On second consideration, Miami Beach’s Planning Board sent a favorable recommendation to the City Commission on Mast Capital’s proposed zoning changes for its development site at 4000 Alton Road. The move paves the way for Commissioners to give final approval on second reading next month.
Mast initially requested 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.
Ultimately, Mast abandoned any height request and is now proposing an eight-story building within the current 85-ft limit. In order to give the adjacent Talmudic University “more breathing room,” the developer is seeking setback variances.
City Commissioners approved the package earlier this month on first reading. 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 third ordinance would revise the City’s Land Development Regulations to reduce required setbacks, allow for balcony encroachments and remove the “liner” requirements for the rear and sides of the building. The City requires activation at the ground level of buildings to improve the pedestrian experience but, in this case, there are no sidewalks around the building which will be located on two busy streets – Alton Road and State Road 907 Alton Road.
Following the Planning Board’s negative recommendation which was mostly based on height, several Commissioners wanted to get the Board’s opinion now that the height increase is off the table.
This time, the vote was 6-1 in favor. (Board member Nick Gelpi was absent last month and did not vote but indicated he would have voted with the majority which would have made the vote 7-0.)
Gelpi began with what became a theme during the discussion. “Something will be built here,” he said. “It’s a bizarre, strange site and it’s a predicament as a result.”
Calling the latest proposed configuration “much more responsible,” Gelpi said he supported modifying the setbacks to achieve the new design. “The profile and configuration of this is much better, much more advantageous.”
Board member Mark Meland said, “Certain things you can stop and certain things you can’t. At some point there’s going to be development here.” If the setbacks are not approved, he said, “The alternative may not be so great, massing won’t be as great.”
“Someone’s going to develop that site,” he said, whether Mast Capital or someone else. “We have an opportunity here to develop something better on that site.”
Planning Board Chair Kareem Brantley, agreed. “There’s something that’s going to be built on this site. I think everybody understands that… We do have an opportunity to kind of guide what the outcome or at least our two cents of what the development should look like.”
“The site is constrained,” he said. I hate the idea of the building being pushed up against the Talmudic University building,” if the setbacks were not approved.
Board member Michael Barrineau echoed the sentiments. “Somethings going to happen here and I believe this is a solid proposal that should be given consideration. The setback changes are smart, a smart way to go.”
In expressing his opposition, member David Weider said, “I don’t really see this building as an asset to the neighborhood.”
Setbacks are “designed to preserve the nature of the neighborhood,” he said. “The increased density [of the project] is not going to be a help to anybody.”
“I appeal to the Board members to consider very carefully the change that is now offered to us.
We’re responsible for keeping this city what it should be – responsible development, context with the neighborhood and with the neighborhood as the primary beneficiary of our restraint…. This is an interesting proposition for us and I think it tells who we are as a board so vote your conscious,” he implored.
Following the Planning Board vote, Camilo Miguel Jr., CEO of Mast Capital said in a statement, "We are very pleased with the favorable recommendation of the City of Miami Beach’s Planning Board and look forward to working to design and develop a signature project that will not only be an asset to the neighborhood, but also an elegant gateway to Miami Beach. Mast Capital remains wholly committed to investing in the future of Miami Beach to bolster its economic vitality, while also ushering in a new era of resilient, sustainable and responsible development."
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 eight-story, 78-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 denied.
If approved at second reading by the City Commission, the developers say these zoning changes would add at most 41 units. They are proffering a public benefit of replacing and installing new water and sewer pipes and five new drainage wells to control flooding in the area. In addition, they say the additional setbacks will allow for more open green space along Alton Road. As requested by Commissioner Ricky Arriola at first reading, Mast has committed to developing signature signage for the City’s gateway in partnership with the community.
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.
Should the Commission approve the zoning changes on second reading, the project would still need to get approval from the City’s Design Review Board when designs are ready.
Specifics on the changes to the Land Development Regulations, including revised setbacks, balcony encroachment, and parking liner regulations can be found here.
Massing renderings: Arquitectonica
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