hpb takes stronger stand on chain restaurants

Ocean Drive

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

hpb takes stronger stand on chain restaurants:

group decides to make a statement re ocean drive

How do you bring Ocean Drive back to its full glory? The 10 Point Plan for Ocean Drive includes a number of recommendations which the City Commission has begun to implement but a big one – prohibiting chain restaurants and retail – continues to generate strong debate.
Earlier this month the Commission was not able to agree on a cut-off number with regard to the brands which could operate on the street. The ordinance before the Commission would prohibit a restaurant brand with more than 100 outlets nationwide (or more than five or more on Miami Beach) from locating on Ocean Drive. The Planning Board recommended a number of 400, which the Commission rejected. Mayor Philip Levine and the ordinance’s sponsor, Commissioner Ricky Arriola, believe the number should be less but Arriola said he was willing to compromise at 100 to take a step toward maintaining the unique character of Ocean Drive. Lacking the necessary five votes for passage, Mayor Levine asked the HPB for their thoughts before bringing the measure up again at the Commission’s July 26th meeting.
After a long discussion, the Preservation Board voted to “make a statement” and indicated the ideal number is one but up to 50 is acceptable.
In arguing against any regulation, Mickey Marrero representing Infinity Real Estate which owns several properties on Ocean Drive, said “Earlier we talked about resiliency and, in that, part of our focus here is finding ways to keep buildings, historic buildings in particular, in good condition over a long period of time and that we don’t want people to walk away from buildings for economic reasons.”

He said his client also commissioned an economic analysis of the ordinance, which indicated it would have a negative impact on long term property values. “What’s been neglected in the discussion here is these buildings are very old buildings. When you restore them, it’s very expensive. As my clients have dealt with, it’s certainly worthy. And it’s an honor to own a property on Ocean Drive. At the same time, with that comes a lot of expenses.” It is the “accessory uses”, he said, that fund renovation and restoration. “As you all know, the apartment rents and the hotel rents on Ocean Drive are not the highest in the City or not even close. It’s the accessory uses and exposure for these accessory uses that really drives the economic engine of those properties.”

Marrero referenced the City’s economic report, which said there was unlikely to be a “stampede” of formula restaurants or retail because modifying historic buildings to fit their model is very difficult to do. “Ocean Drive has been around for many, many, many years,” he said, “and we only have, I think, 15 or 20% of those units that would actually be called formula retail … There’s not a lot and we don’t expect there to be a lot. But by taking away the possibility of so many potential tenants for these properties you take away so many of the possible economic incomes for the property.” That, in turn decreases property values and takes away the ability for property owners to obtain the necessary construction loans to restore their properties because they don’t have the ability to market to creditworthy tenants.
“We want Ocean Drive to succeed,” he said. “We don’t expect there to be a Times Square effect but we do want it to be economically viable.”
Deputy City Attorney Eve Boutsis clarified the ordinance for the Board saying it doesn’t prohibit brands from opening on Ocean Drive but requires them to modify their concept by changing uniforms and branding, among other things. “You cannot go in with your complete formula,” she said.
Board member Nancy Liebman said, “We’re trying to change the culture. That’s what this is all about. It’s not about getting rid of restaurants. It’s trying to upgrade the culture. To bring in national chains and not have any regulations is not bringing Ocean Drive back.”
Daniel Ciraldo, Executive Director of the Miami Design Preservation League said MDPL supports the ordinance noting other cities, such as San Francisco, which have more stringent limits. “People come for the buildings but they also come for the experience,” he said. “As we travel to other destinations around the world and we see the same exact stores – whether it’s McDonalds or Walgreens, Starbucks – it does have an impact on the overall experience and the unique nature of visiting these places.”
City Principal Planner Rogelio Madan, said, “We did look at other cities that have limitations” and he said Miami Beach’s proposed 100-unit threshold “would be without a doubt the highest” with limits ranging from 3 in Palm Beach and Sanibel to 15 in Coronado, California. “One hundred was seen as a way to offset the impact, a compromise of sorts,” he said.
Board Member Wyn Bradley said, “I look at this more as placemaking. Miami Beach is a unique place. Chinatown in San Francisco is a unique place. People go to unique place destinations.” She defined placemaking as “capitalizing on the local assets. So it’s local assets of buildings, local assets of thinking, local assets of value systems. The fact that we have one of the most complete art deco collections in the world is a destination for people to come to regardless of what’s in it. So in and of itself, people are not going to fly across the globe to come to a Ruth’s Cris in an art deco building. They’re going to come to see the art deco building and it’s going to just happen to have a Ruth’s Cris there and they’re going to take advantage of using it.” She said she viewed the intent of the ordinance “to encourage and promote the local identity and placemaking for Miami Beach” and added she would rather see a Freeze ice cream versus a Ben & Jerry’s, Panther or Versailles versus a chain coffee shop, and another Prime 112 versus a Ruth’s Cris steakhouse on Ocean Drive. “This is in such a little area. [Limits] actually will drive up rents because it’s identity building. It’s in line with local assets and placemaking.”
Noting the limit of 3 nationwide outlets for restaurants seeking to locate in Sanibel, Board member Kirk Paskal said, “I grew up in Sanibel. Sanibel is unique unto itself. It’s also not inexpensive. I’m not pushing for the number 3 but it does work,” he said. “I agree wholeheartedly with what Wyn said. This is about a destination.”
Bradley asked for thoughts on keeping Miami Beach’s number at a hundred or less. “It allows them still a very large client pool but it encourages local,” she said.
When Liebman suggested a compromise of 50 to make a statement to the Commission, Bradley said, “The stronger you make a place’s identity the higher you can charge for rents.”
Board member John Stuart asked, “Why not be the leader in the nation? If we’re trying to get [the Commission] to think about what we’re talking about, then let’s say one. I’m not convinced that this matters… I don’t think the number matters but if what matters is what Wyn says and that it’s about placemaking, then make a statement. I mean don’t be wishy washy with 50.”
Referring to the other communities with limits, Stuart said, “Where are we at 50? We’re still 15th in the nation. We should be number one in the nation. … We’re either making a statement about what we believe or not. I personally don’t believe this is the way to accomplish that goal but if we’re going to be discussed, we should really be discussed as trying to be the leaders, national leaders in this.”
Bradley summed up, “We’re saying, look, we want one [unique establishment]. We know that’s unreasonable. But we’re saying one is a statement but we encourage it to be under 50.
The Board unanimously agreed to send that recommendation to the City Commission for its July 26th discussion.

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