut agreed but added, “I would also like not to forget what was there before we built this building. The murals, I think are a historic part of the community” and urged the Board to approve the photos of the murals which it did.
In its preliminary report on the application, Planning Staff wrote, “Staff generally has no objections to the initial concept of the installation of an artistic super graphic along portions of the exterior facing north and east elevation of the proposed mixed-use building, especially when the interventions activate otherwise blank, featureless walls.”
Staff did express a concern with the choice of screen – LED flat panels versus mesh options “Staff believes along with the advancement in architectural mesh lighting solutions, that the team is missing an opportunity to seamlessly blend the driving concept of the desired imagery into the skin of the architecture,” they wrote. The memo describes an option to use Mediamesh, “a high-grade architectural woven stainless steel mesh that is very flexible and can secure to any shape building or structure. It is an elegant, proven product that has been installed on buildings around the world. Mediamesh is the only transparent large-scale media technology available that provides architectural aesthetics that enhance the look and feel of buildings, while providing a powerful digital media platform.”
“Staff recommends that the architect further explore more advanced display options in order to truly become a visual centerpiece for the City, serving as an innovative and bold stage as envisioned by the team,” they concluded.
Attorney for the project, Graham Penn, noted mesh screens are used in stadiums and buildings that have windows or other openings to allow a view through them whereas, in this case, the screens are covering blank walls.
As soon as the approval process had concluded, a petition was posted on Change.org to seek a rehearing. It reads:
Miami Beach residents do NOT support the infiltration of massive displays in commercial districts throughout our city. The signage ordinance was updated to allow the Design Review Board and Historic Preservation Board to approve signs larger than 100 square feet.
The first such waiver was provided this week at the Design Review Board, allowing a 90 foot wide by 38 foot tall display to be constructed on a massive new project at Lincoln and Alton Road. The 90 foot display would project graphics and negatively impact Miami Beach's quality of life and brand image.
We ask the City Commission to:
1. Request a rehearing of the Design Review Board approval for 1212 Lincoln Road
2. Amend the sign ordinance to disallow waivers over 100 square feet... AND/OR require City Commission approval for such waivers.
Allowing a city board such waiver powers will negatively impact our residents' quality of life.
It had garnered approximately 100 signatures before the appeal notice went out and 231 signatures as of the publication of this article.
The basis for the City Manager’s appeal will be outlined “in the coming months” Boutsis wrote to Commissioners with outside counsel representing the Manager. Boutsis, as Counsel to the DRB, will represent the Board. She noted a hearing is likely in December or January.
The City Manager’s office would not comment on the appeal, including whether or not it was influenced by the public petition except to say through a City spokeswoman, “The City Manager finds a deficiency in the decision as to the design of the project. And, he is the correct entity to have standing to file the appeal."
Details of Oct 3 DRB consideration
Link to the video of the Oct 3 discussion
Image: Perkins + Will