one step forward for town center project

North Shore

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

one step forward for town center project:

financial terms still need to be worked out for cnb parcels

The plan to develop the area around and including the City National Bank building in Miami Beach's North Beach received a positive recommendation from the Commission’s Land Use and Development Committee this week, but the most significant part of the approval process is yet to come: the financial negotiation.
The project as proposed by developer Aria Mehrabi involves swapping five city-owned lots for five privately owned lots to allow for the development of a parking garage and retail space. Owner’s representative Neisen Kasdin says Mehrabi would take two lots on the corner of Byron Avenue and 71st Street and three nearby on Harding Avenue and give the City five contiguous lots south of 71st Street between Abbott and Byron in the exchange. Currently these lots contain surface parking with a total of 85 spaces. By giving the City the five contiguous lots, a large parking garage could be built with more City-owned spaces, Kasdin said. A separate section to the north will have private parking “but those five lots will be the City parking garage.”
Kasdin said the vision of the North Beach Master Plan is for the Town Center to have activated retail and storefronts. The ground floor of the proposed parking garage “will contain a large box retail likely to be a high end grocer.” Also included will be space for smaller retail outlets that the developer calls “incubator retail.” Kasdin elaborated, “It will be local retail, different interesting kinds of brands in smaller spaces that will activate 71st Street with wider sidewalks called for by the Master Plan.” In the east block of the proposed development, Kasdin said, the developer is “talking in terms of a Sunset Harbour kind of neighborhood-oriented and interesting retail with open space and an apartment building as well, a rental apartment building.”
He emphasized The Gidney Building (photo above), which was the original City National Bank headquarters will be restored with the bank once again occupying the space in the future.
The Committee was asked to consider a ten foot height increase for standalone parking garages in Town Center, which, Kasdin said, “will be necessary to accommodate both the ground floor retail and an adequate amount of parking.”
Commissioner John Alemán expressed her thoughts on the lot swap. “It certainly seems that the activation of retail on 71st Street is more appropriate and consistent with the Master Plan than a surface parking lot. I know the community there will be very thrilled to see amenities like a grocery, coffee shop, [and] restaurants.” She said she was pleased the developer is trying to “make accommodations for some of the restaurants that have been longstanding” and, she added, “I appreciate the inclusion of what you’ve called the incubator retail so that we have places for our small businesses as well as a great grocery store.”
Commissioner Joy Malakoff also gave her approval. “I’m very pleased with this whole project because it really is what the Master Plan – the Dover Kohl Master Plan – envisions for this particular area so I think it’s very appropriate for the neighborhood.” She reminded Kasdin that “it is all contingent on the money part, term sheet, appraisals, and so forth.”
The Committee, which also includes Commissioner Micky Steinberg, gave a favorable recommendation to proposed zoning changes to the City-owned lots from GU (Government Use) to TC-1 (Town Center 1). Planning Director Tom Mooney said the adjacent parcels are already TC-1 and this is “a logical zoning change.” As to the modification to the parking ordinance for increased garage height, he said that “would be applicable to not just the parking garage as part of this proposal but any future parking garage within the TC Districts.”
Kasdin reiterated the benefits to both sides of the lot swap. “Independently you don’t have an efficient enough layout to build a garage. You certainly couldn’t do it on the City lots. And the City National property, although it’s large, without putting together more parcels you couldn’t have both a development and parking.” By buying the additional lots to allow the swap, he said, “This is truly the vision of the Town Center plan coming into reality through the hands of one developer in partnership with the City.”
The financial terms of the proposal will be discussed by the Finance and Citywide Projects Committee at the end of this month. The Planning Board will discuss the zoning and height variances on July 25th.