battle is on for 5775 collins avenue


Susan Askew
Susan Askew

battle is on for 5775 collins avenue:

lawyers and pr firm at the ready

Both sides are gearing up for battle over plans for a new building at 5775 Collins Avenue in Miami Beach's Mid-Beach area.
Neighbors have dubbed it “Godzilla” and are protesting reduced view corridors and the lack of beach access in the developer’s proposal. They’ve hired an attorney to represent them before the DRB, an unusual action for residents to take.
In an emailed statement, the owner’s attorney, Michael Larkin, said the design “maximize[es] compatibility for the greatest number of affected stakeholders” and “conforms to all City of Miami Beach requirements”. In preparation for its presentation, the developer – Multiplan – has hired a PR firm. Multiplan also built the Il Villaggio Condominium on Ocean Drive in Lummus Park.
Residents don’t disagree with the developer’s right to build as proposed, rather they are supporting a City Planning Staff recommendation to “reorient” the building perpendicular to Collins Avenue versus the currently proposed parallel orientation. This, they say, would preserve view corridors and allow ocean breezes to continue flowing. The current Marlborough House has stood on the site for 55 years with generous side setbacks. In its report to the DRB, Planning Staff says the proposed building "will effectively broadside the Ocean, reinforcing the ‘Condo Canyon’ effect notably seen along portions of Collins Avenue by building the tower from side setback line to side setback line.” The proposal, they note, “will diminish both side yards that serve as important view corridors by over half." 
Staff has also urged the developer to create a public beach access along the property, something else the residents are strongly fighting for. The local chapters of the United States Lifesaving Association and Surfrider Foundation are lending support to beach access on the basis of public safety given the proximity of the new lifeguard station there. At a recent candidates forum hosted by the Royal Embassy Condominium, which is directly across the street from the new building, Scott Stripling, a member of the local Surfrider Board said, “If the developer is not putting in a public access, they’re not going to be a good neighbor.”
Larkin’s statement indicates the developer is not planning on making any changes to the proposal, though he notes, “The door between the owner/developer of 5775 Collins Avenue, the surrounding neighbors, and the City of Miami Beach has been and will continue to remain open.”
With regard to the building’s orientation, he said, “As designed, we are maximizing compatibility for the greatest number of affected stakeholders, and we are continuing our efforts to resolve all issues with the adjacent properties. Additionally, the developer has retained Arquitectonica, the top architectural firm in South Florida, and together with the development team, has achieved a design for the proposed project that provides the best design option to address the ‘condo canyon’ effect by reducing the number of units in a building designed well within City Code limitations, and maximizing view corridors for area residents.  Most important, this new development will reduce the impact of the project on the Miami Beach community and traffic on Collins Avenue by reducing the existing number of condominium units from 110 in the old building to a maximum of 89 in the new building.”
On beach access, Larkin wrote, “[C]urrently, there is adequate public access to the beach in the area. The developer’s attorneys have also submitted a legal brief to the City Attorney’s office, explaining that the City staff’s condition requiring pedestrian access through the 5775 Collins Avenue property violates a well-settled U.S. Supreme Court constitutional precedent and is an illegal taking.”
Residents and Staff note beach access was provided by two neighboring buildings – the Bath Club and Mei – when they were constructed. Mei resident Mark Bisnow wrote in support of beach access, noting that he and his wife live “literally 20 feet” from his building’s access point “and haven’t been disturbed in the least by people walking along it. Nor do we mind that some extra people find their way to our beach area. Besides the fact it should be their right as fellow citizens, we see the presence of more people as adding life and vitality to the area.”
Spending part of the year in Santa Monica, California has given Bisnow another perspective. “We have often noted that Miami Beach seems more welcoming of the public to its beaches than parts of Los Angeles. Driving along Pacific Coast Highway, especially through Malibu, you can go long stretches without seeing the water or being able to get to it, though it’s all theoretically public beach,” he wrote. “In South Beach and much of Mid-Beach, by contrast, there seems to be access almost every block. However, there is one big exception we’ve noticed: There doesn’t seem to be any beach access south of ours at the Mei until you get to the fire station around 53rd. It’s kind of shocking. Miami Beach should be proud of its access and stand its ground to protect it. Please don’t let future generations wonder what Miami Beach was thinking as we wonder today about Los Angeles.”
Finally, Bisnow wrote, “I founded the largest commercial real estate publication in the US and in the process came to know many hundreds of developers. I find that most of them are actually very sensitive to community interests, or at least understanding of the need to balance private and public interests. I am quite surprised to hear that the re-developer of the Marlborough property would fight such a natural request as to provide beach access. I am told that when the Mei was being developed (before my time), the developer gladly offered such access.”
Both sides are expected to turn out supporters at next week’s meeting. The item will be heard first due to the anticipated level of interest and attendance.
City Staff will recommend a continuance of the item until December 5th to work further with the developer on the concerns. In its most recent report, they write, “Staff has met with the applicant and the design team on numerous occasions, yet no design consensus has been reached on the fundamental issue of building orientation.”
Expect pushback from the developer on that recommendation. In his statement, Larkin concluded with “We have designed a building that conforms to all of the City of Miami Beach requirements as to orientation on the site, height and setbacks and requires no variances. Multiplan’s team looks forward to presenting the plan at the upcoming Design Review Board meeting.”
Full details on the proposal and staff recommendation here.

Attend in person to make comments or send an email to James Murphy with your thoughts.

5775 Collins: DRB wants another look

Susan Askew
Susan Askew
public beach access, view corridors are sticking points

5775 collins avenue action deferred


Susan Askew
Susan Askew
developer wants more time but says plans won't change

5775 Collins Avenue developer will try again with the design review board

Susan Askew
Susan Askew
meeting tuesday, december 5