Ocean Terrace Development Gets Final Approvals from Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Ocean Terrace Development Gets Final Approvals from Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board:

After more than seven years, developers will now begin permitting process

It’s been more than seven years in the making, a nearly full-block redevelopment project fronting North Beach’s Ocean Terrace and Collins Avenue between 74th and 75th Streets. After many fits and starts, including a failed voter referendum and a lawsuit with the City of Miami Beach, developers Sandor Scher and Alex Blavatnik of Ocean Terrace Holdings received final approvals for a project that includes a new residential tower, a hotel addition to the historic Broadmoor and Ocean Surf hotels, restoration of portions of the historic structures along Ocean Terrace, and a new $15M public park and streetscape.

The Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board (HPB) which first approved plans for the redevelopment in 2018, gave its consent to revised plans that include four additional levels within the same 235-ft residential tower which was achieved by lowering the ceiling height within the units. That change, along with one more unit added to the west side of the building, brings the total number of residential units to 75 within 20 stories. Previously, the number was 58 within 16 stories. Units will range in size from two to five bedrooms.

In exchange for building the public park and streetscape, the City vacated portions of Ocean Terrace and transferred the FAR (Floor Area Ratio) to the development for an 85-ft hotel addition to the Broadmoor with the City having a perpetual easement for full access to the street and park. The hotel addition and park/streetscape plans were part of the HPB approval.

The 127-room hotel portion of the project which encompasses the new 11-story addition and the renovation of the Broadmoor and Ocean Surf Hotels will be managed as one operation. The hotel will include restaurants, a bar, meeting rooms, fitness and spa facilities, an outdoor pool and deck, rooftop lounge, and on-site parking.

“The approved plan for Ocean Terrace is more economically viable, will attract a world-class hotel operator, and will incorporate a beautifully-designed oceanfront greenspace for the entire community to enjoy,” Scher said following the approval. “We look forward to getting to work on our long-awaited project, which will restore the street-level historic architecture, transform Ocean Terrace into a lushly-landscaped oasis and give new life to this cherished beachfront.”

“We are grateful to the North Beach community and City of Miami Beach for working together with us to create a vision for Ocean Terrace that incorporates historic preservation, activation of the oceanfront, and economic revitalization,” Blavatnik added. “We are excited to now be able to bring that vision to life, starting with an iconic and activated public space that will belong to the City for future generations.”

There is also 15,000 sq. ft. of commercial space along Collins Avenue and approximately 3,000 sq. ft. along Ocean Terrace. Scher told the Preservation Board the goal is to create a local retail experience similar to Sunset Harbour where “we’ve seen the impact of what local retail actually does for a community.” The goal, he said, is to have “lifestyle retail” such as a coffee shop, flower shop, and potentially a local market.

While some Board members expressed frustration and angst about the length of time it has taken to get the project moving and concern about the increased density on the site, most were complimentary of the design and the impact the project will have on North Beach.

Barry Klein said adding the four stories within the same building height resulted in a lowering of the base of the tower and lower ceiling heights which, in his opinion, “cheapened the building.”

“I welcome the hotel. I welcome the street activation. I think that’s going to be a wonderful thing,” Klein said. The greenspace is a benefit for the City, he said, but “the building gets crammed. I think it’s too dense for there.”

Laura Weinstein-Berman had a different take on the density. “I’m a preservationist but also extremely pro-development so I really appreciate the design and thoughtfulness of the project,” she said. “I think density is necessary in this particular area of Miami Beach.”

“I think the project demonstrates how preservation and development can work together holistically,” Weinstein-Berman added noting “the sensitivity” of how the new buildings are set back from the historic structures… Even with the FAR increase, I think is proportional and will be a great addition to the entire city.”

“I think there’s a lot to be quite a bit enthusiastic about this project,” Max Litt said, though he also voiced his concerns. “It continues the trend of funding historic preservation through these massive residential developments which I think is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of impact on the community, but it is where we are so the object is to get the best possible project that we can here.”

After Board chair Jack Finglass express concerns about other approved projects not moving forward, Scher said, not only has Ocean Terrace Holdings committed to the project, “We’ve already actually paid $15M for the park, money secured by a letter of credit.”

In addition, he said, if the developers don’t start the park in a timely fashion, they will be considered in default and not receive any of the additional square footage for the hotel. “We have a compelling financial interest to move that forward,” he told the Board.

Rick Lopez who was not on the Board when it approved the development in 2018 expressed frustration over the size of the project.  “Grouping together so many properties in a single project runs against the grain of preservation.”

“The height is eye-popping,” he said. “It feels out of scale… Why would we allow development of an entire city block when we’re interested in preserving the scale?”

Nancy Liebman who has been part of the process since the beginning said, “High rises are never my favorite, but it is the high rises that had to bring the rest of the project.” She said the presentation of the revised plans ignored the restoration, what she called “the beauty of the project. You have to see all of that to understand how fortunate we are” that Scher stuck with the project over the last seven years, she told Lopez.

City Preservation Manager Debbie Tackett said, “I understand all of your frustrations. Over the years the plans have morphed and changed.”

“There are so many factors here. It’s been like this jigsaw puzzle,” she said. “We’re trying to fit everything in.”

“North Beach as a whole is looking for something positive to happen,” Tackett said. “It’s grown and it’s not ideal. It’s what we’re faced with. This is the allowable amount of square footage.” She emphasized the City has been very “particular and detail oriented” in its review of the historic buildings and the requirements made of the developers.

The Board vote was 5-2 in favor with Klein and Lopez casting the no votes. The streetscape was approved 6-0 with Klein absent.

The Ocean Terrace development has been in the works since 2014 when entities affiliated with Ocean Terrace Holdings began acquiring off-market properties in the area. Over the years, the entities have paid $85M for the assemblage according to Miami-Dade County property records. The only property not included in the development block is a building that houses the Burgers & Shakes at the corner of 74th and Collins Avenue.

Miami Beach voters rejected an upzoning of the area in 2015 that would have given the developers additional height and FAR but, in 2016, City Commissioners approved the establishment of the Ocean Terrace Overlay allowing construction of a 235-ft condo tower. The first plans received HPB approval in 2018.

After finding a hotel flag to operate the Broadmoor and Ocean Surf hotels proved challenging due to their small size, the developers reached the agreement to trade the park for the hotel addition. After developers Russell Galbut and David Martin won a Board of Adjustment appeal against the City in November 2019 that provided extra FAR for their 500 Alton Road development by excluding elevator shafts, stairwells, and mechanical chutes and chases from the FAR calculation allowing more habitable space to be built, there was a brief window before the City Commission passed legislation to more specifically include those elements in the calculation. Ocean Terrace Holdings filed news plans with the HPB in December 2019 which excluded those elements, thus adding about 20,000 sq. ft. of habitable space to their development. Though a settlement agreement was reached with Galbut and Martin, there was no immediate resolution for Scher and Blavatnik. A lawsuit ensued which was settled earlier this year giving Ocean Terrace Holdings the additional FAR in exchange for a $3M contribution to the City. The developers also committed to an expedited schedule for the streetscape improvements.

Those five-acres of streetscape improvements will be the focus of the initial stage of the project. Designed by Raymond Jungles, the greenspace that will replace the asphalt street will include native shade trees, new walking trails, water features, public seating, and a covered pavilion. 

The developers say they will now begin the permitting process for the park component of the development with construction expected to begin in the third quarter of 2022. 

Pre-construction sales for the residential building are also anticipated to begin in 2022.

Details on the development item are here.

The streetscape application can be found here.

Renderings courtesy Revuelta Architecture

Approved hotel addition, front right

Approved residential tower, front center

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