The city's design-review board unanimously endorsed the redesigned Miami Worldcenter retail and residential plan on Monday despite some questions over its landscaping and architecture, likely smoothing the way to its approval by the Miami planning department.
The Urban Design Review Board also “enthusiastically” supported approval of entrepreneur Moishe Mana’s groundbreaking proposal for a “micro-living” apartment tower with no parking in downtown Miami. The architects on the board praised both the project concept for its small, affordable apartments, the lack of a bulky garage and its eye-catching “Rubik’s Cube” design.
“It’s very, very creative addition to the city,” landscape architect and board member Gerald Marston said of the project by Mana and Zyscovich Architects.
The board, which makes recommendations to the city planning director, was less effusive in reviewing the new Worldcenter plan. It breaks up what had been a controversial multi-block enclosed mall into five separate “high-street retail” buildings, in addition to two residential towers, while creating a new north-south, open-air pedestrian paseo through the middle of it.
But the six UDRB members present concluded the new plan is a big improvement over the previous version, which the board had urged the city to reject in 2014. The city approved it anyway, but the plan remained unpopular with critics who, like the board, argued its massive scale obscured streets and cut off Overtown from Biscayne Boulevard. Worldcenter’s developers announced earlier this year they would completely retool their plan and ditch the mall.
“I applaud the concept, though not necessarily the execution,” architect and board member Willy Bermello told the developers’ team on Monday.
Worldcenter’s architect, Michael Cohen of Boston-based Elkus Manfredi Architects, told the board the new version “restores” the urban fabric of the Park West neighborhood, responding to the board’s concerns, and orients the center more to pedestrians.
Still, the board placed conditions on its recommendation for approval: It urged city planners and Worldcenter’s architects and developers to flesh out a landscaping plan for two promised civic plazas and the new paseo and consider ways to add shops at ground level to ensure there is no “dead retail space,” as Bermello put it. The new blueprint reduces the total amount of retail and restaurant space to about 430,000 square feet from the originally planned 760,000 square feet, mostly by dropping two planned department stores.
They also urged the architects at Stantec for one of the two towers, the Luma rental project, to improve a design that one board member, Robin Bosco, called “uninspiring.”