Miami Beach Preservation Board Approves Jason Halpern’s New Residential Tower on Indian Creek

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Miami Beach Preservation Board Approves Jason Halpern’s New Residential Tower on Indian Creek:

Ambitious project includes elevating and moving historic structure

An ambitious project that will be the first to test Miami Beach’s new “Buoyant City” guidelines for addressing historic structures impacted by sea level rise was approved by the City’s Historic Preservation Board. Jason Halpern of JMH Development previously had approved plans for the site which includes three buildings at 2901 and 2911 Indian Creek Drive but that project was stopped during the building permit process when the City began significantly raising roads in the low-lying area.

The latest proposal, known as 29 Indian Creek, involves demolition of two of the buildings while restoring, relocating, reorienting, and raising the western building at 2911 Indian Creek which was designed by Schoeppl & Southwell and constructed in 1936. The building, which has been obscured from public view for 60 years following the construction of a building in 1962, will be relocated to face Indian Creek and elevated five feet. Behind is a new six-story multi-family residential building along 29th Street. The project is designed by Urban Robot Associates.

Attorney Graham Penn of Bercow Radell Fernandez Larkin & Tapanes said one of the key areas of focus of the Alan Shulman led “Buoyant City” guidelines was the Collins Waterfront District in which the proposed project is located. “The study, as you know, encouraged raising of existing historic structures in the Collins Waterfront Historic District as a counter to the impact of sea level rise,” he wrote in the application letter to the Board.

The ongoing City road-raising project in the area “will involve the raising of both Indian Creek Drive and 29 Street significantly… [T]he Indian Creek Drive sidewalk will be raised over two feet from its current location. 29 Street will be similarly raised in order to harmonize that street with the new Indian Creek Drive elevation,” significantly impacting the property, he wrote. [Emphasis his.]

In the staff memo accompanying the item, Planning staff noted the buildings on the site have been unoccupied for 15 years and “have had an increasingly adverse impact on the developed urban context of the surrounding historic district. Staff believes that expediting the property’s return to active use will greatly benefit the quality of life and character of the surrounding historic district.”

At the hearing, City Preservation Manager Debbie Tackett said, the plan to move, elevate and restore the one historic building is “a very creative, very innovative strategy. We’re excited to see the Buoyant City guidelines really being taken seriously and the applicant’s really looking to create a resilient historic building.”

Penn said he believes the project “will be showing the world the way forward to adapting to climate change and sea level rise in a historic context” while, at the same time, be “an opportunity to highlight an architectural gem that has been obscured from the public for almost 60 years.”

Architect JJ Wood said moving the 1936 contributing structure to “front and center” facing Indian Creek will make it “the star of the show.” The historic structure will be turned into two townhouses. 

Daniel Ciraldo, Executive Director of the Miami Design Preservation League said, “We believe this undertaking will be a model for other buildings around the City and beyond” and suggested the process be documented “so it may be an inspiration for future projects around the City.”

Board Chair Jack Finglass said the proposal “is truly an extraordinary and innovative and very clever demonstration of architecture design.”

Agreeing there should be a documenting of the process, Board member Scott Needelman said, “If it goes well, I think it will encourage a lot of other projects to do the same moving forward… It’s very innovative and I think it’ll do wonders for that little section of Indian Creek” which, he said, is “almost like a war zone between the buildings [boarded up] and the roads being broken up and everything so it will help.”

The project was approved unanimously.

Halpern, Founder and Managing Partner of JMH Development, built the 235-room Starwood Aloft Hotel, originally the historic Ankara motel, at 2350 Collins Avenue. That project involved the renovation of the existing historic structure and construction of a new eight-story tower. He also developed Three Hundred Collins, a 19-residence boutique condominium project in the South of Fifth Neighborhood. JMH is also constructing a 55-unit luxury condominium in Surfside at 8995 Collins.

Details of the HPB filings can be found here.

Renderings: Urban Robot

[Updated January 27, 2021 with link to HPB documents.]
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