The Standard gets design approval

Venetian Islands

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

The Standard gets design approval:

code amendment needed for construction to begin

Renovation plans for The Standard Hotel and Spa on Belle Isle have cleared the Design Review Board, but the bigger challenge lies ahead. Next stop, the Planning Board and City Commission for an amendment to City code allowing plans to proceed.
[UPDATE: This project received a favorable recommendation from the Planning Board in May 2017 and the necessary code changes were approved by the City Commission.]

When The Standard was built in 1953, hotel use was allowed on Belle Isle. In the mid-90s to ensure taller buildings were not built, The Standard with its hotel license became a legal non-conforming use. Under City code, once legal non-conforming buildings are demolished, they cannot be rebuilt. The Standard is seeking an amendment to the code to allow its proposed renovation to proceed by allowing for the demolition of the hotel’s east wing, to be rebuilt with the exact same uses, number of hotel rooms and restaurant seats. Because the rooms must comply with the current code, they will need to be larger. Attorney Monika Entin recently told residents that in order to create resiliency for sea level rise, improve the parking and traffic situation in the neighborhood, and comply with Miami Beach building codes, the new building is proposed to be three stories versus the current one-story structure, though it would not be taller than the main building.
That issue, however, is for the Planning Board and City Commission. The Design Review Board’s only consideration was the design, which was warmly received this week.
Entin gave the DRB some background on the hotel as the inspiration for the current proposal. Designed by local architect Norman Giller, the building’s first use was as a motel until it became the Lido Spa in the 1960s. “It really couldn’t compete in the 60s when all the Fontainebleus and everything kind of started to blow up,” Entin said. “So they started taking a different trend as the Lido Spa, a more bohemian, more relaxed, more laid back kind of spirit.”  The hotel was sold in 2004, but Entin said the bohemian attitude carried over. “The Standard kept that same bohemian feel, that same private secluded, ‘we’re part of Miami Beach but we are here quietly’” attitude.
Local architect Rene Gonzalez designed the project. Alluding to concerns of neighbors directly across from the planned construction on Farrey Lane he said, “The Standard is a hotel that is dear to my heart and something that we all care a lot about so the transformation of this project, the sort of newness of it can be frightening. But as Monika said our intention is to think about the quiet nature of The Standard and think about how we can maintain that as we make it more useful and bring it up to date in many ways.” The new design, he said, invokes the Morris Lapidus follies on Lincoln Road and the Miami Marine Stadium while addressing some very practical and current issues such as parking and traffic in the area, as well as resiliency.
“We are also very aware and feel the responsibility of addressing sea level rise,” he told the DRB. “We are really at the forefront of addressing this [in Miami Beach]… with the amount of investment that is going on in pumps and raising streets and I think it’s equally important that we in the private sector – my clients – address this in their new structures.”
Gonzalez presented a new feature of the plan: a tunnel cut through the existing kitchen on the easternmost portion of the front building to allow cars to enter underneath the new wing into the parking area. Instead of a previously proposed exterior access for the parking garage along the property line, Gonzalez said, “We believe this way we can remove the visual and acoustical noise that is created toward Farrey Lane and towards the neighborhood by isolating it through this tunnel.” The new access would not impact the existing louvers on the upper floor of the building. “We’re not touching those,” Gonzalez said. “We’re going through what is now the loading dock area.”
The new garage will have parking for 76 cars. Gonzalez said the lack of parking at The Standard has resulted in serious traffic backups between the hotel and Sunset Harbour as drivers wait for valet attendants who then have to take cars to Sunset Harbour to park them. Gonzalez, who owns a lot on Farrey Lane, said he has had to wait up to 20 minutes for the stack of cars to move so he could access the lane. “This is a real issue, not only for The Standard, but I think for those of us that are the neighbors of The Standard.” The on-site parking garage would alleviate that issue, he said.
Regarding the footprint of the new building, he said. “We’re not only within the setbacks but we’re also pretty much in line with where the existing footprint is.” The new wing is “considerably below” the height of the front building by 8 or 9 feet, he emphasized.
“It’s extremely important to me that this project be done in a sensitive way because I am wearing both hats as a neighbor and as the architect,” he said. To accomplish that he said he created setbacks on the building terraces and heavily landscaped the terraces and exterior of the garage to minimize the view of the building.
In addition, he said, “The client is also doing a number of things to be a good neighbor and building a coral stone wall between his property and Farrey Lane that would also, I think, add to the value of the properties on Farrey Lane.”
Keeping with the tropical nature of the site, the materials include exposed concrete and wood that will weather naturally. Landscaping will include tropical and subtropical plants consistent with the current courtyard. The buffer on the Farrey Lane side of the building will include mature trees and plants “to provide privacy, character, and sound dissipation,” according to landscape architect Andres Arcila of Naturalficial.
Gonazalez concluded, “What we are trying to do is create a building that is sensitive to the neighborhood, that is sensitive to the existing qualities of the hotel, and that relieves a major problem that exists for the hotel and the neighborhood at the moment which is the situation with the cars.”
Entin said the owners and architects took care to ensure the proposed wing did not rise above the front building. “That was critical,” she said, “because though not historic, The Standard is iconic. It’s recognizable.”
The Board unanimously approved the design. (View the plans and other documents.)

Next stop is the Planning Board on May 23rd to address the code amendment followed by a first reading at City Commission in June.
There is still concern among neighbors on Farrey Lane about its impact. The Belle Isle Residents Association has not taken an official position on the renovation, though it “has met on numerous occasions with residents and representatives of the Standard Hotel including owners, attorneys and architects over the years.” The BIRA Board will hold a meeting Monday, May 8th to hear thoughts from neighborhood residents on the proposal. The Association indicates, “This is not a presentation or an overview, just a chance for residents to make their opinions known.”
The meeting will be held at 20 Island Avenue beginning at 7:00 pm. If you can't attend, send an email with your thoughts.
 Rendering: Rene Gonzalez & Associates

the standard ready to move forward with plans

Venetian Islands

Susan Askew
Susan Askew
owners believe they have addressed neighbors' concerns