Let’s face it — Ocean Terrace will be developed. The question should be: How? The two-block parcel is at the center of a controversial amendment that Miami Beach voters will see on their ballots. The North Beach property, though designated historic, is bedraggled, its decades-old MiMo and Art Deco structures mostly boarded up.
For too long, North Beach has been the poorer stepchild of the city of Miami Beach, not quite neglected — because there have been years of promises from city officials to make the area a priority — but unadored and unadorned when compared to dazzling South Beach.
But they are different neighborhoods. North Beach remains an area of affordable homes and rentals, with commercial storefronts catering to the foot traffic they generate.
Developer Sandor Scher wants to up the ante, seeking to demolish 11 of the 13 buildings protected by law because of their historic designation. Those two remaining hotels would be restored. Mr. Scher would then build a large-scale complex that included a 250-foot condo tower and a 125-foot-tall addition to the rear of the Ocean Terrace Hotel, underground and above-ground parking decks, and a row of upscale shopfronts on Collins.
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It could jump-start development and commercial vibrancy in the area, as proponents say, or it could be the beginning of the end of a sluggish but cohesive neighborhood, as opponents assert.
Voters are being asked to allow the developer to increase the floor-area ratio — FAR — to allow the complex to go up to 250 feet. Already there are taller towers nearby, including the St. Tropez at 28 stories.
However, we question the process that has led to this point:
▪ North Beach is undergoing a master-planning process that, tellingly, does not include the two blocks of Ocean Terrace. Shouldn’t they be part of a more holistically reached vision for the area?
▪ The city should be taking the lead here. This is not to impugn Mr. Scher’s vision or that of his investors. However, we share many residents’ and preservationists’ concerns. Why, for instance, have a historic district only to knock most of it down? If those buildings are of negligible value, fine, but hold that discussion with the proper city boards first. Maybe Mr. Scher should have made sure residents were well-versed on his project and bought into the idea, then asked for the FAR increase.
▪ The conceptual drawings of the towers might have little bearing on what might actually be built. Unfortunately, it’s caused a lot of premature hubbub. Let’s go back to the beginning, see a design that’s closer to the real plan, and hash out what is and isn’t possible in this historic district. Then we can move forward.
Mr. Scher told the Miami Herald that if he doesn’t get the go-ahead to build taller, he doesn’t have a Plan B. But not getting the go-ahead should not be the end of it. However, the city should assert the same sort of controls that have paid homage to South Beach’s architectural past while allowing compatible new development to keep the area moving forward.
On the Ocean Terrace ballot question, the Herald recommends NO.
Redevelopment Agency ballot question:
The second ballet question, seeking an amendment to the city charter, has been mired in controversy as some view it as a clearing of the way for a land grab down the road.
It’s become an election-time issue. Some candidates and political bloggers say the amendment is aimed squarely at the future of housing authority-owned Rebecca Towers, a 400-unit Section 8 twin towers for elderly residents – yea, on prime waterfront property. But Miami Beach City Attorney Raul Aguila told the Editorial Board that is not the case.
The “corrective amendment” introduced by Commissioner Michael Grieco is sought simply to reflect that the Miami Beach Redevelopment Agency now has eight, not seven, members. Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, who represents the area, is now officially on the board.
On its face, the ballot question asks voters to approve amending the charter to require a majority 4 out of 7 votes on the planning board and a majority 7 out of 8 votes on the Miami Beach Redevelopment Agency — in effect the city commission, plus Mr. Barreiro — to approve “the sale, exchange, conveyance or lease of 10 years or longer of property owned by the agency.”
“This charter amendment does not lessen or relax restrictions on the sale, lease or transfer of any Miami Beach property,” Mr. Aguila said. All other requirements for all land deals in the city remain in place, he added.
So why such confusion? Why hasn’t this been explained better to Beach residents? And if, in fact, there is no ulterior motive for the amendment, why are voters doubtful? We feel this charter amendment has become tainted by confusion and is unfortunately doomed, regardless of its intent.
On the Redevelopment Agency ballot question, the Herald recommends NO.