Proposal for Hotels on Lincoln Road Moves Forward

Lincoln Road

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Proposal for Hotels on Lincoln Road Moves Forward:

Commissioners seek arts and culture public benefit

The proposal to allow development of new hotels on Lincoln Road made it through the City Commission’s Land Use Committee though members requested further analysis of its impact before it is considered by the full Commission. Miami Beach Planning Director Tom Mooney said the draft ordinance narrowed the area where the incentives would apply to the north side of Lincoln Road between Lenox and Pennsylvania Avenues. During the initial Committee discussion last month, members wanted to restrict development to areas that abutted commercial uses and garages and away from more residential areas. 
 
A proposal for the south side with more limitations was put on the table by another property owner prior to the meeting. Commissioners agreed to move the two in tandem but they asked the City and property owners to come up with ideas for incorporating arts and culture into their spaces for the public benefit before it comes to the Commission for a vote.
 
Sam Herzberg, the owner of the Sterling Building at 927 Lincoln Road, home to Books and Books, wants to build an addition that would accommodate hotel rooms and connect Lincoln road to Lincoln Lane to the north. In order to make the hotel economically feasible, attorney Mickey Marrero asked the City to eliminate parking requirements for new hotel units within the attached addition, reduce unit sizes, and allow multi-story rooftop additions up to 75 feet. The current height limit is 50 feet. Proposed room sizes are 200 sq ft versus the current 335 sq ft requirement.

Architect Kobi Karp said his design for the project will “preserve and restore the existing structure,” including retaining the terrazzo paseo that leads to the bookstore but creating a passage through the hotel lobby to Lincoln Lane on the back, allowing activation of that area.
 
The draft ordinance would allow heights up to 75 feet "provided the property has a minimum lot area of 30,000 square feet and a minimum of 100 hotel units are being provided," according to a memo to the Committee from City Manager Jimmy Morales.

"In order to address the potential scale and height issues associated with a future structure taller than 50 feet in height, particularly as it may be perceived from Lincoln Road, the ordinance includes a minimum setback of 75 feet from Lincoln Road and a minimum setback of 25 feet from a side street for any portion of a building above 50 feet in height," Morales wrote. "This would ensure that any future addition to a building above 50 feet in height would not overwhelm the Lincoln Road streetscape. The administration is supportive of this limited increase in height and would note that there are several taller buildings immediately to [the] north of Lincoln Road between Lincoln Lane North and 17th Street, where the maximum building height is currently 80 feet."

"In addition to the proposed height increase for attached additions, the ordinance would also allow for multistory rooftop additions to be [constructed] above a contributing building," according to Morales' memo. "Currently, a rooftop addition, whether attached or detached, to a contributing building is limited to one story. This proposal would allow for multiple levels to be cantilevered over an existing contributing building without the requirement that the building be demolished and reconstructed as a ground up addition, encouraging the retention and restoration of contributing buildings."

When Commissioner Michael Góngora, the alternate Committee member pressed into service for this meeting, asked about the impact of the ordinance on the Convention Center hotel, Mooney said “close to 500” rooms could be added on the north side of Lincoln Road but there has not been a study done on how they would “interact with or compete with the Convention Center hotel.”
 
“I’m concerned about changing the character of Lincoln Road if we allow every property owner to essentially upzone to put a hotel,” Góngora said.  
 
“If we allow everybody to upzone their property to build hotels, the rents are going to go up higher beyond their currently astronomically high amounts and we’re going to price out any possibility of a mom or pop shop,” he said. “We’re just going to start to look more like Brickell, for lack of another word, than keep our unique character that Morris Lapidus intended so I’m not excited about this item. I’m not a hard no but I don’t really understand yet what the benefit to the residents would be.”
 
Marrero said, hotels would “reinject life into that street…  add some life to Lincoln Road that’s missing… a good Lincoln Road is good for tourists but also very good for residents.”
 
Committee Chair, Commissioner John Alemán said, “We know, and from the vacant storefronts on Lincoln Road, that retail is changing and it’s changing dramatically and it has not settled yet. Lincoln Road being a retail mall is feeling that transition maybe more than any stretch of street in Miami Beach except maybe Washington.”
 
