5775 Collins Ave Plans Approved


Susan Askew
Susan Askew

5775 Collins Ave Plans Approved:

developer concessions include beach access, greater setbacks

After adding public beach access and lush landscaping and reaching settlements with his neighbors, the developer of 5775 Collins Avenue received the approval of the Miami Beach Design Review Board for a 17-story, 89 unit building to replace the existing 12-story, 107 unit Marlborough House.
Neisen Kasdin, a representative of developer Jose Isaac Peres, told DRB members that after making changes to the plans, the condo associations of the buildings to the north, south, and west had now endorsed the project. At earlier meetings, only Villa di Mare and L’Excellence, which previously agreed to monetary settlements, had expressed their support while residents of the Royal Embassy across the street came out in strong opposition to the loss of view corridors. However, Kasdin said, monetary settlements had now been reached with all three associations. He noted the addition of a public beach access and other design changes garnered the support of the Mid-Beach Neighborhood Association as well as the Surfrider Foundation.
Specifically, Kasdin said the plans for the site now include a 15-foot wide beach access on the building’s south side with lush landscaping, “an amenity to the entire mid beach community”. Design changes include an additional 5-foot setback on the south side and balconies that have been narrowed from 8 feet to 7.
“The result is a view corridor between L’Excellence [on the south] and this project of over 103 feet, one of the most generous view corridors existing in that portion of Collins Avenue,” Kasdin told the Board.
Residents of the Royal Embassy – some of whom still oppose the development – as well as City staff objected to the orientation of the proposed building which will run parallel to Collins Avenue versus the perpendicular orientation of the Marlborough House, saying it contributes to the “condo canyon” effect on that stretch of Collins.
Kasdin’s team played a video of a driver’s view of the street, noting the current buildings are much larger than what are allowed today. “These buildings that you’re looking at are much more massive, much larger than what is being proposed on our site,” he said. In addition to “the continuous wall along Collins Avenue”, he pointed out that because of the elevated parking deck on the current building “there is no view of the ocean or of the beach. Actually, with the creation of a 15-foot wide grade level linear park and beach access, we will for the first time be creating a view towards the beach.”
In comparison to the older buildings that run from 54th to 60th Streets, Kasdin said, “You will see that this buildings affords one of the most generous separations between its neighboring buildings ... in terms of the width of the building, it is less than most, and in terms of separation between its neighboring buildings, it is greater than most. I don’t think it is fair to characterize this as creating or worsening a situation in that neighborhood. In fact, to the contrary, this should not be penalized for bringing a more modest, appropriate design to the neighborhood that will actually open up vistas and public access.”
Nancy Liebman, long-time Miami Beach resident and activist who lives a block away, told the Board when the area was built up there was no design review process but, now, the DRB had the ability to “change the image” of the “concrete canyon”.  She noted the financial settlements paid to the neighboring associations. “Yes, the building is beautiful … but 15 feet? Everybody is selling their soul for 15 feet? I am shocked to hear that all the associations … all the associations seem to be in favor of it because they have been rewarded. I don’t think that’s fair play. The residents can’t fight like that.”
Referring to the City Staff recommendation to turn the building in order to preserve view corridors, Liebman said, “I have to applaud the City. The City gets it. The City understands design review. The City understands that change needs to happen over there or we will continue to have concrete canyon.” She added, “You have a chance to make a statement today. You have a chance to approve something that will show you’re a design review board and you know how to make change. And skip the part where people have been rewarded to come and support it.”
Ryan Barras, a resident of the Royal Embassy pointed to the earlier video and said it was created in the afternoon. During the morning hours, he noted, the buildings from 58th to 45th cast a shadow on the street. “Even though I live in one of the units that’s least impacted by this new design – I’ve maintained my own view corridor – I’m not just here on behalf of myself but on behalf of other residents and the community as a whole. You know, what type of City do we want to be? I think it would be a huge loss if we basically decided to extend that shadow on Collins Avenue.”
After representatives of the impacted neighborhood associations and the Surfrider Foundation expressed their support for the revised proposal, Kasdin added, “The facts are this building has more generous view corridors, more generous side and front setbacks than any of the buildings that were built [nearby] ... In fact, the front setback of the new tower is set back thirty feet from the existing tower which as you’re going north or south on Collins Avenue also helps promote openness. And significantly … not only is it code compliant, it exceeds the code requirements. The side setbacks exceed on one side by ten feet and another side by almost six feet of the required sideyard setbacks. So this is a smaller footprint with bigger view corridors, bigger separation than almost any building in the neighborhood.”
“Just think for a moment of how this enhances the neighborhood,” he concluded. “On a street that is characterized by buildings that are built close to the street and have very little landscaping, you have generous landscaping. You almost have a landscaped park in front of the building, better than any property up and down that strip on Collins Avenue, to the benefit of everybody. Plus you have the most generous beach access that is provided anywhere along that strip of Collins Avenue from 54th Street up to the 64th Street beach, which again will be at grade level and will be well landscaped. If I lived in that neighborhood I would welcome this because this will not only enhance values but will enhance the character of the neighborhood.”
When public comment concluded, Board member Annabel Delgado said, “I just have to say I love this city. I really admire everyone that’s come in favor or opposed. And, you know, I love the passion” she said referring to a process that has included hours of testimony leading up to this meeting. “I think the project is much improved from the last presentation and I thank you for it,” she said. “I also want to commend the developer in really engaging in so much conversation on both sides in trying to listen to the arguments.” While she said she wished the building was “more airy on the sides” and “skinnier”, she said she thought it was better than what was proposed in September but mostly, she said, she wanted to express her appreciation for the process. “It’s heartwarming to me to have this kind of involvement in urban issues.”
Board member John Turchin, who said his grandfather and family members owned property on both sides of the street in the area, noted “the evolution of the concrete canyon. We were part of [that]” due to more lenient zoning requirements at the time. He commended the developer for the proposed setbacks, the beach access, and the landscaping, saying it was “greatly improved” from what the Board saw previously. He predicted the building will be “a catalyst of knocking down other buildings, those ones that are creating the concrete canyon and might comply with the new setbacks, that they open up the view corridors. I think time will eventually take all of that.” Turchin calculated “Really what we’re losing is approximately 63 feet difference in the existing pedestal … I think at the end of the day it’s inevitably time. It’s ready for a new project … I think in the end it has to work for the developer. It has to work for the surrounding people but I think you’ve done a great job in listening to the Board, listening to the City’s comments. You’re never going to satisfy [everybody]. You’ve done a great job and I think it’s a monument to the old coming down, the new coming in, and greatly improving landscaping [and] a beach access which is greatly needed in the area.”
The Board voted 7-0 in favor.
Meeting materials here.


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