Mast Capital Reduces Height of Proposed Alton Road Tower by Half

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Mast Capital Reduces Height of Proposed Alton Road Tower by Half:

Developer now seeks approval for 140-ft, 12 story building

UPDATE: August 25: The Planning Board voted unanimously to send all three items back to the City Commission with an unfavorable recommendation. That doesn't mean the item dies, though. It means the Commission will consider the unfavorable recommendation when it discusses the items and could choose to ignore it and still pass the zoning changes. TBD.

August 22: Mast Capital has reduced the height of its proposed tower at 4000 Alton Road by half from 290 feet and 25 stories to 140 feet with 12 stories. The proposal, which requires City Commission approval for a zoning change and height increase on the parcel at the Julia Tuttle Causeway entrance to Miami Beach, will be discussed this week by the City’s Planning Board.

When plans for the 290-ft tower were made public in May there was considerable pushback from the local community. Since then, the developer has conducted a number of height and massing studies and is now suggesting a shorter, longer building (rendering above) which will contain 144 residential units. The average unit size is 1,080 sf. The taller tower was proposed to have 160 units.

290-ft tower proposed in May

Mast Capital purchased the parcel located at the intersection of Alton Road and I-195 next to Talmudic University from the university in October 2014 for $17.1 million. It is currently in negotiations with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to purchase an adjacent 0.4 acres of surplus land to add to the development side.

Alton Bay project previously approved for the site

Plans approved for the site in March 2014 included construction of a new 8-story, 72-unit residential building on the south side of the property which was being marketed as Alton Bay (above), though building permits were never obtained. Prior to approval of those plans, the City Commission increased the height limit on the site from 60 to 85 feet.

According to the Planning Board memo accompanying this new proposal, in 2015 Mast “sought to increase the maximum allowable height on the site from the existing 8 stories / 85 feet to 15 stories / 150 feet. The Planning Board did not recommend in favor of this height increase and the administration recommended denial when the proposal came before the City Commission. The applicant subsequently withdrew the application and it did not move forward.”

Now, Mast is seeking three pieces of legislation to build the 140-ft tower: A rezoning ordinance to reclassify the GU or Governmental Use of the FDOT parcel to RM-2 or residential multifamily, medium intensity as well as a change to the future land use map designation to RM-2 in order to combine the FDOT surplus land with the existing site. 

The last piece of legislation involves amendments to the City’s Land Development Regulations (LDRs) to establish the Julia Tuttle Causeway District. Mast has significantly changed its request since May.

Initial proposal (May):
  1. Increase maximum building height from 85 feet to 290 feet
  2. Structures exceeding 85 feet in height will have a minimum setback of 190 feet from Alton Road
  3. Establish rear and side setbacks of 0 feet
  4. Reduce the minimum unit size from 550 SF to 450 SF
  5. Reduce the average unit size from 800 SF to 700 SF
  6. Allow for up to a 3,000 SF accessory restaurant use, open to the public, with no additional loading or parking requirements
  7. Provide that the residential liner requirement for floors containing parking only apply to the frontage facing Alton Road

New proposal (August):
  1. Increase the maximum building height from 85 feet to 140 feet
  2. Increase the height of allowable height exceptions from 20 feet to 30 feet
  3. Structures exceeding 85 feet in height will have a minimum setback of 100 feet from Alton Road
  4. Establish rear and side setbacks of 10 feet; however, habitable encroachments and decorative features may encroach into the setback up to 5 feet, above a height of 15 feet
  5. Establish a maximum floor plate size for the tower portion of the building of 30,000 square feet; however, the Design Review Board (DRB) may increase to 45,000 square feet in accordance with design review criteria
  6. Provide that residential liner requirement for floors containing parking only apply to the frontage facing Alton Road
  7. Require that new development install green infrastructure, such as bioswales, permeable pavements, and native vegetation to manage stormwater. It also requires that 100 percent of its own irrigation be through the installation of a cistern or other best practices
  8. Provide that the benefits of the ordinance only be available on sites that are over 60,000 square feet as of the adoption date of the ordinance

In his memo to the Planning Board regarding the newest proposal, City Planning Director Tom Mooney indicated concerns about the height increase. “The current height limit of 85’ was established in 2014, after careful consideration and evaluation of the site and surrounding context.” He noted the existing Talmudic University building on the site is 72 feet tall. 

