After months of expensive studies, lobbyists and hours of discussion at Tuesday’s Miami Beach planning board meeting, the board approved a Baptist Health urgent care facility in South Beach — with conditions.
In a 6-1 vote, with board member Jeffrey Feldman dissenting, the board approved the much-scrutinized project with a list of stipulations that include requirements for increased security, sufficient employee and visitor parking and designating first-floor space for retail and a cafe.
The building will house services like urgent care, diagnostic, same-day gastrointestinal procedures like colonscopies, physical therapy and some primary care offices.
The planned 63,500-square-foot building at 709 Alton Rd. has been widely discussed since Mount Sinai Medical Center, the only hospital in the Beach, expressed concerns about the traffic impact on the neighborhood. Mount Sinai officials have maintained they weren’t worried about competition, and Baptist said it wasn’t focused on increasing profits.
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Either way, the project will see the light of day. Ana Lopez-Blazquez, chief strategy officer for Baptist, told the Miami Herald after the vote that the plan is better than it was after months of discussion and community input.
“The process worked,” she said. “I think the project we have is better.”
Board member Brian Elias said he never saw the issue as a competition between two medical providers. He thought it was a city planning question that he was satisfied with by the time he voted Tuesday.
“It’s about choice and accessibility,” he said. “We’ve allowing world-class care, choice and accessibility.”
Feldman said he was happy to welcome Baptist to Miami Beach, but his lone no vote was based solely on planning issues.
“It was an issue of intensity and traffic,” he said after the vote. “It’s about that combination of uses on one acre of property.”
In January, the board asked Baptist to prepare a detailed operational plan to outline the building’s uses, as well as an updated traffic study. Last week, Mount Sinai had its own experts submit rebuttal memos to the board, but those memos were set aside from consideration after none of those consultants attended Tuesday’s meeting.
Mount Sinai made one last effort to block approval Monday. Wayne E. Chaplin, chairman of Mount Sinai’s Board of Trustees, wrote a letter to members of the planning board criticizing Baptist while citing testimony a Baptist official gave in Tallahassee this past spring. Baptist opposed an unsuccessful bill that would’ve allowed recovery care centers with 72-hour stays.
“Now that it’s not within their community, Baptist is asking for approval to develop in Miami Beach what they have argued against in their own neighborhoods – erecting an ambulatory surgical center – that would place Miami Beach's 65-year tenured Mount Sinai Medical Center in the very position Baptist argued against for themselves,” Chaplin wrote.
On Tuesday, Lopez-Blazquez told the planning board that testimony was taken out of context and dealt with facilities that would not have had the same safety standards and would not operate like the proposed building, which has an urgent care center that will be open until 11 p.m. No overnight stays will be allowed.
“The issue there that was being talked about were recovery care centers that had absolutely no standards attached to them,” she said.
She also said the urgent care will treat anyone who comes in regardless of their ability to pay.
A large contingent of Baptist marketing officials handed out pineapples — Baptist’s logo — and green ribbons. During public comments, a long line of ribbon-wearing locals representing different residents’ associations and individuals spoke in support of Baptist’s plan.
Realtor Lourdes Diaz, who spoke on behalf of the Alton Road Business Association, said the group favored the development after meeting with Baptist representatives.
“Our concerns were positively addressed by Baptist,” she said.
Mount Sinai CEO Steven Sonenreich offered this statement after the vote:
"Mount Sinai Medical Center respects the Planning Board’s decision to approve the 709 Alton Road medical complex with conditions,” he said. “We believe the panel’s thorough review process will result in a facility that is more compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. Mount Sinai has been a trusted source of quality healthcare in Miami Beach for 65 years, and that commitment will continue to grow as we invest in a new state-of-the-art surgical tower and emergency department on our campus."
Marisa Galbut, developer with Crescent Heights and daughter of Russell Galbut, said the facility will bring a much-needed healthcare option to South Beach.
“We are proud to partner with the world-class Baptist Health to bring quality care to the Miami Beach community,” she said. “We look forward to breaking ground on 709 Alton Road soon."