Attorney Says International Inn Making Progress to Reduce Criminal Activity

Normandy Isle

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Attorney Says International Inn Making Progress to Reduce Criminal Activity:

Owner hopes to sign agreement for development rights

After two years of negotiations between preservationists, the City of Miami Beach, and the owners of the International Inn, a settlement agreement to allow an eight-story addition to the historic hotel was put on hold last fall following concerns about criminal activity there. In an update to City Commissioners this week, attorney Alex Tachmes, Shutts and Bowen partner, wrote, “We are very pleased to report that the International Inn has made great strides forward in reducing the criminal activity at the property and in moving forward with physical and operational improvements to the hotel.” Tachmes sent his letter in anticipation of a March 2020 progress report and potential reconsideration of the agreement.

The agreement for the development rights was proposed after the owner of the International Inn, Belsa Tsay, objected to the Historic Preservation Board’s recommendation that the property be designated historic. The iconic structure at 2301 Normandy Drive is one of the first things drivers see as they cross the 79th Street Causeway into North Beach. Concerns about criminal activity at the property have been raised for years. Meanwhile, the community has worried about the hotel’s deteriorating condition. 

When the agreement reached the City Commission in September, Commissioners objected to rewarding “a nuisance property” with development incentives. Citing an increase in criminal activity including prostitution and theft by a prostitute, Commissioners said they weren’t willing to grant new development rights if all the City would be getting is “more of the same” in return. 

Consideration of the agreement, which includes the new addition and a bar, restaurant and outdoor entertainment area, was tabled until March 2020. In anticipation of that date, Tachmes provided his update in which he noted that Tsay’s “hard work has led to a significant reduction in crime at the International Inn.” Attached to his letter are police records for October through December indicating four calls to the address, two of which took place in the adjacent FDOT-owned property and that were unrelated to the International Inn. A third was reported only as a “miscellaneous” incident while the fourth involved a person who refused to leave the hotel after the newly hired security guard refused them entrance “because the hotel determined that it would not be in the best interests of the hotel to allow the person inside.”

In addition, Tachmes notes the Inn’s owner has taken steps to improve the hotel’s operations and physical structure. “Regarding hotel operations, our client has retained the services of a respected hotel consultant to evaluate the security situation and recommend improvements,” Tachmes wrote. “As a result of these recommendations, various changes have been made to the hotel’s policies, including the hiring and training of a security guard at the premises.”

Tsay has also hired three architectural firms “to develop a master plan for improvements to the property (to be in compliance with Historic Preservation Standards) and to implement, in the short term, various security improvements.”

Architect Allan Shulman, known for his work on historic properties, will continue to serve as the lead design architect for the project, Tachmes wrote. Jamie Straz, Reines & Straz is the executive architect and Rudolph Uhlemann of Uhlemann Landscape Urbanism is the landscape architect. 

“Our expectation is to convert the finished master plan into plans suitable for an application to the HPB after the Settlement Agreement is approved and the applicable zoning code and comprehensive plan changes are adopted,” Tachmes wrote.

In the meantime, he said the owner is installing “a fence and/or hedge around the perimeter of the property to enhance security. Other security enhancements that have either been implemented or will be implemented soon include the replacement of the existing door locks to the guest rooms with electronic keycard readers that can be controlled and monitored by hotel management and the installation of new, modern security cameras for the property.”

One of the problem areas for the hotel has been the FDOT property between the International Inn and the 79th Street Bridge (seen in photo below). “This lot has generally been an eyesore and a gathering place for persons who may want to engage in illicit behavior,” Tachmes wrote. “We are pleased to report that we are in advanced negotiations with FDOT for the leasing of this property from FDOT to our client. Once the lease is in place, the property will be beautified.” Plans include a fence and hedging and patrols by hotel security. 

“We are confident that the leasing of the property will be very beneficial on multiple levels, including providing a more attractive view for those persons entering Miami Beach via the 79st bridge,” Tachmes said.
“Based on all of the above, we are very much looking forward to receiving City Commission approval of our Settlement Agreement in the near future,” he wrote.

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