Miami Beach

Miami Beach voters reject rezoning of Ocean Terrace in North Beach

The Ocean Surf and Days Inn on Miami Beach's Ocean Terrace are among the Art Deco and MiMo motels in the two-block historic district in North Beach, shown Friday, Oct. 23, 2015.
The Ocean Surf and Days Inn on Miami Beach's Ocean Terrace are among the Art Deco and MiMo motels in the two-block historic district in North Beach, shown Friday, Oct. 23, 2015. mhalper@miamiherald.com

A swath of historic beachfront buildings in North Beach won’t be redeveloped into a larger hotel-condo complex after Miami Beach voters on Tuesday rejected a proposal to change the district’s zoning.

Beach voters quashed a ballot question that would have opened the door for developer Sandor Scher to tear down 11 of 13 historic buildings along Ocean Terrace to make way for a 250-foot condo tower, a 150-foot hotel and a row of shops along Collins Avenue. The vote was about 55 percent against redevelopment, 45 percent in favor.

Ocean Terrace is a two-block stretch of beachfront property that physically looks like a mini-Ocean Drive but lacks the atmosphere and vibe of its South Beach counterpart. No one disputed that the lackluster area with sealed-up MiMo hotels and vacant retail space needs some rejuvenation.

The question was how to spark change.

Both sides of the hotly debated question tried to sway voters with mailed campaign ads and through social media. Preservationists and several North Beach groups campaigned hard for people to vote no, saying approval would allow for new buildings that would hurt the look and feel of the neighborhood. Scher and supporters, including several other North Beach groups, asked people to vote yes by arguing that the zoning change paves the way for development that would have spurred economic growth.

At the polls Tuesday, voters gave differing opinions.

“I’m not for knocking down iconic buildings and putting up big hotels and condos,” said Amanda Mejia, 35. A resident of the neighborhood south of Fifth Street, she said eliminating those historic buildings would hurt the character of North Beach.

“We like the flavor of Miami Beach,” she said. “We don’t want to lose that.”

Others including Mid-Beach resident Anamarie Garces, 35, saw Scher’s concept as a boon for a depressed area. She said the square footage increase would have allowed Scher to pursue an appropriate development that would have spiced up the neighborhood.

“It would create the right mix of buildings there,” she said. “To get the right flavor, you need the right mix of ingredients.”

Scher’s vision would have had to clear the usual hurdles at the Beach’s land use boards. But it won’t reach that point, and the developer told the Miami Herald last week that he had no “plan B” if the ballot question failed.

Scher declined to comment Tuesday night.

A few dozen people who opposed the measure cheered at a party on Ocean Terrace as results came in.

Among the elated was David Wieder, chairman of the Historic Preservation Board and the mayoral candidate who lost his bid to incumbent Philip Levine.

“I’m actually happier about this than if I had won,” Wieder said.

Reporter Elizabeth Koh contributed to this report.

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech

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