“Allowing a higher height for the proposed site could set a precedent for future efforts to increase maximum building heights, particularly along 41st Street,” Mooney wrote. “In this regard, the aggregation of lots in the CD-3 district could result in higher FAR maximums (2.25 v. 2.75), thus making a height increase proposal more attractive in order to accommodate higher FAR.”

“Along the west side of the City, from the northern boundary of Sunset Harbor all the way to the northern end of North Bay Road, there exists a defined scale of smaller buildings,” he added. “The only exception to this is the Mt. Sinai campus. The [hospital] district in which Mt. Sinai is located has a maximum height limit of 150 feet, and a maximum height limit of 100 feet within 500 feet of a residential district. Although the proposal to increase the height limit on the subject site 140 feet would be compatible with interior buildings on the Mt. Sinai complex, it is higher than those to the east along 41st Street.”

Mooney said the Planning Department staff has met with the developer’s team and reviewed the proposal “within the larger context of trying to create additional open space that will provide significant, long term water management benefits” for the City.

While the developer has proposed a number of resiliency measures, Mooney said after evaluating the proposal with the Public Works Department, additional infrastructure would still be necessary. That infrastructure would require additional space that could only be achieved by relocating allowable FAR into a taller structure which, given the “significant public benefit”, could make sense for the City, he wrote. FAR is Floor Area Ratio which is used to calculate the density of a building.

“Planning staff has also done its own internal analysis and concluded that allowable FAR can be easily accommodated at the current height limit of 85 feet and with the current minimum setbacks,” according to Mooney’s memo.

“As it pertains to this proposal, the only rationale for increasing allowable building height and modifying minimum setbacks is to redistribute allowable building volume in a manner that provides more tangible open space and resiliency improvements. Additionally, any increase in height must fit within the overall scale and built context of the immediate surroundings,” the memo states.

“Given the isolated location of the property, surrounded on all sides by major roadways, as well as its proximity to Mt. Sinai, the proposed increase in height from 85 feet to 140 feet, while not ideal, will likely not result in a negative impact on the established scale, character and context of the surrounding area,” Mooney wrote. 

The developer has not yet agreed to the additional infrastructure and is now doing an economic analysis of their costs, according to Mooney. As a result, he is recommending the Planning Board discuss the proposed LDR amendments but defer on transmitting the ordinance to the City Commission to a future date.

The proposed ordinance does not represent an increase in density or intensity on the site, therefore it would not have to go to voters for approval. 

Mast Capital, according to its website, "targets opportunistic and value-add investments in existing property, ground-up development, distressed real estate, and note purchases." Among its local projects, Mast developed the Louver House in South Beach.

Details on the Planning Board items below:

LDR Amendments

Zoning District reclassification

FLUM (Future Land Use Map) change

Axonometric renderings: Arquitectonica
Context models and renderings: garcia-pons + associates, Arquitectonica
Evolution of developer height studies

Development site with triangular FDOT parcel to be acquired

Axonometric view (northeast)

Axonometric view (northwest)

Axonometric view (southeast)

Axonometric view (southwest)

Aerial rendering of proposed 4000 Alton Road development
4000 Alton Road context model view from east
Context model view from southeast

Context model view from west

Context rendering view from Alton Road bridge

Context rendering view from Alton Road/Hospital

Context rendering view from golf course, first tee

Context rendering view from Julia Tuttle Causeway

Context rendering view from Pine Tree Drive