Developer Michael Shvo Proposes Additional Setbacks for New Beachfront Tower at The Raleigh in Miami Beach

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Developer Michael Shvo Proposes Additional Setbacks for New Beachfront Tower at The Raleigh in Miami Beach:

Changes made following pushback from Historic Preservation Board

The owner of the historic Raleigh, South Seas and Richmond Hotels will try again to gain approval from the Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board for a new luxury residential building behind the hotels in the 1700 block of Collins Avenue. Michael Shvo has presented his vision three times since May in an effort to move forward with the project that includes restoration of the historic properties and continuing their hotel use. He'll be back a fourth time on September 8 with greater setbacks on the residential building in response to pushback from the Board.
Shvo filed plans this spring for a 200-ft tall, 18-story oceanfront residential tower behind the Richmond and South Seas, along with restoration plans. He purchased The Raleigh in February 2019, later putting the adjacent Richmond and South Seas under contract with the intention of creating a unified development site pending approval of a height increase that would allow for a new residential tower. In July of last year, the City Commission approved the height increase from 50 to 200 feet. Shvo closed on the Richmond and South Seas shortly after.

The project which requires a 5/7 vote appeared to have the support of four members of the preservation board at their August 11 meeting. In order to gain at least one more vote, Shvo is proposing to push the building 15 feet to the west with two additional 15-foot setbacks, one at the 9th floor and another after the 14th floor, for a total of 45-feet from the eastern property line.

In addition, he proposes moving the tower west by 6 feet and widening it on the north by 5 feet. “This minor modification of the tower’s western and northern footprints allows for a major enhancement of the public view corridors from the beachwalk and the ocean,” attorney Alfredo Gonzalez of Greenberg Traurig wrote in an updated letter to the Board. 

In addition, “While the Tower is moving 6’ west, the 3 highest upper levels are set back further than originally proposed to create even a lessor impact on views from street level on Collins Ave,” Gonzalez noted in an email to RE:MiamiBeach. The changes also result in a building length of 216-ft, 3 inches which is an 11-foot reduction from the last proposal, according to Gonzalez.

The changes may satisfy HPB member Scott Needelman who said at the August meeting, “My only concern with this project from the beginning was how close the new tower is proposed to be to the beach. I don’t have an issue with any of the renovation work that’s being proposed. I don’t have an issue with the demolition work that’s being proposed. I don’t have an issue with the height that’s being proposed. My concern is strictly the closeness of the new tower to the beach and the boardwalk.” Needelman suggested that with additional setbacks and moving the building further to the west, he might be able to support the project.

Board member Rick Lopez said, he was “feeling good about where this project is” and was happy with concessions the developer had made leading up to the August meeting. 

“I think this project is a lot about the balance between preservation and development,” Lopez said. “I’m very excited about having these historic buildings be preserved and be accessible to the public, the Raleigh in particular. I understand that in order to achieve that high level of restoration, there needs to be funding for it and that comes from the development of these properties.”

“If it were up to me as a planner,” Lopez continued, “I wouldn’t allow towers on the beach, but the fact is that Miami Beach does allow them and they’re acting within their rights and I think that they have really been outright in their effort to meet the demands of everybody on this board and everybody else leading up to this board.” He agreed that “further developing that stepping down [of the building] to the ocean would only benefit the identity of the building and also further peel away from the beach which I think is only good.”

Agreeing that “the project’s come a long way,” Board member Barry Klein said, “The tower still… I find it imposing. And I understand what Rick [Lopez] just said, that to restore, to have the opportunity to restore those existing buildings, in essence we need to pay for it” but he said he was troubled by an earlier reference to the abandoned and deteriorating Deauville Hotel in North Beach. “Are we in this Deauville syndrome versus height and mass?” he asked. “I think that we’re close.”

“I can just imagine that walking from Collins Avenue to the tower through that garden is just going to be magnificent,” Klein said, “but I think when you look from 18th Street, when you start opening up at Collins and 18th Street, it’s imposing.”

