The Centro site, which backs up to the rear of the historic Gusman theater, was cleared during the boom for the third in the series of Related loft buildings, although the subsequent collapse put those plans on ice.
But Newgard upped the level of the downtown loft game after taking over the site. To design the 36-story building, Newgard hired the Sieger-Suarez Architectural Partnership, best known for deluxe oceanfront towers like South Beachs Portofino and Murano and the new St. Regis Bal Harbour. It brought in Behars firm, named fuseproject, to do the lobby and common areas including a dramatic stairway in the two-level residents lounge, Rodriguez said.
We have spared no expense, he said.
Newgard also integrated alternative transportation into the building plan. It struck a deal with Car2Go, the city-backed car-share program whose blue-and-white SmartCars are now a common sight around Miami, to install a hub in the drop-off area at the front of the building. Buyers get a lifetime Car2Go membership.
The tower, at 151 SE First St., will also incorporate bicycle storage for residents and a bike-share facility of some type.
To foster street life and synergy with the neighboring Gusman, over which the slender building will tower, Centro will also have ground-level retail and an anchor restaurant at the corner with Southeast Second Avenue.
Residents wont have far to go for groceries. A Whole Foods is under construction one block to the south.
Because of their location on Second Avenue, planners regard the completion of the Whole Foods and Centro Lofts, which is scheduled to break ground in September and open in the first quarter of 2015, as critical links in the resurgence of downtown Miami. The projects will fill in two long-vacant lots and help create a continuous urban connection from the Gusman on Flagler Street to the Brickell Avenue Bridge and beyond.
Centros street-friendly design has won plaudits from Miamis Urban Design Review Board, which last month recommended that the city approve the project, and the Downtown Development Authority.
Buildings like it are just what downtown Miami needs, planners say. If its successful, they say, Centro Lofts should help encourage new downtown development up to now concentrated near the waterfront along Biscayne Boulevard, the Miami River and Brickell Avenue into the interior blocks of the citys faded historic core.
Thats because their smaller footprints can fit the tight lots available for redevelopment in the core, most of which cannot easily accommodate the big parking-garage podiums characteristic of the citys new high-rise residential and mixed-use buildings. Many historic, architecturally distinguished downtown buildings that could be converted to housing lack parking entirely.
And forgoing garages makes for better buildings and streets, said the DDAs Garcia-Pons. Towers without looming, massive garage podiums are more amenable to sleek designs and an appealing, pedestrian-welcoming sidewalk presence, he said.
Its never easy building on small infill lots, he said. This will really improve the way buildings meet the street.
Escarra, the projects lawyer, notes another advantage for the city: Parking garages are not subject to property tax. With a garage-less building, all of the floor space is.