Commissioners have unanimously approved building a 56-story condominium development in Sunny Isles Beach.
Residences by Armani/Casa will be a 308-unit residence with a private restaurant for residents, a 600-car parking garage and a 30-feet beach walk on the south side of the building, which will be located at 18975 Collins Ave. The project will be built without any variances to the city’s building code.
Architect Charles Sieger stated that the developers wanted to be “good neighbors” so the new structure would not block the views of residents in the neighboring southern building, Ocean III.
Ocean III welcomed the sentiment, according to the condo board’s association lawyer W. Tucker Gibbs, who stated that the residence did not oppose the new development.
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“We appreciate the efforts and cooperation of the developer to work with and address issues impacting Ocean III,” Gibbs said.
At the April 16 commission meeting, Mayor George “Bud” Scholl was so struck by the harmonious interactions between the neighboring buildings he commented, “It usually doesn’t go that easy.”
Vice Mayor Jeanette Gatto also concurred, “It is not very often we hear the phrase, ‘trying to be a good neighbor’ in zoning issues.”
But not all the neighbors in the Ocean development complex were on the same page. Diane Drabkin of Ocean II did not support the transfer of development rights (TDRs) that would allow the development to have 12 additional floors. Under state law, cities are given TDRs to sale to developers, who can also sell those rights among themselves.
“Sunny Isles could now be renamed Manhattan Isles,” Drabkin said. “Our beaches are eroding and the shadows of some of these huge tall buildings affect the sunlight for people who come to enjoy the beach.”
Wendy Cohen of Ocean II agreed with Drabkin and felt the commission should reject the additional TDRs.
“It will affect our quality of life,” Cohen said. “We won’t have sun on the beach or our balconies anymore. It will overshadow the surrounding buildings. “
Commissioner Isaac Aelion later noted that the extra floors the TDRs allow would block the sun on the beach 7-10 minutes.
Stanley Price, the attorney for the developer, stated that it was not fair to protest TDRs when several residential buildings, including he believes Ocean, was built with the addition of TDRs.
“We are not asking for anything that anyone else is not entitled to ask for,” Price said.
Scholl noted that the sale of TDRS by the city allow for capital improvements. To protest TDRs, would also open the city to lawsuits.
“We have a code and a developer buys property based upon reliance on the code,” Scholl said. “If we start stripping those rights away, we subject ourselves to endless litigation.”
Denise Mayer of Ocean II was also concerned about the effect on traffic in an already tight community.
“It is not Manhattan,” Mayer said. “It is a small area. Traffic-wise it is just impossible and 600 more cars in this one building. At some point, we have to stop.”
Aelion later noted that there is a 20 percent to 25 percent occupancy rate year round of the residences on the east side of Collins Avenue and 70 percent of traffic in Sunny Isles Beach consists of drivers passing through.
Commissioner Jennifer Levin agreed, noting that drivers use A1A to get to other neighboring cities and to Interstate 95.
“People come here and they want to drive along A1A,” Levin said. “It is what you come to Florida for. All the traffic here it not actually caused by the city itself.”
Scholl noted that the city will be conducting a traffic and pedestrian safety study.
“We are embarking on comprehensive analysis to find out where traffic is coming from, what we can do to mitigate it and how to increase pedestrian safety,” Scholl said.