“I support this,” member Nancy Liebman said. “I think saving The Raleigh is one of the most wonderful things the City can do.”

Referencing the amendment to the City Code that allowed height up to 200 feet on the site, Liebman said, “I didn’t hear anybody objecting to it. I was berserk that they were going to make this height, berserk, and I expressed myself, but nobody cared so we had the text amendment… and now the text amendment has been one of the things that has helped The Raleigh come back. Unless there was this kind of investment going into it, no one would have ever restored it.” She agreed, however, with further stepping back the building “so it isn’t as obvious.”

“I have never seen such an effort to try to do something so wonderful for this city and I applaud those who see it that way,” Liebman concluded.

Board Chair Jack Finglass disagreed calling the building a “long whale [that] will block off the beach permanently and will be one more step in our march to have Miami Beach become another Sunny Isles.”

“It will destroy the whole character of Miami Beach as it exists today,” he said. “I can’t go along with that. This is a major change to the beach in this particular area which is basically open, airy, light and uncluttered. We would be voting for an irreparable change to the historic landscape and once that’s done, it’s gone forever.”

“I’m perfectly for the preservation and restoration of the historic buildings,” Finglass added, “but this tower is unacceptable.”

Shvo addressed the challenges of the project saying “We have made concessions and changes, and had conversations with every Board member and every neighbor multiple times really to get to a middle ground that would satisfy everybody. Sometimes it’s difficult to get everybody 100 percent happy but we’re trying to do our best effort to make as many people satisfied with our design. At the end of the day… it’s a unique opportunity to make sure that this area is preserved forever." Repeating a comment Gonzalez made earlier, he said, "And that’s what historic preservation is about, to try to save what we’ve got, not to restrict new buildings or even 20 story buildings.”

Shvo said he was “amenable” to changes and pushing the building further west but he said the building “cannot be cut in half.”

“We do not want to end up like the Deauville,” he said. Construction won’t start for a year following approval, he noted. “So, right now, we’re going to go through another hurricane season which we’re trying to prevent. The job here is to preserve the buildings that we have, not let them deteriorate because we’re arguing about five feet east or west.”

“Every month that we don’t get approval, [the cost of the project], unfortunately, goes higher,” Shvo said. “There is a need to pay for this. You guys all understand that historic preservation doesn’t work by itself… The South Seas and the Richmond, this is the only opportunity for them to ever get restored.” 

Those buildings are “dilapidated,” he said, “because economically you can’t restore those buildings. I know this board might not have need to consider economics, but we are all adults and we understand [the costs] to restore something… The cost of this restoration is humongous.”

“As much as we don’t want to admit that there’s money that’s needed to restore these buildings, I do think that the Board needs to take that into consideration because the reason that we’re trying to build this [new] building is to pay for the restoration.”

“Reducing square footage from the current building is not the solution here because it would mean we need to reduce some of the restoration,” Shvo told the Board. “We really have made a serious commitment to the restoration and I know that we all take it for granted, but we need to understand that there needs to be some way that this thing [gets] paid for.”

“Every month that goes by that we can’t restore [The Raleigh] makes the economics of this deal even more complicated,” he said. “It’s been widely publicized that we paid a record price for these properties in Miami Beach. It’s because we believe in Miami Beach. We want to invest in Miami Beach and we want to build something great. But if we continue sitting here and not being able to do anything, at some point it just doesn’t make sense to do it.”

“We’re sitting on three boarded sites, into hurricane season and our concern is… we’re going to be into the next hurricane season,” Shvo said. “Each hurricane season where you have buildings that are boarded up, the buildings deteriorate. You guys can all appreciate this, you see what’s happening with the Deauville that’s almost falling apart. We don’t want to get there.”

The project will be back before the HPB on Tuesday, September 8. The architect is Kobi Karp. Details of the item can be found here.

Renderings: Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design



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