The long-awaited redevelopment plan for a moribund stretch of beachfront properties along Miami Beach’s north shore has finally been revealed.
After more than a year of planning, a new vision for Ocean Terrace includes restored historic facades lining the seaside street and Collins Avenue, a 58-room residential tower set back from both streets, the restoration of two historic hotels that would be connected to form one 76-room operation, and 18,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space on the ground floors.
Ocean Terrace is a smaller and quieter counterpart to South Beach’s Ocean Drive that many hope will represent a cornerstone in the imminent redevelopment of North Beach.
Claro Development’s Sandor Scher, who recently finished assembling the properties he needs between 74th and 75th streets, wants to add lush landscaping, connecting courtyards on the back ends of retail spaces, sidewalk seating for new restaurants, and a mid-block pedestrian breezeway that would connect Collins and Ocean Terrace. In the center of the block, a 235-foot condo tower would rise from behind the low-slung historic facades.
Parking would be contained within the new development in a new building at the corner of 75th and Collins, masked by a masonry screen pocked with a pattern inspired by Miami Modern architecture. Walls dressed with vegetation would separate the historic storefronts from the deck of the hotel.
The plan is expected be considered by the city’s historic preservation board in October after the development team submitted plans July 24.
In an interview Friday with the Miami Herald, the development team described a project that is a largely faithful restoration of historic buildings that are unique to North Beach coupled with a creative design for the new condominium that is an homage to Miami Beach and its architectural traditions.
“If you do it right, you’re allowing someone to faithfully experience that building as it was,” Scher said.
Ocean Terrace’s saga, which has played out publicly over the last two years, ignited a community and helped set the stage for a surge in public interest in the future of North Beach.
Scher’s first vision was defeated at the ballot box in November 2015. About 55 percent of voters rejected an increase for Ocean Terrace’s floor-area ratio, a formula that determines the maximum square footage of a building. Several residents decried the concept because it called for the demolition of 11 of 13 historic buildings along Ocean Terrace to make way for a 150-foot hotel, 250-foot condo tower and several retail shops along Collins Avenue
Resident groups that campaigned for or against the 2015 plan have remained active in the development of a wide-ranging master plan for all of North Beach. Elements of that plan, including the creation of new historic protections for swaths of Miami Modern apartment buildings, are already in motion.
Meanwhile, Scher regrouped and assembled a new team to develop plans that would be sensitive to residents’ concerns about keeping Ocean Terrace within the low-slung scale and character of the neighborhood. Those who voted against the previous plan clamored for a design that would preserve storefronts and keep a low-scale feel from street level.
Working with Richard Heisenbottle, an architect and historic preservation expert; architect Luis Revuelta; and planner Cesar Garcia-Pons, the team crafted the plan that was submitted to the Beach’s Historic Preservation Board a week ago.
MIXING OLD AND NEW
The most notable difference this time: Eleven historic structures will not be demolished.
Designs do call for two buildings, one of which already has a demolition order from the county, to be knocked down. The dilapidated Ocean Horizon building at 7420 Ocean Terrace would come down. In its stead, a translucent glass facade styled as an homage to the original building would be erected, serving as a gateway to a courtyard and the entrance to the condo.
On the north end of Ocean Terrace, two side-by-side hotels, gems from the late era of Art Deco, would be restored and connected to form one hotel. The front sides of the Broadmoor, currently a Days Inn, and the Ocean Surf hotels would be spruced up with historically accurate windows and railings. Behind these buildings, a new motor court would allow cars to pull up to renovated rear facades.
For the former hotels that would be converted to storefronts, the theme would be stripping away non-historic additions while extending eye-level windows to the ground to create inviting views into stores.
On Collins, awnings would be streamlined and storefronts would be given a clean, tidy appearance that would recall their original looks. The facade of the once lauded but now shuttered Curry’s Steak House at 7433 Collins Ave. would be brought back to life by the original glass blocks, bricks and even the font of the lettering on the sign.
“It was a really sweet design,” said Heisenbottle, who called the Curry’s restoration one of his favorite parts of the project.
North of the Curry’s building, part of the adjacent structure would be cut out to create a breezeway that would connect to an internal courtyard, the hotel’s motor court and, on the other end, Ocean Terrace.
At the corner of 75th Street and Collins, a two-story building that has changed drastically through the years would be demolished to make way for a curved storefront. Above these shops, a landscaped wall would separate the historic storefronts from a concrete wall with geometric cutouts to provide ventilation for the parking garage above.
Perhaps the most striking addition is the thin 235-foot condo tower that would rise from the center of the block, emerging from behind the MiMo facades like two winged pillars joined at a slim core . Designs show an oceanside facade highlighted by windows and curved balconies inspired by the shapes waves leave behind when they recede from the sand. From the west, the building would look more solid and concrete — a nod to the ocean-sand theme.
Revuelta said he is trying to honor Deco and MiMo architecture by marrying elements of both in a tower that would not look like an imposing obelisk.
“It’s a very comfortable visual statement,” he said.
TAKING IT ON THE ROAD
It was made clear two years ago that the community is heavily invested in the success of Ocean Terrace. After the 2015 referendum, Scher met with several North Beach residents who influenced his new approach to the project.
On Friday, he called the process rewarding.
“Everybody gets to know each other, and you realize you have a lot in common with each other,” he said.
In the thick of the design work, prominent North Beach preservationists helped Scher brainstorm ideas, including the translucent glass recreation of the rundown facade that will be demolished.
He said he has already presented the designs to multiple members of the historic board, and he plans to meet with North Beach residents to show them the plans before they go to the preservation board in October.