The DDA does have some quibbles. Among them: The last version of the blueprint its planners saw had a retaining wall all along the Biscayne Boulevard frontage, which could discourage the very pedestrian traffic the city wants to encourage. Because the project is using a development permit approved under the old city code, it doesn’t have to adhere to the new, more pedestrian-friendly Miami 21 code.
“We’re hoping they address this,’’ Robertson said. “We want to make it an easy transition for pedestrians from sidewalk to commercial space. It’s better for them. We want them to be incredibly successful.’’
The developer said Tuesday its architects added stairs and lowered 40 percent of the retail space to street level to deal with the DDA’s concerns.
Espacio purchased an existing office building and parking garage that take up about two-thirds of the block for more than $32 million, and later added a small apartment building that houses the Manhattan and DRB cafes on the ground floor. Espacio does not own the southwest corner parking lot.
The project, which requires city commission approval, would be built in two phases, Muñoz said. Demolition of the apartment house and the corner structure would allow the company to start construction of the 12-story building while retaining most of its existing tenants. Once that building is done, Espacio hopes its tenants, which include the Spanish cultural center the firm lured to the office building, will move into the new commercial space as the remaining buildings on the property, including the old garage, are torn down to make way for the residential tower.
The idea, Muñoz said, is to create synergy between officer workers, residents, visitors and Arsht patrons and get them circulating through the area.
“We think the Biscayne corridor has real strength. But right now, if you go to the Arsht and want to have a beer or eat something, you have to get in your car,” he said. “We want people to enjoy the city on foot. It’s already happening. But we want to extend that by animating the area.”