Saying Lincoln Road property owners “are challenged with figuring out what their future is,” she added, a mix of retail and hotels “may help them transition from now into the future… This retail threat could be partially offset by a new hotel use.”
 
Commissioner Ricky Arriola said of the Sterling project, “I like this particular project, I mean it’s beautiful. I think it will enhance Lincoln Road. I’m mindful of some of the things Commissioner Góngora said about Morris Lapidus’ vision for Lincoln Road but that was another time and another era when Miami Beach was a winter retreat for folks, not a year-round city people lived in.” Instead of only wanting hotels on the water, today he said people “want to be in the center of things, that’s why we’re seeing hotels open in my neighborhood, the Sunset Harbour neighborhood. It’s important to reflect on the past but not be completely wed to it at all costs because times change.”
 
Arriola agreed with a suggestion from Miami Design Preservation League Executive Director Daniel Ciraldo for cultural programming as a public benefit for the hotel allowances. Arriola asked Mooney and the property owners to explore ideas that would encourage space for arts and cultural purposes, “whether it’s a gallery, performance space, it doesn’t have to be very big but if we do this enough on Lincoln Road, I think it does help revitalize Lincoln Road,” Arriola said. “I think it helps it become unique and not just a massive open air shopping center. I think it’s worth exploring. These developers are coming to us and asking for a favor, right? To allow them to do hotels, well we should ask them to do something that we think is important for the public interest.”

“I’d be open minded if there’s other things that they would request in order to accommodate for the cultural facilities,” he said. “We all want to see a thriving Lincoln Road. We all win if we do that. We all have to give a little to get there. I like the direction. I think hotels on Lincoln Road can work. This particular project is beautiful. I’d love to see it done sooner rather than later. But I’d like to see if there is something we can do to have some cultural components. Again, be creative. If you can’t fit it into this project or you need some additional variances bring it to the table or pay a fee and we’ll apply that fee to another part of Lincoln Road where we can make something happen.”
 
Monika Entin, attorney for Mel Schlesser who owns Lincoln Center at 630 Lincoln Road, proffered a proposal for the south side. Entin noted Lincoln Center was a hotel until 2001. “For the last year,” she said, Schlesser “has been thinking about how to improve it and how to improve Lincoln Road.” Schlesser would like to return the building to its hotel use. Acknowledging the site isn’t “buffered by as many commercial establishments and parking lots” with “some residential a little bit further south,” Entin said Schlesser was not looking to add additional the height included in the proposed ordinance for the north side of Lincoln Road but would like the benefit of the parking reduction.  
 
For Lincoln Center, room sizes do not need to be as small as 200 sq ft, Entin added, but in order to “follow the historic character of the building,” some smaller rooms are necessary due to current window locations. There would be a mix of smaller and larger units with an average of 250 sq ft with the minimum unit size being 240 sq ft, she said
 
Commissioner Joy Malakoff, who is not a Committee member but attended as an observer, said, “I’m in favor of it and I think that we need more high-end visitors to the City of Miami Beach who will then enjoy everything that’s on Lincoln Road.”
 
Malakoff who originally opposed hotels on the south side of the street said she is in favor of allowing a hotel at Lincoln Center. “I think in this particular case it does make sense, because the actual units are protected from the residential areas,” she said.
 
“I agree on this one property and I like the property owner,” Góngora said. “I know they’re a good corporate resident, so to speak, but we’re not doing it for one property. I’m not even concerned about the Sterling, the individual applicant who’s here today. My biggest concern is that this is an ordinance amendment that, if it goes forward, is upzoning the entire north side and the entire south side of Lincoln Road.”
 
Property owners, “a lot of them will want to build hotels,” he said, “because it will be more profitable. I would if I owned the property so I understand that’s going to happen and for me to ultimately wrap my head around this and for me to be a yes vote there needs to be an adequate public benefit.”
 
Alemán asked the Planning Department to conduct an analysis of the properties that could add hotels and “if fully taken advantage of what would that end state look like. In case commissioners want to bring [the ordinance parameters] in a little bit, they would understand how to do that," she said.

Alemán and Arriola both voted to move the proposals for the north and south side out of Committee. Góngora voted no pending public benefit proposals. 
 

Photo: Shutterstock.com
 

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