Aman Residential Tower Approved for Miami Beach

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Aman Residential Tower Approved for Miami Beach:

Compromise on height, shift in building location wins over preservation board

After agreeing to a height reduction and slight shift in the location of a new residential tower, the developers of the Aman Hotel and Residences won the approval of their neighbors at the Faena House and Miami Beach’s Historic Preservation Board. Developers Len Blavatnik and Vlad Doronin plan to restore the historic Versailles hotel and build the new luxury tower next door at 3425 Collins Avenue in the Faena District. Doronin is the owner, Chairman and CEO of Aman.

The Versailles will contain 56 hotel rooms and the new, Kengo Kuma-designed tower will have 23 residences. 

City Commissioners approved a 250-ft height limit for the tower, an increase from the previous 203 feet, after the developers argued a taller, slimmer building would provide greater view corridors and have less impact on the historic Versailles building but after bitter objections from residents at the Faena House, they agreed to reduce the height by 30 feet. That resolved the dispute with their neighbors but HPB members were not swayed and in December sent the team back to the drawing board over continued objections about the height and the new residential tower’s relationship to the historic Versailles. 

The design modifications to the new residential tower portion presented to the HPB included the reduction in overall height but with more height added to the podium level to enhance view corridors to the east. To create more separation between the new tower and the historic Versailles, balcony structures on the northeast corner of the new building were cut back. In addition, the building was shifted four feet from the east.

Neisen Kasdin, Akerman LLP Miami Office Managing Partner, said, the developers plan to invest $4.8 million per room to restore and develop the 56-room Versailles Hotel and that, overall, the project will “create over 300 well-paying permanent jobs for the City of Miami Beach – average pay almost $50,000 – as well as millions of dollars annually in property taxes and resort taxes.”

“This is an important project for setting the standard for where we want Miami Beach to go,” Kasdin said.

Tom Stern, president of the Board at Faena House, said after “extensive negotiations” to resolve concerns about height and location of the new tower, the proposed project has “our enthusiastic and unambiguous support.” 

“As now planned, the new tower will stand 25 ft above Faena House, peak to peak,” he told the Board. “If approved as modified, the Aman Hotel and Residences will have a profound and positive impact on the Faena District, the Collins Waterfront Historic District, and Miami Beach broadly. The developers will bring to the community a truly world class project and one we at Faena House will be proud to have as our neighbor.”

Praising the planned “multimillion dollar, sophisticated, and detailed renovation” of the historic Versailles, Stern said, “The Aman residential tower will deliver a distinguished, responsible, and respectful new addition to our community.”

“The Aman Hotel and Residences, collectively, are the final and notably pre-eminent components of the revitalization of the Faena District and we strongly believe that they are in the public interest,” he said. “The cachet and value attached to the Aman brand are substantial and the company’s presence will be an invaluable addition to Miami Beach.”

As part of the agreement between the developers and the Faena House, an ordinance to reduce the height limit in the Faena District was referred by the City Commission to the Planning Board for review before coming to the full Commission for a vote.

Paul Cejas, a long-time Miami Beach resident who now lives at Faena House told the Board he has owned 420 Lincoln Road, “the whole block from Washington to Drexel, 16th through Lincoln for over 25 years.”

“I have been concerned about our city,” he said. “Based on what we see in the press and the bad publicity that Miami Beach is getting, we need something like Aman, a brand of that quality.” He said the developers “have gone out of their way to satisfy your concerns and ours.”

Praising what he called the “low impact and elegant and upscale” design, Cejas said, “I am very much in favor of the project and I hope that you will be, too.”

HPB member Nancy Liebman said, “I’m happy with the lowering of the tower and certainly happy that a project like this is coming to Miami Beach. I hope that it does bring our city back to the level that it should be.”

Board member Barry Klein, however, said, “I still find it a little oppressive.”

“I’m just concerned with that picture postcard image of Miami Beach,” he said. “It’s great that this is an incredible investment in our community. I heard about the number of jobs, the number of people that will come, high-paying jobs, but we also have a built environment to deal with, to respect. So I’m going to take that into consideration in my vote.”

Board Chair Jack Finglass said the developers “deserve our highest thanks for the Versailles Hotel restoration,” which was approved by the Board last month. However, he said, the one thing “more important than anything [is] preserving our brand and our view – not the Aman brand, but the Miami Beach brand.

“I have severe reservations about the new condo tower with ‘improved visibility,’” he said. “I really think, with all due respect to the architect and to the attorney, they are in some ways pulling the wool over your eyes to get you to vote for this new building the way it’s shown on their new little packet.” Finglass said he didn’t believe the view corridors would be as presented though architect Luis Revuelta assured him the Board was not being misled.

“I’m for this project. I’m not against it,” Finglass said. “I want everything to boom. I want everything to be copacetic, but I think we’re not being told the entire truth here and I find that really sad.”

“The building is fabulous, no question about it, and to move the City forward we all have to come together and there is compromise,” Finglass added before saying he would vote to approve the project.

The vote was 6-1 with Klein voting no.

As a public benefit, the developers have agreed to pay for the installation of nine injection wells in the neighborhood to mitigate flooding and to fund the restoration and installation of the Jack Stewart “Apollo” mural which installed at the Versailles in 1955 and removed in 2014 when the hotel’s south addition was demolished. City staff has proposed placing it on the Scott Rakow Youth Center at 2700 Sheridan Avenue, though any placement would have to be approved by the City Commission.

Information on the project as presented to the HPB can be found here.

Renderings: Kengo Kuma, Luis Revuelta

View looking north from Collins Avenue

Aman/Versailles Hotel on left with new residential building, from Collins Avenue

View from the east

Interior lobby view, new residences

Lobby level, exterior

Restored "Apollo" mural as it might appear on the Scott Rakow Youth Center

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