Mast Capital Withdraws Height Increase Request, Gets Initial Approval for 8-story Building at 4000 Alton Road

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Mast Capital Withdraws Height Increase Request, Gets Initial Approval for 8-story Building at 4000 Alton Road:

Community remains mixed on project at Julia Tuttle Causeway entrance to Miami Beach

Mast Capital has withdrawn its request for a height increase on its development site at 4000 Alton Road at the Julia Tuttle Causeway entrance to Miami Beach and, instead, is seeking reduced setback requirements so it can build an 8-story structure that doesn’t crowd the adjacent Talmudic University. In May, Mast proposed a zoning change for a height increase from the allowable 85 feet to 290 for a residential tower. Following significant community pushback, the developer reduced the request by more than half, seeking a 140-ft height limit. That proposal was soundly rejected by the Planning Board 6-0 in August.

Mast Capital CEO and Founder Camilo Miguel told City Commissioners this week, “Listening to the community and in response to their objections, we have decided to abandon any request on receiving height relief.”

The latest proposal for the site was given initial approval by the City Commission on Wednesday. It consists of three pieces of legislation – two ordinances that would change the designation of a small triangular parcel next to Mast’s property from Government Use to RM-2, Residential Multifamily Medium Intensity. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has deemed the 0.4 acre parcel “surplus” and has a purchase agreement with Mast which plans to add it to its current property to create a unified development site.

The Commission approved the zoning changes only. Design approval will come later from the City’s Design Review Board, if the ordinances pass a second reading next month. In between, they will make another stop at the Planning Board. At the time of its unfavorable recommendation, the zoning change requests included the 140-ft height limit and discussion focused heavily on that.

At the Commission meeting, Mast presented massing concepts showing what can be built on the space now by right and how the building would be situated with the zoning changes requested.

Aerial massing view of 4000 Alton without zoning changes and which can be built "by right"

Aerial massing view of 4000 Alton with proposed zoning changes

Proposed building mass without zoning changes which can be built "by right"

Building mass with proposed zoning changes

“Because students and faculty live within the Talmudic University property… We want to give them the appropriate breathing space,” Attorney Michael Larkin of Bercow Radell Fernandez Larkin & Tapanes said. The changes are “consistent with what was granted by the Board of Adjustment in 2014” for the property.

The Alton Bay development previously approved for the site

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. 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. In 2015 Mast sought a height increase from 85 feet to 150 feet which was not approved.

During the public hearing for the latest zoning changes, opinion was equally mixed with some residents expressing concern about traffic while others supported what they called a needed “upgrade” for the area.

Rabbi Yitzchak Zweig, President of Talmudic University, told Commissioners, “I believe this development affects me more than anybody else and I’m very much in favor of it.” He said he didn’t think the project would create more traffic, noting the street is quiet “most of the time.”

By combining the FDOT property “which nobody has any benefit from,” pushing the development to the front and “giving us more space between our building and the Mast Capital property, it provides a lot of green space along the front side of Alton Road and I think that is very, very good for our neighborhood.” Zweig emphasized he has “no interest in the property” but that the owners have been accommodating to the school with regard to parking.

"We really need to get this building going because I think the 41st Street corridor really needs to be more active and I think this will take us in that direction," Zweig concluded.

Father Roberto Cid, pastor at St. Patrick’s Church across the street, said, “I cannot disagree more with my dear friend, Rabbi Zweig” pointing out a traffic study for the project was conducted in March, “when we were already under the effects of the pandemic” and at which time attendance at the church dropped by 50%.

“Those of us who live in the neighborhood know the level of service on the intersection at Alton and 41st is, quite frankly, unacceptable,” Cid said. “There is a lot of congestion that is backed up all the way to the fork.”

“I urge the Commission to listen to the recommendation of the Planning Board that unanimously voted against these requests and to listen to the clamor of the homeowners associations and the neighbors and vote against and disregard the recommendation of the outgoing city manager and vote for the common good and for the public interest and against this project,” he concluded. City Manager Jimmy Morales who earlier announced his resignation effective February 1, wrote a memo supporting the zoning changes.

Item sponsor, Commissioner Ricky Arriola, said, “This mantra, no development, people have property rights... He does have rights to develop this property but in order to make this work for the adjacent property owner in a more suitable way as well as to develop a better property, they come to the Commission for certain variances.”

“I don’t think this is a traffic issue at all,” Arriola said. “I think it beautifies the area. The building is old and outdated, and I think this would enhance the entrance to Miami Beach.”

Planning Director Tom Mooney noted the current project is approved for 175 units and he estimated that by adding the FDOT property to the development with the requested variances, the new project might have up to 40 additional units but he guessed “probably closer to 30 units that they could add to it.”

Mooney confirmed Larkin’s earlier statement that Mast had “previously obtained variances for some of these setbacks when they got their approval in 2014” and the ordinance modifying the Land Development Regulations for the site would codify those setbacks. 

Asked for some public benefit such as a new welcome sign at the Julia Tuttle Causeway entrance to the City, Larkin said, “We certainly are in favor of doing some type of welcome sign/rebranding for the 41st Street corridor.”

Several Commissioners wanted to hear what the Planning Board thinks about the changes in the requests now that the height increase is off the table. It will be considered at the October 27 meeting before coming back to Commission for second reading in November.

Specifics on the changes to the Land Development Regulations, including revised setbacks, balcony encroachment, and parking liner regulations can be found here.

Renderings: Arquitectonica


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