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This proposed development would turn a motel into a multi-story car dealership

The White House Inn Motel at 2305 NE 123rd St. in North Miami. A developer is proposing a multi-story, mixed-use car dealership on the property.
The White House Inn Motel at 2305 NE 123rd St. in North Miami. A developer is proposing a multi-story, mixed-use car dealership on the property. ldixon@miamiherald.com

A proposed development in North Miami could replace a decades-old motel with a multi-story car dealership, and some nearby residents have raised concerns about traffic and the project’s size.

The development is being proposed by MAR, the company owned by Brickell Motors president Mario Murgado, and could bring an Ocean Cadillac dealership to the current site of the White House Inn motel, 2305 NE 123rd St. Murgado’s company purchased the property in December 2014 and wants to build a seven-story dealership with a self-contained parking garage, a top-floor showroom and a restaurant on the ground level.

“I wanted to build something special. I bought this property to build an icon,” Murgado said at a Nov. 2 meeting at Café Crème where the project was presented.

The two-story motel has been inactive for several years and sits on about one acre of land right next to the Broad Causeway. The developers would be requesting a land-use change from a low residential use to a high mixed-use density, a planned unit development and a text amendment to the city’s zoning code.

Many residents in the Sans Souci and Keystone Point neighborhoods have opposed the development since early last year, even before plans were officially submitted. They argue that the project is too large, out of place on that property and that it will create major traffic problems. About two dozen residents voiced those opinions at that Nov. 2 meeting.

“You’ve got two residential communities sitting here going ‘We don’t drive Cadillacs, we don’t need Cadillac here,’ ” Karen DeLeon, president of the Keystone Point Homeowners Association, said. “I don’t see what you’re giving to our neighborhood, per se, and I don’t see a real compromise being offered.”

Murgado and his team said they have taken several steps to reduce the potential impact of the project, including limiting test drives of vehicles to major roads like West Dixie Highway, Northeast 123rd Street and Biscayne Boulevard and designing the building to not be illuminated at night. The design also includes only one entry and exit point, and the developers have worked with the Florida Department of Transportation to create a new turning lane for eastbound traffic heading into the project.

Still, other critics worry that the dealership along with a planned 297-unit luxury housing development, the Causeway Village, will lead to even more traffic on Northeast 123rd Street. The Causeway Village was given a favorable recommendation by the city’s Planning Commission earlier this month.

“It is a traffic nightmare at several locations now from the bridge to Biscayne [Boulevard],” resident Mike Moskwa said. “We are being boxed in by two very large developments.”

One person who spoke in favor of the project at that meeting was the former mayor, Kevin Burns. Burns also lobbied on behalf of Volvo of North Miami when that project was seeking City Council approval in 2015.

“If we don’t do redevelopment, we’re going to die,” Burns said.

The approvals for the project will ultimately come to the City Council, which would have to approve the developer’s various requests with at least a four-fifths vote. The Planning Commission will vote on the item at its Dec. 6 meeting, which is set for 7 p.m. at North Miami City Hall, 776 NE 125th St.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3

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