The Miami Beach Historic Preservation Board approved developer Michael Shvo’s plan to restore the Raleigh, Richmond, and South Seas Hotels and construct a new 175-ft luxury residential tower on the unified development site.
Shvo, Chairman and CEO of SHVO (above), and his partners purchased The Raleigh from Tommy Hilfiger in February 2019 for $103 million. When the City Commission approved a text amendment allowing buildings up to 200-ft on the site, they closed on the purchase of the adjacent Richmond and South Seas for a combined $140 million in August 2019 to create a unified development site and build a new tower behind the Richmond and South Seas.
After filing the original plans in April, Shvo and architect Kobi Karp made several accommodations including moving the building further back from Collins Avenue and stepping it back on the upper floors following community and Historic Preservation Board (HPB) input but, at the proposed 200-ft height, the development team could not muster the five votes needed for approval.
This week, at the HPB’s September meeting, the team proposed additional setbacks but it wasn’t enough. After four hours of debate, which included an organized group of residents and some of the neighboring hotels urging denial or a reduction in height, the 175-ft height compromise was reached.
"The Raleigh Hotel is the crown jewel of Miami Beach,” Shvo said after the meeting. “We are committed to honor Miami's rich culture and to South Beach's continued transformation. I can assure you that this is just the beginning of our collaboration and what will prove to be an inspiring and enduring partnership between us and Miami Beach.”
All three of the existing buildings on the site were designed by noted architect L. Murray Dixon. Restoration plans include the iconic Raleigh pool and removing a later penthouse addition to The Raleigh. The facades of the Richmond and South Seas will also be restored to the 1941 Dixon design with later rear additions being removed which Shvo’s attorney Alfredo Gonzalez of Greenberg Traurig said would open up the views of The Raleigh pool. “The Raleigh pool will now have – as originally intended – more light, air and openness since the 1950s when L. Murray Dixon built the pool,” he told the Board.
Shvo has also committed to continuing the hotel use at all three properties, maintaining public access to the lobbies and The Raleigh pool.
Representatives of the Setai, Shelborne, and Faena House voiced opposition to the tower’s size though each of those buildings range in height from approximately 170 feet to 385 feet. The shorter Marseilles and Nautilus Hotels spoke in support.
Miami Design Preservation League Executive Director Daniel Ciraldo said the additional setbacks proposed by the developer “are helpful in achieving compatibility but we have concerns remaining about the overall size of the tower.”
“They’ve made a lot of improvements on the preservation aspects, but we do have those remaining concerns that the new proposed tower is just too big and does still have a big impact on the skyline,” Ciraldo said.
Mitchell Cohen, one of the owners of the Shelborne Hotel, echoed those concerns. “This building is just too tall and too immense,” he said.
“Residents have always put their trust and faith in the HPB… We know you will rise to the occasion,” he said, urging Board members to do “a little more work” to ensure everyone “walk[s] away happy.”
Ray Breslin, President of the Collins Park Neighborhood Association, emphasized the balance between preservation and development. “You cannot turn around and preserve an historic hotel… without a tradeoff,” he told the Board.
Calling the proposed tower, “classy, simple and iconic,” he said, “I really hope that you realize that this is an important element to make this project viable for the developer.” Plans approved for the Raleigh site when it was owned by Tommy Hilfiger “totally block the historic Raleigh Hotel from the ocean,” Breslin said. “This project, now with The Raleigh gardens and everything else is absolutely the perfect iconic thing that the neighborhood needs… It’s an amazing project.”
In his followup, Gonzalez said a social media campaign to generate comments urging denial of the project used “images discredited months ago” that were “not true renderings of this project.” Many of those who called into the meeting expressing opposition, he said, did so after a “last minute push by certain individuals with ulterior motives.”
“To be fair, they were misled,” Gonzalez said, “and they have been misled all the way along.”
HPB member Nancy Liebman addressed those who called in during the lengthy public comment period. “The skyline is already loaded with huge buildings and, wake up everybody, many more are coming… If you cared this much – and you all seem sincerely dedicated to what you were saying – I think you need to keep watching what goes on here. Other glass buildings are coming.”
The new tower, she said, would have “no impact on the Raleigh Hotel. The purpose of having this building is to save The Raleigh.”
Following Liebman’s remarks, Board Chair Jack Finglass made a strong statement imploring his fellow Board members to reduce the building’s size. The proposed height, he said, is “out of scale with the surrounding contributing buildings.”
Finglass reminded the members that, “While permitted under the Code, the monolithic tower is subject to review and approval by this board… The Board can require reductions in height and massing to require a more compatible project.”
“Do not ruin our beach in order to save it,” he pleaded. “Please save our skyline, our view, and our world class trademark postcard of that historic block.”
Member Rick Lopez said, “I’ve always been opposed to height,” but added, “Having become familiar with the project [and] the proposed restoration, I’ve come to appreciate the balance between preservation and development.”
With regard to reducing the size, he said he didn’t know where the “happy medium” was “but I do know that the restoration and rejuvenation of The Raleigh Hotel… is valuable. The idea of it becoming a private club” as proposed by Hilfiger and without a tower to support the restoration, he said, would mean “You can kiss the [public] access goodbye.”
“I think it’s a balancing act,” Lopez said, adding, “I think that the team has proven to be really responsive. When issues are raised, they respond to it.” The calls to deny the project “coming up now seems a little odd. We’ve been at this for so long… I don’t know what the motivations are but it seems a little contrived to me,” he said.
“I don’t understand why there’s been no adjustment, not even a token gesture of moderating the height," Board member Kirk Paskal commented.
“I want this project to proceed. I want the developer and applicant who are investing in these jewels, I want them to be successful,” he said, but added, “I think we can do better… We can make an effort to moderate it… I do believe it’s not unreasonable that we can find a compromise to moderate the height where the applicant can still make back their investment.”
Finglass then began a negotiation saying he was willing to compromise on the height to “let everyone get something out of this and not leave the table with nothing.” He proposed 12 stories but architect Kobi Karp objected saying it would not be possible to achieve the project’s goals at that height. Karp countered with 185 feet.
Paskal proposed a height similar to the Shelborne, which is approximately 175 feet. After more debate, when it was clear the Board was not going to approve 185 feet, Karp was able to get Board consensus on 175 feet along with a reduction in the building’s east side setback from 115 feet to 110.
By a vote of 5 to 1, with Finglass voting no and Board member Barry Klein absent, the project was approved.
The developer also proffered a voluntary covenant that will become part of the Board’s order to maintain the hotel use at The Raleigh, ensuring its accessibility to the public.
The order also will state that there will be no TCO (Temporary Certificate of Occupancy) or CO (Certificate of Occupancy) issued for the new residential tower portion of the project until the restoration of all contributing structures on the site is substantially complete.
Following the meeting, Shelborne owner Mitchell Cohen said, “I think that the HPB did an incredible job in forging a compromise.”
“I’m happy about it,” he said. “I suspect the applicant is happy,” adding “residents should be happy as well… [T]hey stood up for what they believed in. They came and they got a compromise with what I think everyone will be happy.”
*Note the renderings included above are what were considered by the Board. Karp and team are working on new renderings based on the approved height and setback.
Renderings: Kobi Karp Architecture & Interior Design
Image at top courtesy of SHVO
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